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O-Zone: Worry not

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Scott from Aurora, IL:
So far, nothing to help Blake Bortles or the running game. I'm kind of surprised by that. You can look at the Branden Albert trade, but with his age and injury history, I'm just not too excited about it. They keep saying they believe in Bortles. Where's the offensive line help?
John: I suppose the best way to answer this question is to remind people that you can't say "nothing to help Blake Bortles or the running game" and follow it by dismissing the Branden Albert trade. At least not from the Jaguars' perspective. I have no idea if acquiring Albert is going to be the magic elixir that catapults Bortles into elite status or turns the Jaguars' running game into a feared weapon. It's likely that Albert won't be such a magic elixir because this is the NFL: magic isn't part of the equation and elixirs aren't, either. But I will tell you that the Jaguars believe Albert is a capable player who can help the offensive line, and I can tell you with pretty high confidence that the Jaguars aren't done addressing offensive line/the running game this offseason. You can't have everything in unrestricted free agency. The Jaguars apparently have acquired cornerback A.J. Bouye, defensive end Calais Campbell and safety Barry Church. I wouldn't have projected them being able to sign all three of those, and I think Campbell in particular is a very good free-agent signing. It was, all in all, a good week. And the offseason isn't over yet. At least I don't think so.
Matt from Las Vegas, NV:
Did you foresee this many signings? That's a lot of money!
John: Yes, the Jaguars are spending a lot of money, but that's the nature of free agency. The important question is whether or not they spent it well. We won't know that for a while, but early reports are that the players acquired are leaders, professionals and good locker-room guys. That's not everything, but it raises a team's chances of getting production from those players. So, was it money well-spent? There seems to be a good chance the answer is yes. Did I foresee this many signings? Well, it appears the number right now is four with Campbell, Bouye, Church and linebacker Lerentee McCray. That's three big-time, high-priced guys and one reasonably priced guy in McCray. Throw Branden Albert in the high-priced acquisition category, too. I don't know if I foresaw four, but considering the cap situation and the Jaguars' performance last season … four big signings sounds about right.
Mike from Navarre, OH:
It's commonly said that the players wouldn't be on the market if a team felt they were a good enough player. Are Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye exceptions due to their respective teams' inability to afford them or is there a more concerning reason they were not re-signed?
John: The primary reason for Campbell's availability would appear to be age. He's hardly "old" at 30, but he is entering his 10th NFL season, so it's hardly unreasonable for the Arizona Cardinals to balk at paying him core-player money as he enters the double-digit phase of his career. The Jaguars are in a different developmental phase than the Cardinals; if they can get two good years out of Campbell and if he can help them find their way out of the abyss and into a competitive area of the NFL then he would be perceived as a great free-agent signing. Bouye fits more into your theory. He's an ascending player who appears to have his best football ahead of him. He would at 25 seem to be a core player, but the Texans have other front-line players and appear to want to use their money in other areas this offseason. Bouye's only "issue" would be that he hasn't played at a high level for very long in the NFL – only this past season. Perhaps the Texans believed that was reason enough to not pay him the core-level salary the Jaguars were paying. The Jaguars must hope the Texans' loss is their gain.
Jeff from Orange, CA:
Is it worth my time pondering about the team trading one of its young receivers to New England for its first-round pick? Seems unlikely the Jaguars will keep all three long term so why not extract some value from one?
John: I have no idea what you do with your time, so I can't speak to how much of it you use to ponder. I doubt the Jaguars are looking to trade any of their wide receivers – and besides, of the Jaguars' trio, it's hard to see any aside from perhaps Allen Robinson garnering a first-round selection.
Strnbker from Dothan, AL:
Having heard Tom Coughlin's media speeches it is apparent there will be no more supposedly vacation time going on. The heat in the kitchen has been turned up to broil. Is my amazing grasp of the obvious askew?
John: No, it's a-dead-on.
Dave from Orlando, FL:
One of the great things about the NFL is the belief that parity is good for the league. Essentially, rules are in place to help the weaker teams compete with the stronger ones. The draft order is a great example of this – how the worst team in the league gets first dibs, and the Super Bowl champions pick last. One rule that seems to go against the parity "value" is the compensatory picks. These picks tend to not benefit the weak teams (because they need to be active in free-agency) and reward the strong teams, because they have less cap space (more star players) and fewer holes to fill (don't need to partake in free-agency). In my opinion, the compensatory picks, and its "secret formula," is like giving tax breaks to the rich. It just goes against parity and the belief that it benefits the league as a whole. Do you buy my argument?
John: I've heard this theory floated before, but I'm a big believer in the compensatory selection system. Teams are already hurt by losing good, veteran players in free agency. Giving them mid-to-late-round selections hardly replaces a player who had been contributing in a big way, but it does give that team an opportunity to have at least some chance of replacing that player. The league shouldn't cripple a team by penalizing it for doing well at every turn. A team that drafts well should be given a chance to keep drafting well if it is capable of doing so.
Brian from Staten Island, NY:
Can we get one fer Bryan Walters? He was pretty solid last year when the team had nothing to play for. Nice to see a hard worker who's flown under the radar get some recognition!
John: Hey, one for Bryan Walters!
Ed from Winston-Salem, NC:
If you're making the Jags' list, are Chad Kelly and Joe Mixon on your draft board?
John: Probably, because I lean very, very far in the direction of giving players with off-field issues second, third and fourth chances. There are many who believe off-field issues should prevent a team from signing/drafting players, but I've never believed in the NFL or sports as a moral compass. For that reason, I generally have no problem with players playing in the NFL so long as they are permitted to work – which means short of a player being in prison, I don't really believe off-field issues should keep a player out of the NFL. I do believe there are players you don't draft because they would be bad teammates, bad workers, bad influences in the locker room, etc. I don't know enough about either Mixon or Kelly to categorize them in that respect because I never have interviewed or been around them, and I'm not privy to the background information the NFL certainly has on the two players. If they checked out from a football sense I'd have them on my draft board; if not, then no.
Brian from Duval County:
Should the Jaguars consider moving up in the draft for Garrett? (Provided we hit in free agency on strong safety, guard and corner)
John: For how much?
Alan from Jacksonville:
I don't understand the talk of us looking at a quarterback in the later rounds of this draft. We drafted Brandon Allen last year and thought enough of him to give him a place on the 53-man roster, which is pretty unusual for the Jaguars. Letting him go for another unproven quarterback project wouldn't make much sense to me, given the investment we've already made in him.
John: What if the player you select is better than Brandon Allen?
Mike from Orange Park, FL:
Please help me ease my fears and tell me that Calais Campbell will not be the next Hugh Douglas and take a "vacation" in JAX.
John: I don't pretend to know Campbell, but while I am as cautious and pessimistic regarding free agents as anyone, my understanding is Campbell is not remotely the type to take a vacation when playing in the NFL. Unless everything I've heard is wrong that's the least of your worries regarding this free-agent class.

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