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Thoughts on the in-box

Let's address the obvious first: Yes, the in-box was angry.

That wasn't unexpected following the first day of the NFL's 2012 pro free-agency period, and for those of you who inquired – yes, I'm OK. I appreciate you asking.

Kidding aside, I'll take the lead-in this morning to address and preempt the majority of the questions. The point I'll make, judging by the emotional Twitter fervor Tuesday evening/Wednesday morning, certainly will draw anger, but it is a sound one and history supports it.

The point is this:

While fans are upset that the Jaguars didn't "do more" on the first day of free agency, the tried-and-true truth of the NFL is that the first day of free agency is fundamentally and without question the worst way to add talent to your team. By definition you are overpaying for players who were unwanted for some reason by their former teams.

On occasion, you get help there. The Jaguars did it last fall. More often, you find trouble there – overpriced trouble that leads to disappointment.

Now, I admit: early Tuesday evening I, too, was a bit troubled. Like many readers, I watched receivers sign elsewhere and got a little envious. Then, I saw a tweet from Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe that read, "First days of free agency are for suckers and bad teams trying to impress owners," and I felt a little silly because I remembered immediately that Bedard was absolutely right.

I tweeted as much and got the expected, "Yeah, but . . ." Most centered around the Jaguars' obvious need at receiver, and the need at defensive end, and with reason: the Jaguars have needs and must improve there. No question. But needing to improve doesn't always mean you can do it in free agency.

Leading to free agency, I struggled with questions about who the Jaguars should pursue at receiver and never really could come up with a name or two I loved. Tuesday night, once I looked back on the names that had signed elsewhere . . . the truth is I couldn't find any that I really thought, "Boy, that's a blow." And goodness knows I couldn't see one that was close to being worth the numbers being thrown around.

Take a look at most of the teams that went deep in the playoffs this past season, and that contend to go there every year. The Giants. The Patriots. The Ravens. The Saints. The Packers.

They were also teams that weren't active Tuesday, and while I've already heard the argument, "Yeah, but they didn't have the needs the Jaguars do," they still have needs. And for the most part, they didn't use first-day free agency to build to where they are now, either.

That's that, and that's the truth. Will it appease the angry among us? Likely not.

But that doesn't mean it's not right.

Let's get to it . . . Mike from St. Marys, GA:
Is it just me, or has Gene Smith approached free agency exactly as he said he would? He has re-signed players he wants to keep (Mincey, Lowery, Allen & Harris) first and now is moving on.
John: He has indeed done that, and with Mincey and Lowery, it took a bit longer than many observers wanted because the players wanted to test the market. Now, as you say, there are reports that wide receiver Laurent Robinson is visiting and that quarterback Chad Henne is, too. I would probably be more panicked over this if I hadn't seen many, many teams add "second-wave" free agents and focus on the draft to build successful teams.
Jason from New Richmond, WI:
Why aren't we going hard after Mario Willliams??? He is the only game-changing-type player on the market and we have the cap room.
John: I'm not sure the book is closed there. Stay tuned.
David from Kingsland, GA:
I know you have probably been inundated with these e-mails but I felt compelled to voice my concerns as well. I consider myself a level-headed Jags fan but am so frustrated at this point. How does a team with quite possibly the worst group of wide receivers in the League, along with possibly the most money under the cap to spend, allow the top 6-8 wide receivers to sign elsewhere without even the slightest indication that we even "tried" to sign them? Laurent Robinson would be an upgrade to be sure, but this team needs more than him to compete. I realize it's only Day 2 of free agency, but the top receivers are off the board regardless and it would appear the desire to "not" spend just to spend has cost us again in the form of offensive weapons! Somehow signing Mario Williams will be about the only way this team can justify not improving more at the wide receiver position IMO.
John: This was pretty much the overriding theme in the in-box. I hear you. I get it. The early days of free agency are frustrating to fans whose teams aren't active, especially when the team was 5-11. Many people don't want to hear it – and I got a little more buzzed on the pre-free agency brew than I'd like to admit – but whatever the record the previous season, first-day free agency just isn't often the road to a title.
Vincent from Charleston, WV:
So how many crazy emails have you gotten so far about how disappointed people are with the way free agency started? I like that we focused on getting our guys signed first and if we can snag Laurent Robinson then I think we'd be fine. CB, DE, and WR in the draft and go from there.
John: I sort of like it, too, but I get the disappointment. Free agency gets built up in a big way, and because of the Jaguars' actions in the area last year, people assumed it would be similar this season. I believed before free agency the Jaguars would get better during the period. I still believe that will happen.
Joseph from Statesboro, GA:
I saw no signs of panic in anything the Jaguars have done so far and I think that is a good sign. They remained patient with their own FAs and got reasonable deals for both the players and the team. I think the only outstanding concern they have is at WR; I'd like them to pick up a mid-tier free agent so they can remain true to BAP in the draft.
John: People accuse me of running only pro-Jaguars emails. I obviously got many, many angry emails this morning, but you'd be surprised how many of these I got, too.
Steven from Ponte Vedra, FL:
With Tampa and St. Louis picking up cornerbacks in free agency, do you see Morris Claiborne slipping to the Jags at number 7?
John: It certainly becomes more plausible.
Matt from Jacksonville:
I'm graduating college in the spring and just bought my season tickets. I have about 50 other friends doing the same. I feel that our generation that was raised with the Jags can give the franchise a much needed spike in youthfulness and team appreciation.
John: I feel that way, too. One of the things I have been struck by the most since returning to Jacksonville has been the number of high-school and college students who actively follow the O-Zone. I know better than to think my in-box and Twitter followers are a scientific sampling of anything, but it only make sense that a franchise founded in 1995 would now have a significant number of young fans who have grown up with the organization.
Daniel from Los Angeles, CA:
What gives with releasing Osgood?? I thought he was a special teams beast.
John: He was, but with the new kickoff rules it's very hard to justify paying multiple veterans big money to play special teams. The Jaguars have Montell Owens. There just wasn't a need for two such players.
TD from Jacksonville:
Why wouldn't the Jaguars give up two third-round picks for Brandon Marshall? See, this is why we will never be on top. We would never make a move like that.
John: You're right. The Packers and Giants wouldn't, either.
Tim from Jacksonville and Section 409:
These contracts are insane! $13 million a year for 60 catch WR? At 100 catches that equates to over $200,000 per catch. More math insanity on this contract ... $812,500 per game, at 60 plays is over $13,500 per play, or more than $1 million dollars per TD ! INSANE !
John: Yes, they are.
Jason from Jacksonville:
Please help me with a dispute I am having with a co-worker. He thinks because we don't have as many fans as say, the Cowboys, they can throw more money at a player because the fans pay the player salaries. Just because Khan is a billionaire does not mean he can offer Peyton Manning a contract of 2 billion dollars. My co-worker thinks the owner pays the salary himself and it has nothing to do with the "salary cap." Please post this because he is reading O-Zone tomorrow for the first time. His name is Jeremy.
John: The salary cap is a complex thing, but no, just because Khan is a billionaire does not mean he can pay Manning $2 million. He may theoretically have more "cash on hand" in a given situation, which sometimes can make it easier to be active in free agency. But in terms of the long-term ramifications of the cap – i.e., the way huge signing bonuses now can hamper you in the future, etc. – the salary cap constrains all owners.
Matthew from Jacksonville:
I find your response to my comment on Tuesday nieve. How can you insinuate that the goal is not to sell seats and make money? Even when the Jags are winning we struggle to fill seats. On the other hand, there are numerous teams that have been lousy for a long time that are on waiting lists for season tickets. Winning doesn't pay the bills. Filling the seats does.
John: Matthew, I don't think I'm a bit nieve.

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