O-Zone: Maybe, maybe not


We had the most caps in the last NFL offseason and we had a below-average free agent class. Why should we believe it will be any different this year?

That’s a good question, because the Jaguars didn’t “bulk up” last offseason. The franchise has made a philosophical decision to grow the level/depth of talent in multiple positions rather than spending big bucks on premium, higher-profile free agents. This offseason will be different if Jaguars decision makers decide to spend big and go for home free agents. I do not to know whether the Jaguars will make it this offseason. Not many people know this, because teams usually discuss these things very little publicly – if at all – before free agency. But I absolutely expect the Jaguars will be more aggressive with high-level players this offseason, especially at wide receiver. And possibly on the offensive and/or defensive line. Free agency begins March 16. Stay tuned.

Cam awarded a sack last year. Why do many fans want him gone?

Jaguars left tackle Cam Robinson has indeed proven himself as a capable starting left tackle. I guess some fans want to see a change there for several reasons. The first is that he is expected to become an unrestricted free agent and it will be expensive to re-sign. Another is that while he’s been good, he’s not been elite – so some fans see this offseason as a chance to improve left tackle. Another is that the Jaguars hold the No. 1 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft and Alabama left tackle Evan Neal seems a logical choice with that selection. Also: The Jaguars offensive line has been a constant source of angst for many fans over the past few seasons – sometimes rightly, other times wrongly. So some fans want change on the line, regardless of position or how a player actually played. We will learn the Jaguars’ approach with Robinson in the coming weeks. The Jaguars could re-sign him to a long-term contract, place him on the NFL franchise tag, or allow him to leave as a free agent. Sounds like one that could go either way.

Just curious, how many people do you think caught Warren Zevon’s quote from the other day?

Johnny O. The league does a lot on parity, but I think in one specific area it’s awfully short. Teams with new head coaches don’t have enough time in the preseason to “gel” and end up entering the regular season with the practice wheels still in place. You could say that teams with new coaches get two extra weeks and the league looks at player safety, but how can two extra weeks put you in a position to compete with experienced teams? Here is my solution, teams with new coaches start a month early, limiting contact for player safety. This leaves more time to implement patterns and bring order to the mind. What do you think?

You’re not wrong, but it’s not particularly a security issue – and it’s not really fixable. The NFL and NFLPA have specific rules governing the start and end of offseason programs — and those rules must be collectively negotiated. With the expansion of the regular season pushing the Super Bowl into mid-February, players are now essentially limited to a six- to eight-week offseason before the voluntary offseason program in April. Teams with returning head coaches start in mid-April; teams with new head coaches begin in early April. Giving teams with new head coaches more time at the start of this period would mean pushing the start to mid-March. It would be amazing if the NFLPA were to give up on this issue, and it’s not something owners are likely to fight for.

After nearly a decade of mediocrity, when exactly should fans panic? When are the moving trucks loaded?

The Jaguars haven’t been mediocre over the past decade; they have – with the exception of one season – been bad. Either way, I don’t know if I understand the question. There is an implication that the Jaguars could move. They’re not going to do that. The pitch has just been dumped on a football training facility adjacent to TIAA Bank Field. The next step is the major renovation of the stadium. These are not the actions of a team preparing to move.

Zone, I noticed there was no “strength and conditioning coach” on Pederson’s team. Who will take on this role? What will it look like? Thank you.

Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson said Friday that is being evaluated. I look forward to your questions being answered shortly.

Daniel from Jersey City, NJ

O-man, are you ever tired of answering questions and maybe wish you were the one asking the questions?

Luke from Brisbane, Australia

Do you think the Jags’ priority this offseason will be looking to plug some holes in the draft and free agency, or looking to find “championship-caliber” plays to plug in and develop? Exhibit A being Robinson. While left tackle is far from our most pressing need, it’s also arguably a position where you need an elite guy if you want to be there in the final. (Note that you could say the same of a rusher pass!!)

I expect the Jaguars to be more aggressive in free agency than they were last offseason. It’s a tact that needs to be taken with care in free agency, as finding true “grassroots” players there is a lot easier said than done. But you’re right to say that Robinson is an example of the multiple dilemmas facing the Jaguars this offseason. They have plenty of players in many positions who have played well and are legitimate NFL starters. They don’t have enough difference makers. At some point, they have to replace OK with great.

Kevin from Currently Nashville, TN

What are the odds that we actually trade out of the #1 spot, even if it’s not for as much capital as usual? And with that, I haven’t seen anyone laughing at us about Kyle Hamilton either, who looks like an absolute stud. I know safety at #1 isn’t happening but if it’s a deep offensive tackle, edge and wide receiver class why can’t we move on to the offensive line and receivers with our three picks between rounds 2 and 3?!

The chance of trading the No. 1 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft seems slim, but there are two months until the draft – so much can theoretically change. I am a bit almost intrigued by Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton at No. 1 because it looks like a draft in which oddities could occur. But I would be surprised. There seem to be attacking tackles and passers available at the No 1 that make sense and these are traditionally positions worthy of the No 1.

In your opinion, too soon, are this year’s top offensive linemen and top rushers making a difference in the draft, worthy of a No. 1 overall pick? Or just the best this year’s draft has to offer? Let’s trade this No. 1 someone who has already proven himself to be really good.

When suggesting trades, it’s always important to remember that they involve two teams, not one.

Bruce from Green Cove Springs, Florida

With the new incarnation of the USFL around the corner, a quick trip down memory lane seems in order. The Jacksonville Bulls led the former USFL present, which I believe paved the way for the NFL to award an expansion franchise to Jacksonville. And even though it was a “lower” league, it was not strictly unknown. Fast forward to the new USFL. What does your crystal ball tell you about how this league might affect the NFL in the future?

The new USFL seems to bear little resemblance to the USFL of the 1980s, and its aspirations certainly seem different in that it seems to have little intention of competing with the NFL for players. I would expect little impact on the NFL, although the players will benefit from this opportunity.

When will the team be able to return to the original uniforms with the gold in them?

I never felt like Jaguars owner Shad Khan or anyone making such decisions wanted to go back to the original Jaguars uniforms. Regardless, the NFL allows teams to change uniforms every five seasons if the teams choose. The Jaguars had new uniforms in 2018, so they could change again in 2023. If they want.

Dave from Orange Park, Florida

Zone, most fake drafts have us taking Evan Neal with the top pick. What makes him better than the last Alabama “plug and play” left tackle we drafted? Walker Little (with limited sampling) rated better than Cam Robinson, so why not let Cam and his $16.5 million franchise price hit the streets, give Little the full-time shot at LT?

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