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A good joke is sobering tonic

Join Jaguars Inside Report Senior Editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Robert from Jacksonville:
Interesting article on Del Rio's press conference. The team ran the ball well all year, stopped the run and made gains with a rookie coaching staff and quarterback. My question is: When is salary cap 101 class scheduled? Hopefully, the tuition will be inexpensive.

Vic: I'll begin making plans after I get all of this Christmas stuff put back in the attic where it belongs.

Matt from Jacksonville:
Don't we get additional draft picks if they tender a minimum offer to Brunell, Bryant, Darius? What do you expect from our braintrust regarding the strategic release of our free agents?

Vic: You're confusing the process regarding unrestricted free agents with the rules that govern restricted free agents. Mark Brunell, Fernando Bryant and Donovin Darius would be unrestricted free agents. The "tender" process pertains to restricted free agents. If Bryant and Darius are allowed to sign with other teams in unrestricted free agency, the Jaguars will receive compensatory picks consideration for the 2005 draft for having lost those two players. But that would not be the case with Brunell, because the team will have to cut him prior to the first day of the league calendar year so as to avoid having to pay him a $2 million roster bonus. So, if he's not on the roster on the first day of the league calendar year (March 1), the Jaguars can not receive compensation.

Gil from Atlantic Beach, FL:
I have two questions. I believe the Saints coach accused our field goal blocking unit of "leveraging" in our attempt at blocking the extra point, which Carney missed anyway. What exactly is leveraging? Second, our field goal kicking unit seemed to have more than the average number of kicks blocked this season. What, in your opinion, was the reason for the blocked kicks this season?

Vic: "Leveraging" is the act of using a teammate to vault yourself into the air; Simeon Rice against Indianapolis. In other words, you can't step on the back of a teammate to jump into the air. As far as the Jaguars' blocked kicks this year, I can tell you the kick that was blocked in Carolina was the result of a missed block on the wing, and that the kick against the Saints that was blocked was the result of Seth Marler being too slow in getting the kick off. I don't know about the one against Atlanta. Those are the three field goal attempts that were blocked this season.

Mike from Jacksonville:
The Redskins were 5-11, same record as the Jags. How come the Redskins have the fifth pick in the draft and the Jags have the ninth?

Vic: Strength of schedule is the tie-breaker for the draft order. Of the six 5-11 teams, the Redskins had the weakest strength of schedule, .531. Remember, in the draft, bad is good.

Jeff from Virginia Beach, VA:
I love your column and look forward to reading it every day. My question is: Can the Jags cut Douglas and reap any savings at all or are we bound financially?

Vic: Hugh Douglas has $4.8 million in remaining amortization. He is scheduled to be a $4.545 million salary cap hit in 2004. The Jaguars would take an additional $255,000 salary cap hit if they cut him by June 1. That's very do-able. The team would save his $3.345 million salary in '04 and assume $4.8 million in "dead money." It's not what the Jaguars had in mind when they signed him, but they do have the ability to get out from under Douglas' contract without devastating the salary cap.

Lee from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I thought I had a handle on (free agency) until reading this morning's sports page. We have unrestricted free agents, we have restricted free agents, we have exclusive free agents and then, of course, Donovin Darius is a franchise player. Could you put these designations in perspective and what it means for our team leading up to the draft?

Vic: An unrestricted free agent has four or more accrued seasons. When his contract expires, he is free to negotiate with any team in the league at no compensation cost to a team that signs him. A restricted free agent has three accrued seasons and may sign with another team, but compensation may be owed, depending on the level of tender offer made by that player's original team. An exclusive-rights free agent is any player with fewer than three accrued seasons. He, basically, has no option but to re-sign with his original team, provided the team exercises that exclusive right. Of course, there are time periods and deadlines for all of these transactions. A "franchise" player may sign with any team in the league, but at the cost of two first-round picks to the team that employed the "franchise" tag. A "franchise" player is paid at the rate of the average of the top five salaries at his position in the league. The "franchise" tag is a one-year designation that must be renewed in late February of each year.

Jimi from Jacksonville:
Now that Steve Spurrier resigned from the Redskins head coach post, I understand he can not be a head coach for three years without compensation being given to the Redskins. Does that rule also apply to assistant coaching positions (coordinators, conditioning coaches, etc)?

Vic: A settlement was no doubt reached that provided for closure between Steve Spurrier and the Redskins. We don't know the terms of that settlement, but it's believed Spurrier walked away from the remaining $15 million on his contract, and the Redskins agreed to pay his moving expenses. Did the Redskins retain some compensation rights in that settlement agreement? We can't know that, but does it matter? I don't think Spurrier will be getting any coaching offers in the NFL. As far as college football is concerned, I seriously doubt Spurrier's attorney would've allowed the Redskins compensation rights that might discourage schools from offering Spurrier a job. For all intents and purposes, he's a free man. Need a coach? Give him a call.

Reggie from Asheville, NC:
Steve Spurrier quit the Redskins. Why don't we hire him? There is nowhere else where he will be such a hit as in Jacksonville. I'm a big Jags fan, but the last three years have been tough. Let's try and hire Steve Spurrier.

Vic: Every so often we get a little too serious about this game we call football, and we need for someone to make us laugh. Thanks, Reggie.

Eric from Columbus, IN:
Love the column and hope you continue to do it in the offseason. My question is: Now that the season is over, how did the Jaguars finish to how you thought they would finish?

Vic: I had no playoff expectations for this team. I hoped they would surprise me, but my expectations were in the 6-10 area. But I am stunned at how they finished in the NFL rankings. The Jaguars improved from 20th to sixth in overall defense; from 25th to second in the league against the run. Even on offense, where they were playing with a rookie quarterback, the Jaguars were vastly improved in the rankings; from 25th in total offense to 12th, and from 28th in passing to 15th. I consider those to be amazing numbers for a team that finished 5-11.

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