Join Jaguars Inside Report Senior Editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.
Lee from Jacksonville:
Now that the season is over for the Jaguars, the offseason work can begin for Jack, Shack and Paul Vance. What are the key dates for player transactions (when will Mark be officially released)? And what are some other player moves you see for the Jaguars this offseason?
Vic: Mark Brunell may be released on Feb. 24th, which is the first day teams are permitted to begin cutting their rosters for 2004. Obviously, Brunell will be released before March 1, when he is due a $2 million roster bonus. Feb. 24-29 is the Jaguars' "window" to cut Brunell. As far as key offseason dates, March 1 tops the list. It's the first day of the league calendar year, which means it's the official start to the 2004 season. March 1 is the start of free agency and the day trading may begin. It is also the day all teams must be under the 2004 salary cap figure. In other words, you can't trade a player to get under the salary cap. First you have to be under the cap, then you may trade. Other important dates are: Feb. 10-24, when teams may tag players with the "franchise" and "transition" designations; April 16, when a restricted free agent may sign an offer sheet with a new team; April 24-25, college draft.
Lee from Fresno City, CA:
In what rank is the Jaguars' strength of schedule in 2003 compared to the other teams'?
Vic: The Jaguars' strength of schedule in 2003 was .543, which tied for the fourth-most difficult in the league. Houston, .570, played the most difficult schedule of the group of 5-11 teams; Washington, .531, played the least difficult.
John from Brooklyn, NY:
Who are the Jaguars going to open up with next season and are they home the first game because they were not last year?
Vic: We might as well get this one out of the way early: The NFL traditionally announces its schedule in April.
John from Saint Marys, GA:
Since Brunell is only going to sign with a team that offers the best opportunity to start, would it be beneficial to the Jaguars to keep him past March 1, pay the $2 million roster bonus, and receive a high draft choice as compensation?
Vic: What team would trade for a player whose contract they don't want, and who they'd know must be released before the next season begins?
John from Washington, DC:
Can you explain the sudden emergence of Meester and the offensive line? They are, by far, our best unit, as of right now, but all we added was a rookie and moved our guard to center, plus Mo is back. Is it coaching or quarterback play? The past few seasons Brunell seemed to get sacked more and have a lot of throw-aways (it's obvious some QBs take more sacks than others), so does Leftwich have something to do with it? What a great season.
Vic: There's nothing sudden about it. The Jaguars began rebuilding their two lines two years ago, when they drafted Marcus Stroud and Maurice Williams with their first two picks in 2001, then selected John Henderson and Mike Pearson with their first two picks in 2002. They added Chris Naeole in free agency in '02, and picked Vince Manuwai in the third round of the '03 draft. Jack Del Rio kept telling everyone all summer that his offensive line was playing the best football on the team. I even know of some media people who said last spring the offensive line was becoming an area of strength. The better question is, why didn't more fans see it coming?
Mike from Jacksonville:
During the Packers/Seahawks game, the commentators were talking about the trades that brought Ahman Green and Brett Favre to Green Bay. What did the Packers make of the picks we gave them for Mark Brunell?
Vic: They selected fullback William Henderson in the third round and running back Travis Jervey in the fifth round of the 1995 draft.
Justin from Jacksonville:
The whole BCS is driving me crazy. Please share with us your advice on how the NCAA can/should determine the national champion in Division One college football.
Vic: The same way they do it in Division Two. Blow it up; start over. The current system is a complete failure. It doesn't need tweaked; it needs to be abandoned.
Lee from Saint Marys, GA:
I know this may be too early to ask, but I'm really excited about this year's draft. In your opinion, who do you think the Jags will go for?
Vic: The best available player.
Jeremy from Winnetka, IL:
I love your column. I'm excited for the upcoming offseason. There are some great free-agent corners, which we need, such as Woodson, maybe Bailey, McAlister. Should we get one of those high-priced free agents?
Brad from Franklin, TN:
Do we, or you, know what happened to Brad Banks, a Heisman Trophy runnerup last year? I also saw in the NFL.com draft info that, I think, two teams' draft slots were to be decided by a coin flip. Are the tie-breakers the same as in the playoff seedings, where there is over 10, or is there just two or three tie-breakers before a coin flip?
Vic: Brad Banks was signed by the Washington Redskins as an undrafted free agent, and cut by the Redskins last August. He has not been signed by another team. The tie-breakers for the draft are record and strength of schedule. Atlanta and Cleveland have the same record, 5-11, and the same strength of schedule, .539. They will be subject to a coin flip for the seventh overall spot in the draft.
Patrick from Morgantown, WV:
Who you got in the Super Bowl? I'll give you until after wild card weekend to decide.
Vic: My preseason picks were Philadelphia and New England. I'm sticking with them.