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At the right price only

Join senior editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Terrance from Jacksonville:
Could you please explain why teams and players agree to these ridiculous roster bonuses – such as the $10 million roster bonus Muhammad was owed by Carolina – when the team and the player know they will never get that bonus? What purpose do they serve?

Vic: They are used in conjunction with salary cap creativity that usually helps the team create cap room in the year the contract is signed. The player agrees to sign a long-term deal so the team will have several years over which to amortize his bonus, and the team agrees to a huge roster bonus or option bonus to be paid on a specific date. In effect, the date of the bonus becomes the end of the contract. The player signs the deal knowing that by the date the bonus is owed, he will either have gotten a new contract with the team or he will be free to negotiate with every other team in the league. In other words, the player wants a three-year contract but the team needs six years worth of amortization. Put the bonus at the three-year mark and realistically the contract is only for three years. A "void clause" would accomplish the same thing. Byron Leftwich signed a seven-year deal that voids after five.

Donnie from St Augustine, FL:
I saw somewhere that the Jags can't sign a new contract with Darius between March 15-July 16 or they will lose the use of the franchise tag for the length of the contract? Why is that?

Vic: Without that kind of restriction, teams could put the tag on and take it off over and over, for the purpose of impeding the player's freedom of movement. The salary cap system and its rules is an amazingly efficient, effective and fair process, especially for having been a first-of-its-kind effort.

Shane from Jacksonville:
Do you think we should go after Derrick Mason? I mean, he is getting old.

Vic: At the right price and if the contract is structured to protect the future, I'm OK with signing Derrick Mason. He caught 96 passes last season and that tells me he can be the possession receiver the Jaguars haven't had since Keenan McCardell was released. It's important to note, however, that Mason had the lowest punt-return average in the league last year, which probably means his big-play ability is not what it was. So, how much is a possession receiver worth? That's the issue.

John from Brooklyn, NY:
Have any clue what our preseason schedule is this year?

Vic: It'll be released later this month. I would expect the Bucs and Dolphins to be on the schedule, and look for the Saints to be added.

Jim from Tampa, FL:
Are the agents of free-agent players allowed to begin negotiating contracts with interested teams before March 2, or do they have to wait?

Vic: Nothing may begin until March 2. Any negotiations, contact or even careless conversation that would suggest dialogue had begun in advance of March 2 would constitute tampering, which the league would penalize.

Pete from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
Does each team have the same amount of money for signing rookies?

Vic: No, each team's rookie-pool money varies according to the number of picks it has and where in the order those picks are.

Steve from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
What is this about coach Del Rio not wanting to talk to the media, as I read in the newspaper? Would it imply he is miffed about something previously reported on?

Vic: I was surprised, too, when I read that because I had just talked to Jack Del Rio the previous day. He's not back from the scouting combine, yet, but when he comes back and I see him I'm going to ask him about this so-called media embargo.

Patrick from Morgantown, WV:
If free agency starts Wednesday, how was Muhsin Muhammad signed by the Bears last week?

Vic: He was cut in advance of a $10 million roster bonus payment the Panthers were not going to make, which would have effectively voided Muhammad's contract with the Panthers.

Mark from King of Prussia, PA:
I just saw that the Bears released David Terrell. He has been labeled a bust, but I see a young, former number eight pick who runs a sub-4.4 40, who has been stuck in a horrible offense with no quarterback for four years. Do you think he would be worth taking a look at in free agency? I see him as a cheaper, younger solution to WR than Derrick Mason, with a much greater upside. What do you think?

Vic: Where do you guys get these 40 times? David Terrell runs a sub-4.4 like I run a bank. Here's what I see: I see a guy who shouldn't have been drafted as high as he was. Terrell obviously has talent, but you can't build a team on first-round busts. The Jaguars had lots of those guys – Desmond Howard, Andre Ware, Eugene Chung and Derek Brown – when they went to training camp in 1995.

Hasso from Jacksonville:
With all the talk going on about Aaron Rodgers' height and how that could hurt his stock, I was wondering who is the shortest quarterback to ever be picked number one in the draft?

Vic: Short quarterbacks aren't drafted number one, so I'm not going to waste my time looking. The shortest quarterback I can remember is Eddie LeBaron, who played for the Redskins and Cowboys in the 1950's and '60's. LeBaron is officially listed as having played at 5-9, 168 pounds, though I question that he was that tall. Even back then, LeBaron looked like a Lilliputian playing with giants. He was a 10th-round pick by the Redskins and he played a lot of years; handed the position over to Don Meredith when the Cowboys were in their expansion years. By the way, what's wrong with Aaron Rodgers' height? He's a 6-2 guy, which makes him two inches taller than Drew Brees.

Abe from Ypsilanti, MI:
With "Million Dollar Baby" doing very well at the Oscars, I have to ask, what's your favorite sports movie?

Vic: "The Natural."

Clay from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I have to admit I've never even heard of Reggie Hayward. What is so intriguing about him and do you think the Jags should pursue him in free agency?

Vic: There's also a lot of mystery that accompanies the Reggie Hayward phenomenon. Hayward is a former third-round pick who rose to prominence with 8.5 sacks in 2003. He followed that with 10.5 sacks last season. That's a lot of sacks! So why didn't the Broncos use the "franchise" tag on Hayward? That's the question that would be bugging me if I'm considering giving Hayward a big free-agent deal. Why weren't the Broncos willing to spend $6.7 million on Hayward? What do they know that I don't? There are two possible answers to those questions: 1.) The Broncos have some salary cap issues and would have to do a little re-structuring to fit Hayward under their cap at $6.7 million; 2.) They're switching to the 3-4 and Hayward is not a 3-4 end. Having acknowledged those two facts, however, I still can't help but wonder why the Broncos wouldn't have protected his trade value by "franchising" him. We're talking about the top guy at defensive end. His value is enormous. This is all very mysterious to me.

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