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Bein' short ain't so bad

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

Sharon from Port Charlotte, FL:
As players get older, their pay gets bigger. Is there a time when it either goes the other way or they retire?

Vic: Teams maintain large personnel staffs that monitor the performance of the team's players from practice to practice. It's not only about how players perform in the games, it's also about how they practice. What are the scouts looking for? Eroding skills. The moment a player's skills show signs of decline, he's on his way out. The classic example of that is Bernie Kosar. Bill Belichick shocked the football world when, in midseason in 1993, he cut Kosar because of eroding skills. Browns fans thought Belichick had lost his mind, but, in fact, Belichick just had the guts to do what was necessary. The scouts knew. They saw it. Kosar kicked around for a few more years as a backup, but as quickly as Belichick swung his "axe," Kosar's future in the game was over. When you can't play, you can't play, and it doesn't matter what your name is. I suggest you read "Scouting 101" for information on how teams evaluate their own players.

Brian from Orange Park, FL:
As you say, it all starts with the big guys. Let's assume Mike Pearson is healthy. How does the overall line look?

Vic: If Mike Pearson makes a full recovery from knee reconstruction, the offensive line could become the strongest area of the team, as it was in 2003. A healthy Pearson would provide experience and depth at left tackle and would allow rookie Khalif Barnes to develop at a preferable pace. Vince Manuwai was bothered greatly by a calf-muscle strain last year. With that behind him, he would seem poised to have a much better season at left guard. Brad Meester is dug in at center and right guard Chris Naeole is coming off what may have been his best year as a pro. Right tackle Maurice Williams is in the prime of his career and expectations for him and the offensive line in general should parallel each other. Those expectations, however, are dependent on Pearson's recovery.

Adam from Bremerton, WA:
Everyone waiting for their Matt Jones jersey; it's comical. I ordered mine from and it arrived last Friday. I've only worn it once so far but, for me, the fact that I spent $133 (overnight shipping, of course) on a rookie's jersey means a lot. Vic, when you get your jersey, you'll feel it, man.

Vic: I think I'm already starting to feel it.

Justin from Republic of Georgia (formerly USSR):
Vic, I am a huge Matt Jones fan. The reason is that I was a friend in high school. Right now I am in the Republic of Georgia, which is just south of Russia. I obviously don't get too much info except what I read on Can you please fill me in on Matt's injury? How is it now? And one more thing: Does Matt have a contract yet?

Vic: If I answer your questions, won't I run the risk of supplying information to the enemy? No way, man. Matt Jones is sensitive subject matter. That information is top-secret.

Ron from Jacksonville:
You mentioned the Jaguars had a higher grade on Scott Starks than Ciatrick Fason. That got me wondering, have there been any cornerbacks in recent history that were considered above-average starters that were under 5-10?

Vic: Frank Minniefield was 5-9 and he was one of the best cornerbacks in the game for Cleveland in the late 1980's and early 1990's. Aaron Glenn is 5-9. DeAngelo Hall and Ronde Barber are each a fraction under 5-10. Tyrone Poole is a fraction under 5-9. Ray Mickens is 5-7 and change. Jason Craft is 5-9 and change. David Macklin is 5-8. There are lots of good corners who are short.

Curt from Jacksonville:
If this hamstring keeps creeping up, we'll be singing "Here Comes Jones With A Limp." Overreaction or cause for concern?

Vic: In my opinion, it is cause for concern. At this time last year we weren't giving much consideration to Seth Marler's groin pull. Then, all of a sudden, he was gone for the year. Fu's career has been dogged by hamstring strains. Take away those hamstring problems and Fu may have become one of the league's top backs. Mark Brunell was nagged by hamstring strains. Lynn Swann's and Louis Lipps' careers were shortened by chronic hamstring problems. A hamstring injury can lead to a chronic problem, and it's my understanding Jones had groin and hamstring problems last season at Arkansas. That's why it's so important that he gets this thing fixed for good, now, before training camp begins. He'll get excellent treatment from trainer Mike Ryan and his staff, who've done a sensational job with John Henderson's back.

Desmond from Spring Hill, FL:
Can you tell me how many draftees have agreed to a contract from our 2005 draft?

Vic: As coach Del Rio would say, you are way out ahead of the story. Check back in mid-July.

Abe from Ypsilanti, MI:
If you were a player, who would you want as your agent?

Vic: I would enjoy the challenge of being my own agent. I'm not trying to dodge the question or suggest that agents don't perform a necessary function; I'm just saying that I'd like to save the commission and try to do the job myself. Tedy Bruschi did it. The old-timers did it themselves.

Paul from Virginia Beach, VA:
If the Jaguars could reach out and take any player from a current NFL team and put him in teal, who do you think it would be?

Vic: I can't speak for the Jaguars, but if you're asking me who I would want, the answer would be Tom Brady because I believe in picking the best available player and Brady is, without a doubt, the best player in the game today.

Seth from Ozark, AR:
What kind of contract is Matt Jones looking at?

Vic: Normally I would tell you what the 21st pick of the previous year's draft got in the way of a contract and I would say tack on a little more and that's what Matt Jones will get. This situation, however, is not that simple. Vince Wilfork was selected with the 21st pick of the 2004 draft and Wilfork signed a six-year deal, which is a year longer than most first-round picks sign, so it's difficult to establish a correlation between Wilfork's contract and what we might expect for Matt Jones. It's a fact that could even make negotiations more difficult because usually the previous year is used as a standard.

Tonga from Inglewood, CA:
Everyone says you wait three years to see who really had the best draft. Who in 2002 had the best draft?

Vic: It wasn't a great draft league-wide. Carolina hit a home run with Julius Peppers, but the Panthers' 2002 draft lacks depth. Pittsburgh got great depth of talent, especially considering the Steelers were seeded 30th overall. The Steelers got Kendall Simmons, Antwaan Randle El, Chris Hope, Larry Foote, Verron Haynes and Lee Mayes, all of whom have become major contributors. New England did well from the 32 hole. The Patriots got Daniel Graham and Deion Branch in the first two rounds and David Givens in the seventh round. The Jaguars' '02 crop got off to a blazing start with John Henderson, Mike Pearson, Akin Ayodele and David Garrard, but then went flat.

Travis from Live Oak, FL:
You always say it's a young man's game, however, some players are able to compete at a high level well into their 30's and sometimes 40's. In your opinion, when should these players start thinking about stepping aside for younger talent?

Vic: Age is meaningless until a player makes that first step downward. The fall comes quickly then. In my opinion, as soon as a guy shows the first perceptible signs of decline, it's time to get him out. I strongly believe in the old coaching axiom: If you're not getting better, you're getting worse. I don't like hanging on. Get 'em good or get 'em gone. That's another one of my favorites.

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