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Can you fix a car?

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

Bill from Jacksonville:
I am in no way being critical of you when I say this, but do you not feel you are being a little naive about the supposed lack of players in the NFL taking steroids as opposed to baseball? Are we to honestly believe the biggest lineman of the 1950's and '60's weighed around 250 pounds, and now we have multiple quarterbacks that size? Don't you feel it would be better to assume there has been an upgrade in the players' ability to mask the drugs they are taking? That is, unless you believe a player's workout regimen is so advanced compared to those of yesteryear.

Vic: I am not naïve. I covered the NFL when the players could actually be mistaken for normal people. I have no choice, however, but to presume innocence. That's because the NFL employs a high-tech system for steroids detection. Baseball doesn't. I've asked about masking and I've been told it can't be done. I asked Jeff Lageman that very question on "Jaguars This Week" and he said steroids use can't be masked. What am I to believe? Clinical information or my suspicions?

Brian from Jacksonville:
What was your biggest disappointment of the Jaguars' season, and what was your most pleasant surprise?

Vic: The biggest disappointment was the lack of development on offense. Early in the season I predicted that, by the end of the season, the offense would be out-playing the defense. I was, obviously, wrong. The most pleasant surprise was Josh Scobee's leg strength.

Colby from Denver, CO:
This is about the 20th time I have e-mailed you and I don't think I'm getting through to you. Are my questions being answered?

Vic: I don't think so.

Eric from Richmond, VA:
If Tedy Bruschi retires from New England because of medical reasons, what would that do to New England's salary cap?

Vic: Tedy Bruschi has $2.625 million in remaining amortization. If he had to go on the "reserve/retired" list after June 1, he would count $875,000 in "dead money" on the Patriots' 2005 salary cap. His salary is set for $850,000, which is how much of a cap savings Bruschi would be in '05. He would then be a $1.75 million "dead money" hit in '06. Those numbers are all minor. What's major is Bruschi's health and well-being.

Charlie from Neptune Beach, FL:
It seems there is an abundance of quality defensive backs available in free agency. Who, if any, do you think would be a good fit for the Jaguars?

Vic: I like Anthony Henry of Cleveland. I think he's a player who offers upside and value.

Charlie from New Smyrna Beach, FL:
Have you ever been to a NASCAR race? I attended my first on Sunday and it was downright painful to watch. I would rather watch the fourth quarter of a preseason blowout than ever go to another race. I spent most of the day and into the evening trying to figure out how people actually pay money to watch this in person. My hat is off to the NASCAR marketing team. They definitely do more with less than any other sport.

Vic: I've always believed that you should have some hands-on knowledge of a sport to be a true aficionado of it. In other words, I've played football, baseball, basketball and golf, so I have a basic understanding of those sports. Hockey is a sport I like to watch, but the fact that I've never played hockey restricts my interest in it. Because I didn't play hockey, I don't feel confident in my ability to talk about it. That also describes my dilemma with auto racing. I drive a car but I have never fixed a car. If my car broke down I wouldn't even lift the hood. The way I figure, I should have at least some idea of the concept of internal combustion before I go to an auto race and sit next to people who want to talk about pistons and drive shafts and stuff. I belong on a golf course, where the concept is real simple. You hit the ball, find the ball, hit it again and repeat the process until you have advanced from the first tee to your ultimate destination, the grill room.

Jack from Miami, FL:
I heard the Packers did not "franchise" Bubba Franks but did tender him, so we can make him offers they can match. Do you think the Jags go after him and what are the chances of signing him?

Vic: What good is it to make offers the Packers can match? The idea is to make an offer they can't match, so, unless the Jaguars are prepared to do that, why even bother? The "transition" tag is another way of saying, "go ahead, take your shot, but it's going to cost you." Kyle Brady was a "transition" player the Jaguars acquired by bidding high. Should they do it again, for Franks, or dedicate themselves to the development of young tight ends George Wrighster and Brian Jones? Tight end is not a position at which I like spending a lot of money. I understand what a great tight end can do for an offense, but in most cases he is your receiving corps' worst pass-catcher and your offensive line's weakest blocker.

Keith from Miami, FL:
Now that the Titans are currently experiencing salary cap hell, how long will it take before it all happens to the Colts?

Vic: The Colts have pushed enough money forward that they won't hit the wall this year, provided their premium players don't sustain major injuries and those premium players also continue to play at a premium level. It all depends on how much re-structuring of contracts the Colts want to do, but given the current situation, it appears that 2007 is the end of the line. That's when amortization and salary will meet to form a paper barrier. In my opinion, however, I think the Colts are facing a more immediate problem. Though they have pushed money forward to avoid having to jettison big-name players now, they haven't been able to add players to their mix and that's going to catch up to them. There's an old axiom: If you're not getting better, you're getting worse. That's the problem the Colts are facing. They're not getting better.

Kelly from Santa Rosa, CA:
Do the Jaguars always use their strong safety when stacking eight men in the box, or have they ever used four linebackers? Could you explain the personnel in a 4-4 scheme?

Vic: Generally speaking, a 4-4 is a college defense. It is a Joe Paterno invention and was originally referred to as the "Penn State 44." It employed a LB/DB hybrid who was nicknamed "Hero." The defense was widely copied and other names, such as "Monster," were applied to the fourth linebacker. In every case, that fourth guy was a big safety; a guy who was big enough and fast enough to chase down and tackle running backs but not big enough and strong enough to take on blocks by offensive linemen all day. I'm describing a player who is very much as Donovin Darius is in the Jaguars' defensive scheme. Darius is a big, physical safety who can play at the line of scrimmage, but you don't want him taking on blocks all day. When Darius is used in that "Hero" or "Monster" capacity, the Jaguars are, in effect, playing the old "Penn State 44." Does it really matter where he lines up? The Jaguars employ a true fourth linebacker against an offensive formation that includes two tight ends, two running backs and one wide receiver. Out goes a cornerback and in comes a fourth linebacker. That's a specialty defense against a specialty offensive formation. You're not going to see a lot of that.

Bob from Jacksonville:
Will the Jaguars get any compensatory draft picks this year?

Vic: The Jaguars signed more free agents than they lost. They signed Juran Bolden, Deon Grant, Greg Favors, Todd Yoder, Mike Compton, Tommy Hendricks, Doug Johnson and Lewis Sanders. Dewayne Washington doesn't count because he was cut by the Steelers. The Jaguars lost in free agency Fernando Bryant, Danny Clark, Leander Jordan and Jamar Nesbit. What's the verdict on that final balance? The Jaguars signed more than they lost, but Bryant left for a lot more money than the Jaguars spent on the guys they signed. It looks like a wash. If the Jaguars get something, it may only be one late pick.

Robert from Amsterdam, Holland:
When a team trades two first-round picks for a "franchise" player, do those picks have to be in the same year or can they be in consecutive years?

Vic: They can be in consecutive years but one of them has to be in the immediate year and the other has to be in the following year. You can't sign a "franchise" player if you don't have a first-round pick in each of the next two drafts.

Ed from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
In reviewing the top 10 salaries in the NFL for 2004, I was surprised the Jags had no players on defense and only two on offense. OK, so we are thrifty and have no cap problem, but is that effective talent-wise?

Vic: Ignore those "top salary" statistics. They are very misleading because they don't take into account the signing bonus money a player has received. A team attempting to push money onto future salary caps will pay high in signing bonus and low in salary, and the player won't complain because signing bonus money is guaranteed, salary isn't. Peyton Manning, for example, was a relatively low-salaried player in 2004. Do you think that's a bit misleading? There's only one way to rank players according to what they earn, and that's by averaging what they've been paid; the bonus money plus the salary divided by the number of years that money was paid. In my opinion, you can't form accurate opinions about performance based on the salary-only information to which you're referring.

Patrick from Columbia, SC:
If a player coming out of college really wants to play for a certain team and that team is interested, can the player skip the draft and sign directly with the team?

Vic: No.

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