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Clinging to hope

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

Weaver from Jacksonville, AR:
When I talk to a Cowboy fan about how using local revenue as a barometer to raise the salary cap will harm a small-market team like the Jaguars, his response is: "Tough, let small-market teams figure out ways to raise revenue locally." How do I respond to this kind of logic?

Vic: There is "leaguethink" and then there is "teamthink." It's "leaguethink" that made this league great. If he can't understand that, then you shouldn't waste any more of your time.

James from Willingboro, NJ:
I looked at a mock draft last week and saw about five or six tight ends going in the first round of the draft. I know the Jags are looking at linebackers in the draft as well, but what do you think?

Vic: I believe in picking the best player available, regardless of position. The Ravens picked Todd Heap in 2001 when they still had Shannon Sharpe. That's the kind of pick I like to see. When I see that kind of pick, I know they picked the best player on the board.

Todd from Jacksonville:
What a disaster. If all of the big-market, cap-endangered teams go ahead and cut everyone, the small-market teams will have zero leverage to force revenue-sharing. The threat of cuts can't be used anymore.

Vic: You're a good thinker. You understand. This is a great opportunity for small-market teams such as the Jaguars to press their advantage on a revenue-sharing plan. They hold the leverage of being able to block ratification of a CBA, unless they get the revenue-sharing plan they want from the large-market teams. When talks broke off on Thursday, my first thought was that the Jaguars had lost their advantage, but then came the news of a three-day extension and there's hope again for a ratification/revenue-sharing exchange. I think it almost has to be this way for the Jaguars to get the revenue-sharing plan they need; a CBA and a revenue-sharing plan have to be joined, as Gene Upshaw is demanding. It's good that he's doing that. I can't imagine that large-market owners such as Dan Snyder will be sensitive to the appeals of small-market guys such as Weaver if Snyder has to cut his roster and put an uncompetitive team on the field next season. Once that happens, I'd have to believe the leverage the small-market teams currently have would be gone.

Courtney from Jacksonville:
Good stuff every single day, Vic; very informational. Prior to reading "Ask Vic," the only thing I new about the CBA is that one existed. Why is Paul Tagliabue seemingly only publicly addressing the CBA itself and not the revenue-sharing issue, which is the staple to the whole thing?

Vic: He's addressing both. We know that because Upshaw is demanding revenue-sharing be included in a CBA. The reason Tagliabue's not making revenue-sharing a hot-button topic publicly is because it would only further polarize and inflame the owners at a time when he's trying to bring them together. Tagliabue is doing what all good negotiators do: They use time and delays to wear down the principals.

Frank from Loxahatchee, FL:
How does revenue-sharing affect the Jaguars decision to cover 10,000 seats? If there's no revenue-sharing, won't the Jaguars need the additional revenue from ticket sales, parking and concessions to help compete?

Vic: That's also something I've considered. Wayne Weaver has a super-attractive home schedule next season. We know, of course, that he's going to lose 10,000 tickets worth of revenue for the Steelers game, as a result of those seats being covered. I give Weaver credit for having the vision to see that downsizing his stadium to fit his market allows him to create a supply-demand balance and expose his product on local TV, but it's gotta be awfully tough to forfeit money so that people can sit at home and watch for free. I wouldn't do it.

Lane from Orlando, FL:
If the Redskins weren't in their salary cap position, would Tagliabue have delayed free agency until Monday? I think he's just buying time to figure out how to handle them. The league has never seen a team face a salary cap situation like this.

Vic: What Tagliabue is doing is giving owners with cap problems and the players union another three days to come to their senses. He's giving those owners another three days to appreciate how many players they'll have to cut and how much bonus money they will have thrown away and how uncompetitive their teams are going to be next fall. He's also giving the players union time to remember 1987.

Rob from Green Cove Springs, FL:
As a Jag fan, am I correct in my thinking that I don't want a CBA agreement without a revenue-sharing agreement along with it? Is a CBA without a revenue-sharing agreement a real possibility at this point?

Vic: Yes, you are correct in wanting a revenue-sharing agreement. That's the priority for the Jaguars. The Jaguars will not be able to compete in the future without an adequate strategy for pooling local revenues. For those of you who don't believe that, let me put it to you this way: Large-market teams get big money for their preseason TV rights. The Jaguars buy their air time. I hold out hope that a CBA and a revenue-sharing agreement will be joined.

Derek from Washington, DC:
If no agreement is reached, who do you think the Redskins would release or attempt to re-do?

Vic: My information is that with the cap at $94.5 million, they'd have to cut everybody and they'd still be over the cap, but we might see the Redskins execute some especially creative cap maneuvers that'll require the attention of the special master. My hope is that it won't come to that. My hope is that we'll get a new CBA and a revenue-sharing plan this weekend and the Redskins will be able to keep their roster intact.

Allen from Tallahassee, FL:
Why would the NFLPA consider going below their 60 percent minimum now? They obviously have the league in a vulnerable position since the league has extended the deadline by three days with no progress in negotiations?

Vic: Vulnerable? Everybody's in a vulnerable position, including the players union. All you have to do is remember 1987. The owners crushed the union and that was bad for the players and the owners. They need each other. They need to compromise. They need to get this done.

Scott from Woodbridge, VA:
Why would the Titans resign McNair for one year for $11 million?

Vic: I don't know. What part of 4-12 don't they understand? Maybe they're working on a better deal.

Keith from Jacksonville:
This has to be the most exciting story in the history of the NFL to me. Where do you believe Tagliabue stands as a leader of the NFL?

Vic: This is the event that will define his term as commissioner. If he can bring together the owners and the players and get agreements on two separate issues that each hold the key to the league's future success, history will record him with great reverence.

Bill from Woodbury, MN:
What level of tender did the Jags give to the four restricted free agents?

Vic: LaBrandon Toefield, George Wrighster, Vince Manuwai and Cortez Hankton all received the low tender, which means the Jaguars can match any offer from another team or not match and receive original draft pick compensation. Hankton, of course, was not drafted. If they receive no offers, their salary next season would be $712,000.

Dan from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I recently got into an argument with one of my friends over the market sizes of teams. Being a Steelers fan, he argued that they were a large-market team. Is this true? What determines these market sizes and how does it affect league revenue-sharing?

Vic: Market size is determined solely by the population of a team's defined market area. Pittsburgh is a small market; the 22nd-largest market in the country. The larger the market, of course, the more potential you have for sales. The Steelers, however, have large-market features. They have a huge fan base and Pittsburgh has a very large corporate community. The combination of those two factors gives the Steelers large-market sales potential. The Steelers have already accounted for more than 40 percent – more than $154 million – of the league's merchandise sales this year. They released a Super Bowl DVD this week and people were lined up to buy it. What they sell on, for example, represents local revenue they share with no one else in the league, yet, in a new CBA TFR model, that's revenue that'll drive Wayne Weaver's cap costs up. In other words, he'll share the cost of the Steelers' success but he won't share their revenue. The Packers are in a similar situation. They are, officially, the league's smallest-market, but they have aligned themselves with the large-market boys because the Packers are number 10 in revenue.

Brad from Huntington, WV:
So the deadline has been pushed back a few days. This has to mean progress, right?

Vic: It means there's hope of progress and my hope was buoyed yesterday when I found out Dan Rooney stayed behind in New York to continue negotiations with Gene Upshaw and the union. Rooney is the closest thing the owners have to a union man. He was the driving force in negotiating the CBA that gave us the salary cap and free agency as we know it.

Charlie from Jacksonville:
Chris Mortensen says he wouldn't mind seeing a league with no salary cap. He argues that the quality of the game is poor and that the small-market teams would still be able to succeed with no cap. Then I heard Jerry Jones say something to the effect that the current CBA is no good. It sounds like he would like no cap so he can build a dynasty again in Dallas. What are your thoughts or response to those two statements? I truly want to thank you for being one of the first to bring light to this situation well before the national media decided to cover it.

Vic: Obviously, Mortensen has aligned himself with the large-market boys. I am a small-market guy, for the obvious reason. Look back to that period before the salary cap began and before its effects were truly felt. Who dominated the league? The NFC did and, of course, the NFC is the big-market conference. Washington, San Francisco, Dallas and the Giants were the dominant teams. Who's dominant now? The AFC is and, of course, the AFC is heavy with small-market teams. In recent years we've seen Baltimore and Pittsburgh win Super Bowls and we believe the Jaguars are now a championship contender. Without a salary cap and revenue-sharing, the small-market teams will become nothing more than fodder for the big boys. I can't imagine that anyone would honestly believe otherwise.

Linda from Jacksonville:
Is there any danger of a player strike or owner's lockout in 2006? My husband wants to know the odds before he will let me renew our season tickets.

Vic: The 2006 and '07 seasons are safe. The current CBA doesn't expire until the spring of '08.

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