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Corners aren't cheap

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

Gabe from Jacksonville:
I've noticed that this new regime's personnel people seem to be more in line with your strategies (i.e. young man's game, don't overspend, cap responsibility, etc.) As I did not follow your writing much during the Coughlin era, I was wondering if you had the same attitude back then and were you bashing the Jaguars for their moves in the late 1990's?

Vic: I was critical of the Jaguars' abuse of the salary cap in the late-1990's and in 2000-01. It was plainly obvious, even when they were 14-2 and had the best record in the league in '99, that the future wasn't bright.

A'Drian from Nashville, TN:
If Wayne Weaver does not realize your value now, he most certainly will. After your expert discussions about the salary cap, I now understand one thing: Any Jaguars merchandise I buy on gets split among all teams and some of that money goes to the Colts. If I buy that same thing on, then the Jaguars keep the money. I think all Jaguars fans should know this, don't you?

Vic: Yes, they should.

Stephen from Santa Fe, NM:
How old is too old to invest in a player, in your opinion? Does it vary with the position?

Vic: The structure of the contract is the big thing. If you're taking a "swing" at an older player, then, in my opinion, it would be best to front-load the deal; use roster bonus instead of signing bonus because you don't want to get caught with a lot of amortization for a player who could produce a lot of "dead" money. Am I prejudiced against players who are past their prime? I guess I am. I'll sign an older guy whose arrow is pointing sideways, but it's gotta be at my price. The risk factor with older players is so much greater than the risk with younger guys. Hugh Douglas was a risk because of his age and those who thought his arrow had started pointing down were right. The prime years of a professional football player's career are generally considered to be years 4-7. If he's going into his eighth season, I'm probably not going to be interested unless he's affordable and I have a specific role and short time-frame in mind for him.

Paul from Jacksonville:
Buyers beware mentality? Yes, we need to learn from our past mistakes, but we also are on the brink of something special. Excite the fans early with some huge signings that make good football sense and let's fill Alltel for a great 2006 home schedule; don't go into it like a scared, little franchise that's been bitten by the free agency dog before. Signing a bunch of low-priced no-namers isn't going to sell club seats. Your thoughts?

Vic: I couldn't disagree with you more. Personnel decisions should never be made for the purpose of selling tickets. Personnel decisions should be made solely as they pertain to the impact they'll have on the team's roster. The Jaguars spent wildly in 1999, signing big names for big bucks and mortgaging the team's future to the point that it would spend five years out of the playoffs as punishment. What impact did that spending have on the Jaguars' '99 attendance? It went down by nearly three thousand fans per game. The Jaguars spent big in signing Brian Williams, but they clearly didn't sign Williams to excite the fans because few fans knew anything about Williams. The fans were gaga about Edgerrin James, LeCharles Bentley and Will Witherspoon. The Jaguars signed Williams because they believe he can become a big-time player, not because he might excite the fans.

Nick from Hanover, NH:
What is it about a fancy new stadium that allows teams to generate more revenue?

Vic: New stadiums include new revenue streams. Riverfront Stadium, Cleveland Municipal Stadium and Three Rivers Stadium, for example, didn't provide for club seats; Paul Brown Stadium, Cleveland Browns Stadium and Heinz Field do. The Bengals are the perfect example of what a new stadium can do for a team. Paul Brown Stadium has provided the revenue Mike Brown didn't have in the '90's. The new stadium in Indianapolis is going to do the same thing. It's about the money.

Terrence from Fort Lewis, WA:
Was adding Brian Williams a surprise to you? I think this was a solid move and it adds experience and talent at a critical position.

Vic: It was a surprise to me because Williams' name wasn't linked to the Jaguars. After you put the information together, the signing makes a lot of sense. First of all, Williams has just entered the prime years of his career. Secondly, Jack Del Rio has on his coaching staff a guy who saw Williams in every game and practice of Williams' career, and there's no better scouting information than that. Mike Tice obviously gave a strong recommendation for signing Williams.

Howard from Homestead, FL:
The Jags are gonna spend roughly the same for Brian Williams as what it would have taken to land LeCharles Bentley. Does it surprise you that they saw these two guys as pretty much equal?

Vic: Not once did I jump on the LeCharles Bentley train and, baby, when the Bentley train pulled out of the station this winter, it didn't take long for it to start roaring down the tracks. The interest he sparked in Jaguars fans was remarkable. I probably got 20 questions a day about Bentley. I think he's an outstanding player but, come on, he's a center. You can find those guys in the draft; in the later rounds of the draft. I think people fell in love with his name; it has a kind of J.J. Stokes ring to it. Brian Williams is a cornerback, which is one of the premium positions in pro football. You don't get cornerbacks cheap. Kenny Wright is seeking a big-time deal. Fernando Bryant got a $7 million signing bonus a few years ago.

Shawn from Three Rivers, MI:
What do you think of the move to get Brian Williams? Is this a stop-gap move?

Vic: For what the Jaguars have paid him, it better not be a stop-gap move. You don't give a guy a $10 million signing bonus to be a stop-gap player. There's no wiggle room in this deal. For this to be successful, Williams has to become a productive fixture in the Jaguars' starting lineup.

Cory from Jacksonville:
Do you think the salary cap is increasing too fast. Is there any sign of it slowing down?

Vic: When I came to Jacksonville in 1995, the salary cap was about $37 million. Now it's $102 million. That's nearly a 275 percent increase in 11 years. I gotta believe it's gonna slow down some time but, clearly, a lot of small-market, low-revenue owners are concerned that the cap will just keep climbing. That's why the incremental revenue-sharing pool idea is so ingenious. At a time when all of the negotiations hinged on a plan acceptable to large-market and small-market owners alike, the league came up with a cutting edge idea that doesn't rob high-revenue teams arbitrarily, but caps the costs low-revenue teams might incur from those high-revenue teams. It's a great strategy.

Kenny from Long Island, NY:
I'm glad the Jaguars finally settled their cornerback dilemma by signing a young cornerback in free agency, however, all the media that I've seen has bashed this move by saying the Jaguars grossly overpaid for a cornerback that is nothing more than average. How would you assess this move and do you think the Jaguars paid too much?

Vic: There are no bargains in the first week of free agency. If you're gonna sign a guy on the first day, you better be prepared to drop some serious coin. People talk about being aggressive in free agency. I can't think of a more aggressive move than signing Williams to a big deal. He's a largely unknown guy who the Jaguars are projecting will take a step into the NFL limelight. That's gutsy stuff.

Todd from Jacksonville:
How in the heck did Washington get far enough under the cap to sign Randle El and pick up Lloyd?

Vic: It's all the result of a new CBA. The extra salary cap room the new CBA provided is part of the formula, along with the extra year of amortization the new CBA allowed and the extinction of the "30 percent rule." That's the big one; getting rid of the "30 percent rule." It allowed contract re-structuring to create cap room in 2006 by pushing money out of this year and into the future. We knew this was going to happen if there was a new CBA. There's no surprise here. The Redskins would've only had a problem this year if a new CBA wasn't negotiated. The problem the Redskins are creating is for their future. You know, the Redskins' track record under Dan Snyder's ownership isn't all that intimidating. Last year was only their second winning season in Snyder's seven as owner. How do they keep doing it? I'm inclined to ask, why do they keep doing it?

Mark from Kansas City, MO:
Are the Jaguars done with free agency for now or do you see another big signing in the near future?

Vic: I can't predict how much the Jaguars will spend but I'm sure there will be more spending. No one has leaked that information to me; I'm just inclined to believe the Jaguars will do more shopping. One of the indicators of that is the structure of Brian Williams' contract. All $10 million of the bonus money is signing bonus, which means the team didn't eat up a lot of room this year with roster bonus, as they had last year with Reggie Hayward. That tells me the Jaguars wanna save room to do more work in free agency this year.

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