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Discipline good choice of words

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

Mary from Middleburg, FL:
If a college player decides to leave early and enters the NFL draft, but is not drafted, or is drafted and then cut, can he return to play college football?

Vic: Once a player is declared eligible for the NFL draft, his college football playing days are over. That's according to the NCAA's rules, not the NFL's. It's most important that the player be absolutely sure he is making the right decision.

Zach from Jacksonville:
Vic, what do you make of the Champ Bailey-Clinton Portis trade? It seems to me Portis would be a lot more valuable player than Bailey. I mean, wouldn't you say he is one of the top backs in the league?

Vic: It would be a case of two teams swapping contract-problem players, each of whom addresses a position need the teams have identified. In the Redskins' case, there's no way Joe Gibbs isn't going to find a star-caliber, workhorse running back, and Bailey really isn't the physical kind of player Gibbs wants as his lead defender. In the Broncos' case, they're worn out by Portis' antics and still in shock from what Peyton Manning did to them.

Joseph from Pensacola, FL:
Love your column. Yesterday, you said you felt the Jaguars' "needs" were DE, WR and LB, in that order. Well, what about corner? Why do you not think a shut-down corner is not a priority?

Vic: Cornerback is a distinct need, but I was asked to rank the Jaguars' needs according to first, second and third round, which I interpreted as the top-three position needs. That's what I did. Cornerback is a position of definite need, but I think the need at the other three positions is greater. And while I'm at it, let me say that if you were certain a corner you were considering drafting was going to be a "shut-down" defender, then you would draft him over anybody. There are no shut-down corners until after they've proven they are. Until then, they're just corners.

Christopher from Columbus, GA:
What happens if Darius refuses to sign the franchise tender and the Jags and him don't come to a long-term contract agreement?

Vic: There would be two major repercussions: 1. The Jaguars couldn't trade him. 2. The $4.1 million "franchise" salary would not be guaranteed, which means the Jaguars could cut Darius at any time and not owe him the $4.1 million or the balance of that amount.

Seth from Jacksonville:
If the Jaguars didn't put the "franchise" tag on Donovin Darius, who would they have put it on, if anyone?

Vic: In my opinion, they had no other "franchise" candidates. It's not something you want to use. You'd rather negotiate a new contract. You use it to retain the rights to a player with whom you haven't been able to reach a contract agreement. The Jaguars have only used the "franchise" tag on two players; Darius and Tony Brackens. And when you use it, you better be sure the player on whom you're using it is worth the "franchise" money you'll have to pay him, because once he signs the tender, the money is guaranteed.

William from Jacksonville:
I enjoyed the mix up between "bottles" and "jars" on the shelf. It's clear the Redskins have been hitting the moonshine in their "bottles" hard for several years. It appears the Jaguars have decided to switch to "jars," with their comments about discipline in free agency. Given the team's glaring need for pass-rush help, is Jevon Kearse's pending free agency the team's first true test of discipline?

Vic: That's a very astute observation. Jevon Kearse would be very tempting, for more than a couple of reasons: He's a distinct talent at a position where the Jaguars have great need, signing him would strike a major blow to the Jaguars' division rival, the Jaguars have the salary cap room to do the deal, and Kearse's Florida roots would make him a popular player in Jacksonville. But there would also be some major downside: Kearse is an oft-injured player coming off a major foot injury, and he will undoubtedly put a major and long-term dent in the salary cap of any team that signs him. Discipline is a very good choice of words.

Bobby from Orange Park, FL:
I saw in one "mock draft" the Jags taking Iowa kicker Nate Kaeding in the third round. This may be a bit early in the draft, but this guy was great at Iowa. Scouts have him as one of the best in years. Do you believe in drafting a kicker on the first day, especially after our kicking woes?

Vic: I guess the politically-correct answer is that if you believe he's the best available player, go ahead, take him. But I tend not to include kickers and punters in my ratings. First of all, the draft isn't 17 rounds long any more, and you can't sign an unlimited number of undrafted free agents. The draft is just seven rounds and you better not waste your picks. Secondly, the overwhelming majority of teams who draft punters and kickers high regret having done it. For every Ray Guy, there are a dozen Todd Sauerbruns and Brad Maynards. The irony of those two players is this: The Bears drafted Sauerbrun in the second round, and he turned out to be a horrible bust. Now, he's a Pro-Bowl punter for Carolina, and Maynard, a third-round disappointment for the Giants, is punting for the Bears. In other words, the drafting team seldom reaps the rewards. Sebastian Janikowski has been what the Raiders envisioned, but for every Janikowski there are an almost countless number of Brett Conways and Jeff Chandlers. The NFL punting and kicking games are dramatically different from anything college punters and kickers experience. Janikowski was a disappointing 22 of 32 in field goal attempts his rookie season. Had he been an undrafted free agent instead of a first-round pick, he might have been cut. Yet, the leading scorer in NFL history, Gary Anderson, was picked in the seventh round and cut in his rookie training camp. And where are David Leaverton and Hayden Epstein? In other words, you can find punters and kickers on the street, and they usually end up there early in their careers. In my opinion, the risks are too great to use a high pick on them.

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