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Don't forget about 'players signed'

Join *Jaguars Inside Report *Senior Editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Ken Sanders from Jacksonville:
Could you please explain to me why Weaver is keeping Tom Coughlin? 1.) Two losing seasons; 2.) low fan attendance; 3.) players basically can't stand him; 4.) everyone I talk to wants him gone. Maybe I don't understand the big picture. That's why I'm asking someone who has better information than I do.
Vic: Wayne Weaver is retaining Tom Coughlin as the team's coach because Weaver believes Coughlin is the best man for the job. Whether you accept that answer or not, that's the truth.

Jason Wulfekuhle from Olympia, WA:
Last year, we saw lots of our players leaving because of our salary-cap situation. Do you think we will see more or fewer players leaving this year? What player leaving do you think will surprise us the most?

This year, we will see more core-type players leaving. It has to be that way. There is no other way to make it under the salary cap. In my mind, there will be no surprises. When a team's salary cap reaches the level of desperation the Jaguars' has, nothing and no one can be considered sacred.

Aaron Fleck from Minneapolis, MN:
Hey, Vic, I don't believe the Jaguars' salary cap is quite as bad as people are making it out to be. I read that by voiding Kevin Hardy's contract, the Jags would save $9.4 million against the cap. By releasing Renaldo Wynn, they would save $5.8 million. By cutting Zach Wiegert, $425,000; Beasley would be an $800,000 savings. Re-structure Nickerson and Payne, then cut them after June 1. They could take a two-year hit and spread the money out. Then, by re-structuring Brunell, Smith, Boselli and Brackens, they could get under the cap. To me, these guys are all replaceable, and you add a healthy Fred Taylor and Tony Boselli and a couple of draft picks, plus, being in the weak AFC South, the Jags could at least be fighting for the division. It may be optimistic, but to think they are going to be a 2002 Panthers or Lions team is ridiculous?
Vic: You forgot an important statistic: players signed. The Jaguars currently only have about 30 players signed and cuts must be made to make cap room. Finding the salary cap room to sign additional players will be very difficult. The cap situation is desperate. Solving it will require the release of some players, the re-structuring of others and the acquisition of several players at the bottom of the minimum-wage pay scale.

Rick Davis from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I truly enjoy your insight and comments. What executive would you bring on-staff to help rank players in the draft? Can a franchise use someone like a Mel Kiper service to get a feel for talent? After a talent review, who would address character? Recent events suggest a certain level of character and maturity may impact a player's ability to contribute?

The Jaguars spend millions of dollars for scouting players. That includes membership in BLESTO, the NFL's most esteemed scouting service. You can buy Kiper's magazine for a few bucks. All of the information any team could uncover is available to the Jaguars. Ultimately, it comes down to picking the right guy. That job has been entrusted to Tom Coughlin.

Brian Logue from Jacksonville:
I know no one knows a lot about Coughlin's assistants, but are any of the offensive assistants ready to be the coordinator? Jerald Ingram seems to have done a good job coaching the young running backs and has been here long enough to know the offense. Are there any other Jaguars assistants who warrant consideration?
Offensive line coach Mike Maser and running backs coach Jerald Ingram are the senior members of Tom Coughlin's offensive staff. Maser and Ingram have been with the Jaguars since the beginning and I respect both of them as top-notch NFL assistants. Maser has done an outstanding job patching together an offensive line the last two seasons, and Ingram really stood out this past season in the development of Stacey Mack and Elvis Joseph, both of whom came into the league as undrafted free agents. Maser had a rookie at right tackle, a former undrafted free agent who was out of position at left tackle, and a former waiver-wire player at center. I take my hat off to Maser and Ingram and I'd like to think their performances would qualify them to be candidates to replace Bob Petrino as offensive coordinator. However, offensive coordinators usually come from the ranks of the quarterbacks and wide receivers coaches. This past season, Petrino doubled as the Jaguars' quarterbacks coach. The Jaguars wide receivers coach is John McNulty, an up-and-coming, young assistant who is headed for a coordinator's job some day, but that may be down the road. I expect the next offensive coordinator to come from the outside.

Tom Rusk from Malabar, FL:
Is there any chance the Jaguars could recoup part of Soward's signing bonus? Isn't it normal for a team to put a "morals clause" in a player's contract that would require the player to repay part of the bonus if he committed some specified violation? I have read that Mike Brown has included such a clause in Bengals contracts that requires repayment if a player makes negative comments about the team. Would that money be subtracted from the team cap after a violation, and if so would it have to actually be repaid ?

I can't think of any player who has returned any part of his signing bonus because he violated a moral's clause in his contract. The Patriots are haggling with Terry Glenn about his contract; the Patriots are claiming insubordination by Glenn. And Mike Brown's "no negative comments" clause was a nice PR move, but it's not enforceable. The R. Jay Soward situation is what it is. The Jaguars made a mistake drafting him and they'll have to pay the price.

David Nelson from Jacksonville:
I have tried to give the benefit of the doubt to R. Jay Soward, but it's painfully obvious this man does not care he is wasting the opportunity of a lifetime. The question is, then, what is the best way for the Jags to unload Soward and, hopefully, save some cap room in the process?

Soward's signing bonus must make its way through the Jaguars salary cap; $1.2 million of bonus amortization remains. If the Jaguars cut Soward now, they would have to declare all $1.2 million on their 2002 salary cap. If they cut him after June 1, they would take a $400,000 hit in '02 and an $800,000 hit in '03, provided Soward isn't claimed off waivers by another team. If that happened, the Jaguars would have to take the full $1.2 million hit in '02. Why? Because Soward is an non-vested veteran, which means the pre-June rule applies. The best salary-cap course would seem to be: Keep Soward on the "reserve/suspended" roster in '02. He would count $400,000 on the Jaguars' '02 salary cap, but he would receive no salary and he would not count against the team's active roster. After his suspension expires following the 2002 season, the situation will need to re-evaluated. The same circumstances would exist as far as the pre-June rule, but the circumstances concerning Soward's future in the game may have changed. That's for then. The Jaguars have to concern themselves with the present. The best decision with this year's salary cap in mind is to insure the least-costly hit, $400,000, by maintaining Soward on the "reserve/suspended" roster.

Landon Kirk from Provo, UT:
Hey, Vic, thanks for your insights into this year's draft. I can appreciate your feelings on drafting the best available player, but do you really mean you would draft an offensive tackle in the first round if he was the best available player left on the board? We obviously could use a backup OT, but first-round picks need to be immediate impact players. I would rather the Jags pick for need in the first few rounds, because with the long draft class of great players, I would rather have them pick the best LB and C/G in the first couple of rounds and then start selecting the best available players?

I'm starting to become exasperated. This is not that big of a deal. I believe in the "best available player" philosophy of drafting. That's my opinion. It is not shared by Tom Coughlin and several other coaches and personnel people, but I believe in it. Yes, I would select an offensive tackle in the first round if he was the best player available. The Jaguars sure didn't need an offensive tackle in the 1996 draft, after having drafted Tony Boselli and Brian DeMarco in '95 and having signed Leon Searcy in free agency, but I don't think the Jaguars would regret having picked Jonathan Ogden. There are times when picking the best player available is very difficult; it may require trading down and gaining an extra pick, or trading a player on your roster to make room for the player who fits at the spot you're drafting. And sometimes a team is incapable of either maneuver, but I believe a team should make every possible effort to massage the situation so it doesn't have to "reach" for a player whose talent isn't worthy of the team's spot in the draft. Why do I believe so firmly in the "best available player" philosophy? Because picking a superior player is better than picking an inferior player. I think you're making the draft much more difficult than it is. Just pick the best players.

Kelly Arnold from Jacksonville:
I'm gonna get in line with all the other people who have told you thanks for the work you've done this year. I check the site just about every day to check out your opinions on our downtrodden (but beloved) Jags. Since I don't follow college football that much, I was wondering if you saw any college linemen who stand out? It just seems to me Brunell can do so much if he wasn't always running for his life. By the way, I'm for Keenan staying in town by any means necessary. Again, thanks.
Vic: Bryant McKinnie from Miami will be gone by the time the Jaguars pick. Mike Pearson of Florida, Mike Williams of Texas, Marc Colombo of Boston College, Victor Rogers of Colorado and Levi Jones of Arizona State are top prospects. The draft is over three months away. We're getting ahead of ourselves.

Vic Ketchman is the Senior Editor of Jaguars Inside Report, the official team newspaper of the Jacksonville Jaguars. One-year subscriptions may be purchased by calling 1-888-846-5247.

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