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Draft and develop is the way

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

Chris from Fernandina Beach, FL:
I am a renewed season ticket holder from seasons past who appreciates your honest assessment of our current roster and fresh banter with the Jaguar nation. My question is this: Do you believe our glaring need at all linebacker positions will be easily filled through the draft or via free-agency? Too many times in the past few years we have been a step slow filling gaps, or in the chase mode covering a wide-open TE. Is this a result of slowness or technique, and who might be available to us? Will T.J. Slaughter be around and, if so, come back around to his rookie season's potential?

Vic: Yes, the Jaguars have need at linebacker. This team needs some genuine run-and-hit linebackers. Fortunately, they found one last year. Akin Ayodele is exactly the kind of player this team needs to play the kinds of attack defenses Jack Del Rio has in mind. T.J. Slaughter is a restricted free agent and I believe he will be tendered and will be with the Jaguars this season, and he'll be highly motivated to establish his value heading into unrestricted free agency. The same may be true of Danny Clark. I expect the Jaguars to draft the kind of run-and-hit linebackers Del Rio wants, and I'm sure they'll dabble in the free agency crop. But I don't think they'll go for the expensive free-agent types. Draft and develop is the way to go. This team's eye should be on the long-term future.

Josh from Palatka, FL:
Do you think Del Rio can actually turn this franchise around or do you think it is a lost cause for the time being?

Vic: Lost cause? Absolutely not. The question is: Will the fans be patient enough to give Jack Del Rio and company the time necessary to rebuild this team's roster?

Ryan from Jacksonville:
Vic, do you think it would be wise for the Jaguars to release Donovin Darius? After all, he is the only guy on the entire defensive unit who plays with an intensity that defines what football is all about. He is fun to watch on Sundays and is the most underrated safety in the league. I believe it would be a giant leap in the wrong direction for the Jaguars defense to let him slip away as they did with a dozen other great players over the past few years.

Vic: Donovin Darius is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. Release isn't the issue; re-signing him is. Darius is seeking a big-money contract. Conservative salary cap managers would probably allow Darius to test the waters. Of course, the Jaguars could put the franchise tag on Darius, and even though that would require paying him a very high salary, and it would allow the team to avoid paying an outrageous signing bonus. In my opinion, strong safety is not a critical enough position to be spending outrageous sums of money.

Mario from Zapata, TX:
Can you explain the way players drafted get paid? I know it varies from big money to low money, but is there a set limit on what a player drafted makes?

Vic: There is always minimum wage, and players drafted in the seventh round are often salaried at the minimum. But the real governor of rookie salaries is the rookie pool. Teams know how much they have to spend and they spread it around according to the round in which a player is drafted.

Nate from Jacksonville:
I can see Stacey Mack becoming a great back in this league, much like a Priest Holmes did when he left the Ravens. I think it makes more sense to keep him and trade Taylor, who is often injured and will cost more. What's your take on it?

Vic: I don't agree.

Greg from Satsuma, FL:
Do the players on the losing team in the Super Bowl also receive Super Bowl rings?

Vic: Yes.

Van from Atlantic Beach, FL:
I have read that it's likely Tony Brackens will be released after June 1. It would appear to me that if a team is serious about rebuilding they would release him before June 1. If he is released after June 1 the savings will not be available to sign players to multi-year contracts until 2005, since most of the cap hit would be in 2004. If he is released before June 1 it would seem the savings would be available in 2004 and could be used to sign people to multi-year contracts a year earlier. Why does this not seem to be a consideration?

Vic: If Tony Brackens was cut before June 1, he would be a $9.7 million "dead-money" hit on the 2003 salary cap; after June 2, Brackens would be a $2.7 million hit in '03 and a $7 million hit in '04. Take your pick. Either way, $9.7 million of "dead money" would have to pass through the Jaguars' salary cap.

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