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Eventually, he'll sign

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

Marcone from Natal, Brazil:
Who scouts other teams' practice squad players?

Vic: The pro personnel department is responsible for information on all players who have passed into the ranks of professional football. You should read "Scouting 101."

Mark from Yulee, FL:
With less quality in this year's draft than in previous years, would we get more value by trading this year's first-round pick for a first-rounder next year?

Vic: That's essentially what Buffalo did in 2003 when it drafted Willis McGahee. The Bills knew McGahee's knee reconstruction would cause him to miss his rookie year, but they looked at what was left and they decided McGahee represented too much long-term value to pass up. It was a decision that was widely criticized, but it sure looks good now. Dallas traded its first-round pick last year to Buffalo for the Bills' first-round pick this year. Bill Parcells didn't like what was available to him and he bailed out of the spot. It's a responsible strategy for when you get caught in a tough spot. Maybe what's available just doesn't fit your needs. I believe that kind of strategy goes hand in hand with the philosophy of drafting the best player available. When you don't like what's available or what's available doesn't fit your needs, then trading out of the spot is the best move available. The important thing, in my opinion, is to never "reach" for a player. It's all about value. I don't think what you've suggested will be the Jaguars' strategy this year. The Jaguars have needs where this draft is pretty strong, so I don't see the best player available when it's the Jaguars' turn to pick being someone unattractive to them.

Justin from Jacksonville:
I say Fred Taylor has only a few good years left in the tank and since his contract expires in 2006 he will only be with the Jags this year and next and then they will let him go via free agency. My friend says the Jags would be foolish to let Taylor go. I keep telling him this is a game of replacement, not maintenance.

Vic: You've been reading this column too much. Aside from that, I tend to agree that it's a good time to draft a running back, if one presents himself as being worthy of the pick. But it's not because of Fred Taylor's contract, which doesn't expire in 2006. Taylor is under contract through '07, so, with three years remaining on his deal, free agency shouldn't even be a consideration. What should be a consideration is that this will be Taylor's eighth season, and he's nearing the time when we can expect a fall-off. It wouldn't hurt to give him help at the position. To make sure Taylor is the premium player through the end of his contract that he has been through the first seven years of his career, his role in the offense probably needs to be massaged.

David from Oviedo, FL:
We seemed to strike gold by drafting Rashean Mathis a few years ago. I recall I was somewhat disappointed when we drafted him because I couldn't find him on any of my draft lists. Was he a "reach" for the Jags or was he hot property coming out of college.

Vic: He was hot property and appeared high in every scouting service's defensive backs rankings I saw. Atlanta would've drafted Mathis in the second round had he been available. The Falcons ended up drafting defensive back Bryan Scott of Penn State.

Kevin from Montreal, Canada:
Which team do you think will be the biggest surprise next year?

Vic: I'm not sure Cincinnati would represent much of a surprise; certainly not a surprise the equal of San Diego in 2004. You're probably looking for one of those worst-to-first examples, but I don't think there are any solid candidates to do in '05 what the Chargers did in '04. Detroit and Arizona have some players in place, but they don't appear to have the guy at quarterback. If you held a finger to my head, I'd go with Detroit.

Dalibor from Jacksonville:
Do you think the Jaguars will go after CB Corey Webster if he is still there at 21? What I've read about him is that he's the best cover-corner in the draft and that is what the Jaguars need.

Vic: Based on what I know, I don't think Corey Webster fits that high. At this time, he would seem to be destined for a second-round selection. He might fit real well where the Jaguars are picking in the second round.

Chris from Brevard, NC:
What's with the flower company advertisement on my beloved I thought this was a football website!

Vic: Flowers, always flowers.

Thomas from Brisbane, Australia:
Would you consider the Viking' aggressive moves in trades and signings in free agency a swing for the fence? They seem to know how to get deals done to their advantage and they didn't break their bank. What do you think of the quality of the players they acquired? They got Cowart, Smoot and Sharper, which will really help their defense.

Vic: I don't know if it's a swing for the fence, but I think what the Vikings have done is sheer genius: Sign expensive guys and defer bonus payment so that it must be made by the new owners. As far as trading for Sam Cowart, I don't see that as any kind of difference-making move. Cowart's best years are behind him. Fred Smoot and Darren Sharper should definitely make the Vikings better on defense, but we're talking about a team that spent its first three draft picks last year on defense and its first two in '03 on defense, yet, there has been no improvement. Maybe those players will come of age this year and Smoot and Sharper will put the Vikings defense over the top. But probably not.

Kevin from Franklin, TN:
I know you said the Jags are going to try and sign a second-tier CB but what would you think of the Jags signing Courtney Brown, so they don't have to draft a DE?

Vic: Why do you think signing Courtney Brown would provide security at defensive end? He's missed 33 games in the last four years. In my opinion, signing Brown is about getting him at the right price. Given his track record, you can't throw around bonus money.

Broc from Annamoriah, WV:
Can you explain what the Steelers are doing with Marvel Smith? He is making the NFL minimum in salary each year but they are spicing it up with bonuses. How does that work and is it a smart move?

Vic: In my opinion, what the Steelers are doing is a formula for disaster. They are re-structuring contracts by turning salary into signing bonus, which allows that signing bonus to be spread out over the life of the contract. It's what sunk the Jaguars. The Steelers are tight against the salary cap for two reasons: 1.) They threw around a lot of money a couple of years ago to keep their team together, and some of that money was wasted on guys who are no longer with the team. 2.) Ben Roethlisberger reached incentives in his rookie season that are going to cost the Steelers about $4 million in unexpected cap room in 2005. I figured '05 would be a "step back" season for the Steelers, as they got their cap back on firm ground for '06. That would've been Dan Rooney's approach, I'm sure, but Rooney turned the team over to his son a couple of years ago and the son apparently is not a chip off the old block. The son believes it's time the Steelers win another Super Bowl and he thinks his team has what it takes to do that. So, with that in mind, he's pushing money onto future caps for the purpose of keeping players such as Jeff Hartings, whose salary spikes this year. Hartings was recently re-structured, too. The Steelers got some help from Jerome Bettis, who agreed to another monster pay cut, and the Steelers aren't re-structuring to the point that they're going to kill their cap, but these aren't the Steelers I know.

John from Jacksonville:
I recently heard the term "paragraph five" salary regarding a player's contract. What is "paragraph five" salary?

Vic: "Paragraph five" money is just another way of saying salary. The cap guys call it "paragraph five" money because paragraph five of the standard player contract provides for the salary to be paid to the player.

Bobby from Jacksonville:
How can we give a guy like Hugh Douglas all that money and we can't give a proven Jaguar like Darius a good contract?

Vic: Because Hugh Douglas played defensive end, which is the most premium of all positions. It is a position at which teams traditionally overspend and take expensive risks. Safety has traditionally not been regarded to be a premium position.

Bradley from Jacksonville:
What are your thoughts on the Parcells/Henson scenario? I can understand him not wanting to go through the growing pains that go with putting a rookie at quarterback, but don't you have to give the guy a shot?

Vic: Once a coach sees a guy in practice every day, he pretty much knows what he's got. If Bill Parcells knew then what he knows now, he wouldn't have traded for Drew Henson. Fortunately, it only cost the Cowboys a third-round pick.

Jonathan from Jacksonville:
I understand that John Abraham of the Jets did not sign the "franchise" tag offer. If he refuses to sign that offer, does that mean he is eligible to sign elsewhere? If so, what is the possibility the Jaguars would sign him?

Vic: Until John Abraham signs the Jets' "franchise" tender to him, he may negotiate with any team in the league. Any team signing Abraham, however, would owe the Jets two first-round draft picks as compensation. I don't see any possibility the Jaguars would do that. In fact, I don't see much chance any team would do that. Eventually, he'll sign the tender.

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