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For the league's sake

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

Nick from Jacksonville:
What costs must small-market teams absorb? If the salary cap is set for all teams (and my understanding is most teams pay very close to the max), then what costs are we as a small-market team absorbing? We're going to spend the $92 million maximum in salary/bonus next year anyway, right?

Vic: You're the owner of a big-market team. You're a very rich man and your team's revenue streams are disproportionately higher than teams in smaller markets because everything about your franchise is in greater demand. All of this causes you to sign a free agent you like to the richest contract in NFL history. You've just signed this guy to a contract that has left every other owner in the league scratching his head. In the process, you have set a new payroll standard for all players, especially those who play the same position as the guy you've just signed. In other words, you have raised the payroll bar for every other team in the league. The players they are about to sign will now cost them more than had they signed them before you signed your guy. Even more specifically, the "franchise" tag at that guy's position is going to cost a lot more because "franchise" guys are paid at the average of the five highest salaries at that position. Every other team in the league will have to absorb the intrinsic costs of that ridiculous contract you just negotiated. For years, the NFL operated under a concept known as "leaguethink." It was a Pete Rozelle invention. The philosophy was that the NFL was a corporation with 32 franchises and what was good for the league was good for the individual franchises. In other words, operate as one; operate with the league's best interests at heart. Wild contracts are not in the league's best interests. That's where the big-market boys can crush their small-market brethren, just as the Yankees and the Red Sox have crushed baseball's small-market teams.

Hasso from Jacksonville:
How many Jaguars scouts and coaches are in Mobile right now?

Vic: Just about everyone. The next such scouting event will be Feb. 22-28 at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. When the teams return from that event, they will begin creating a value board.

Greg from St. Augustine, FL:
What makes left tackle the most important position on the offensive line?

Vic: He's usually responsible for blocking the opponent's best pass-rusher; Dwight Freeney, Joey Porter, Jayson Taylor, etc. That's not always the case – Julius Peppers is a left defensive end, for example – but a team's right defensive end is generally its best pass-rusher.

Dave from St. Louis, MO:
How does the NFL choose the sportswriters that vote for the Hall of Fame induction? Do you think the system they have in place is fair?

Vic: I think it's a great system and the guys who do the voting do a great job. I know several of them and they are guys who take the job very seriously. They have been recommended to the Hall of Fame by the teams they cover.

Ed from Jacksonville:
Very interesting CBA discussion on "Jaguars This Week" last night. As a Jaguars fan, I'm thinking I want a CBA agreement eventually, but do I want one by March 3? What is in the Jags' best interest?

Vic: The Jaguars are poised to benefit from the lack of a CBA extension by March 3, the first day of the league calendar year and the start of free agency. The Jaguars have the cap room to do some work in free agency, in a year that could see prices held down if there's no CBA extension. Teams are likely to go into austerity campaigns in 2006 if there's no CBA extension because of future uncertainty. That could make this free agency period a windfall time for a team willing to be a little more aggressive. At the same time, the lack of a CBA extension by March 3 could cripple those teams whose caps are not as healthy as the Jaguars'. The Colts immediately come to mind.

Jordan from Lincoln, NE:
I was looking at the CBA and now I understand why this is such a big deal to get this extension; this thing holds the NFL together. Before I was hoping for no extension, so the Colts would have to face the wrongs of their ways, but now I want this to be extended for the NFL's sake.

Vic: Now you're talking. That's the spirit; leaguethink. Don't worry about teams such as the Colts. Give them more years to push the money out and all they'll do is screw themselves deeper into the ground.

Ben from Phoenix, AZ:
Call me crazy but I miss the AFC Central days and it's entirely because of the Steelers. The Titans rivalry will always be a great one but I don't sense the same atmosphere when watching Jaguars-Colts or Jaguars-Texans games. Am I crazy for saying this or do you get the same feeling?

Vic: I think the AFC South is beginning to develop some real flavor. Give it time. What you have to remember is the success the AFC Central enjoyed during the Jaguars' early years. During the Jaguars' seven years in the AFC Central, the division had a team in the AFC title game five times. During those seven seasons, the AFC Central won the AFC three times and won the Super Bowl once. That's why you liked the AFC Central so much. It was a great division going through a great stretch of its history. The AFC South has some cap work to do. I think you'll see Houston come up. The Jaguars are up. Now we wait for a decision on the direction in Indianapolis and a move forward in Tennessee. The AFC South has potential.

Tom from Jacksonville:
I understand why March 3 is the target deadline for getting the CBA extended, but isn't June 1 more realistically the critical date at this point?

Vic: No, March 3 is the more important date because that's the day all teams must be under the 2006 salary cap. If there's no CBA extension, a handful of teams are going to find themselves in 11th-hour panics. If there's no CBA extension, there won't even be a June in '06 because '07 will be an uncapped year and you won't be able to use June of '06 to dump money into '07 because '07 will be uncapped.

Bill from Jacksonville:
Why did you leave the Broncos off the list of teams in bad cap shape? Aren't they $30 million over? Do they have some prime targets to cut?

Vic: The Broncos are $27.8 million over the cap with 67 players signed. That's not good but I left the Broncos out of my five teams with the worst cap situations because getting under the cap won't be a big problem for the Broncos. The big problem for the Broncos will be keeping their team together. They have a lot of players with voidables that have created phony, high cap hits in '06 that will immediately disappear when those contracts void. Getting under the cap won't be difficult, but keeping the team together will be. That's the problem.

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