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Free agents and thieves

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

Dave from Providence, RI:
I was just wondering what you had planned for the web site with the upcoming draft and free agents? Are there any plans to run some previews and reviews of players who could help the Jaguars.

Vic: As we do every year, we will preview the draft crop position by position, as we get near draft day. We offer no such formal preview of the free agent crop, though we will focus on those players in whom it appears the Jaguars have interest.

John from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
I read that the Ravens put Phil Savage in charge of their pro personnel. While James Harris seems to have a background in already established NFL players, Savage appeared to have his background in scouting college players. So which would you rather have running your player personnel department? A college scout or free agency guru?

Vic: When James Harris left his pro personnel director's job with the Ravens to become the Jaguars' director of player personnel, the Ravens promoted Phil Savage from director of college scouting to director of player personnel, which includes both college and pro scouting. I don't think it matters what a scout's point of reference is. Good scouts know a good player when they see one. Ron Hill was the Jaguars' director of pro personnel when he left to join the Atlanta Falcons in 1998. Now, Hill is running the Falcons' draft, and rather successfully, I might add.

John from Tallahassee, FL:
Truly, free agency is the bane of our existence, but what do you think of this year's crop? The only name I think the Jags should even consider is Takeo Spikes, but he certainly would cost "franchise" money we should never pay. I definitely don't think Price will be worth it, for whatever team signs him to a ridiculous contract. What's your take on the evils of this year's free agent crop?

Vic: There are no bargains in the first week of free agency. I don't care what year it is or how good the crop is, first-week signings are a tremendous risk. At best, they are worth the money. At worst, you've mortgaged a major portion of your salary-cap future for a player who "took the money and ran." Who are those first-week-of-free-agency prospects this year? David Boston, Peerless Price, Walter Jones, Hugh Douglass, Keith Brooking, Takeo Spikes, Shawn Barber, Chris McAlister and Sammy Knight are top players who will attract a top dollar. But not from me. I prefer to do my shopping at the warehouse stores, where the display is bad but the price is right. There's plenty of good shopping in this year's "warehouse" of free agency. The best shoppers will find the best bargains.

Alan from Jacksonville:
What happened with Mariucci? Was he simply not interested in Jacksonville? He certainly jumped on the Detroit job, so it sure looks like he just didn't even want to consider coming here. I know I will be fired up whenever the Jags play the Lions, if Mariucci thinks he is too good for a small-market team.

Vic: I guess I've been callused by a lifetime of rejection. I don't share your indignation. The guy wanted to go home.

Lee from Jacksonville:
Besides the obvious explanation that agents tell the truth less often than most Enron executives, why would Steve Mariucci sign to be the head coach of the Lions after his agent told Wayne Weaver Mariucci wasn't interested in coaching next season? The situation in Detroit appears much less attractive than what Mariucci would have had in Jacksonville. What's the scoop?

Vic: I don't consider the situation in Detroit to be unattractive at all. In fact, I think it was too good for Steve Mariucci to pass up.

Dave from Orange Park, FL:
I'm sure you get tired of questions about the draft and the "best available player" theory that you subscribe to. I am in no way trying to change your mind. I would just like some clarification. How do you determine who is the "best available player?" Is it based on pure athletic ability; vertical leap, reps on a weight bench, 40-yard dash times? Is it based on stats or awards? How would you determine if a receiver with 70 catches, 800 yards and 12 TDs is a "better available player" than a tackle with 50 pancake blocks and no sacks allowed? In essence, doesn't "best available player" go hand in hand with position need? Again, not trying to change your mind, just want to hear about your criteria.

Vic: Here's how I do it. In the winter, when all of the scouts are at the combine, I try to play as much golf as I can. Then, when the scouts come back from Indianapolis and begin arranging their value boards, I find ways to steal that information and provide it to the reader. Remember, Dave, it's not what I think that matters; it's what the team thinks of a player that counts on draft day. I'm just another thieving reporter who likes to play golf.

Shaun from Jacksonville:
I have a question concerning Fernando Bryant. Everyone has been saying he needs to go because he isn't good. I think he is one of the best players we have ever had. He has the talent and the attitude to play. What do you think of him and do you think we should have him remain on our team?

Vic: I thought Fernando Bryant had his best season last year since his rookie season, 1999. In 2000 and 2001 he was severely hampered by a chronic foot injury. In 2002, he appeared to be fully recovered from that injury. I expect Bryant to be with the team next season and, in the final year of his contract, turn in a motivated performance.

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