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Going over the top

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

Art from Glenolden, PA:
It's my birthday so can you please put this question in? Is Matt Jones as fast as advertised?

Vic: That's what we're all waiting to find out. I'm looking forward to seeing Jones against Scott Starks on a go route, but we'll have to wait for Jones' hamstring pull to heal fully before we get a read on his speed. Maybe this will be the week. Happy birthday!

Chris from Jacksonville:
In your opinion, who was the best goal-line rusher of all-time? The backs I think were the best are Marcus Allen, Franco Harris, Priest Holmes and Jim Brown.

Vic: Allen was great at it. In my opinion, however, nobody went over the top better than Sam "The Bam" Cunningham who, other than for his goal-line talents, was a very average running back. James Stewart was an outstanding over-the-top runner. If we're pounding it in, I want Pete Johnson or Jerome Bettis.

Tony from Suwanee, GA:
It was reported on NFL Network that the Jaguars are talking to Seattle about a trade for Shaun Alexander for a third or lower-round pick. His cap hit is $6.3 million. Is he worth it?

Vic: Let's start with the facts: Shaun Alexander was "franchised" by Seattle, which means Alexander would earn a $6.323 million salary in 2005. The Jaguars have $5.7 million in salary cap room right now, so, they would have to re-structure somebody or do something else to make room for Alexander. Here's another fact: Alexander hasn't signed the tender, yet. He's a top back, but so is Travis Henry and if I was considering trading for one of the two, I'd probably lean toward Henry for one big reason: Henry would be a major savings. Henry is scheduled to earn $1.25 million in salary this year, in the final year of his contract. Both players are on one-year deals so you stand to lose either one at the end of the season.

Mike from St. Augustine, FL:
You have a unique perspective to judge the following question: Talent-wise, how would Smith/McCardell match up with Swann/Stallworth? I imagine our Jags' career numbers may compare favorably because of the era/length of career, but how about just judging raw talent?

Vic: I had this conversation with Keenan a couple of times. I told him that he and Jimmy belonged in the company of Swann and Stallworth and Keenan was very appreciative of that sentiment because Keenan is someone who values professional football history and his place in it. In terms of talent, the comparison is between Jimmy Smith and Lynn Swann and Jimmy Smith and John Stallworth because Smith, Swann and Stallworth were all big-play guys. Stallworth didn't become a possession receiver until late in his career. Smith, Swann and Stallworth are all speedy, deep-ball receivers. Swann retired early, just as he was reaching the point that he would have to become more of a possession receiver. Stallworth benefited from Swann's retirement, inasmuch as John became the Steelers' number one receiver and main deep threat. Smith is a thicker, more muscular guy than either Swann or Stallworth was. What Swann and Stallworth did with their outstanding jumping ability, Jimmy has done with muscle. What people tend to forget about Swann is that he was a killer punt-returner early in his career. That's where he enjoys a little bit of an advantage over the other three. Of the four, McCardell and Stallworth were the technicians. McCardell may have had the best understanding of how to get open. McCardell was also very good at winning his quarterback's favor and attention. Stallworth developed that skill in the second half of his career. At one point, I think he may have been servicing Bradshaw's car.

Kelvin from Warwick, UK:
Gil Brandt on reckons the Cowboys could be 2005's Chargers; i.e., a team with a losing record who surprises everyone. When you were asked a similar question in this column, you didn't mention the Cowboys. Is Brandt allowing bias to creep into his judgment or do you think Parcells can turn them around?

Vic: Brandt is a wonderfully positive person who has probably never said anything bad about anyone in his life. When Gil was the Cowboys' top personnel man, he was a quote machine for newspaper guys looking for a comment on a prospect Gil was scouting, and his comments always seemed to suggest the prospect was a one-of-a-kind talent. Gil's a good man and a Cowboy guy through and through, but that doesn't mean his prediction for the Cowboys is out of line. I didn't include the Cowboys among my surprise teams because I don't like the Drew Bledsoe signing. Bill Parcells, however, may know how to get out of Bledsoe whatever he has left in him. If that happens, the Cowboys could jump up. They had a great draft; everybody agrees on that. I just don't like patch jobs at quarterback.

Ryan from Jacksonville:
Rank the top five defensive tackles in the game today.

Vic: Kris Jenkins, Marcus Stroud, LeRoi Glover, John Henderson and Kevin Williams.

Daniel from Springfield, MO:
You're a well-traveled man of sports. I was wondering what your feeling is on the best sports city in the U.S.?

Vic: In my opinion, Philadelphia is the best sports city in America. I base that on a lot of different criteria. For starters, Philly has teams in all four major pro sports leagues and they've all drawn well for a long time. Philly is a town with a big-time college basketball tradition, with five major college programs. Philly has hosted the "Final Four" and it's always one of the places promoters of major sporting events consider as a site. Philly has also been a premier venue for boxing, and it's been the site of the Army-Navy football game. It was also the birthplace of the Liberty Bowl. Philly has hosted NFC title games, World Series games, all-star games, NBA title games and Stanley Cups. One of the most memorable sporting events in Philadelphia history was a hockey game between the Soviet Red Army team and the Flyers in 1976. The coach of the Red Army team took his team off the ice at one point, in protest to the Flyers' bullying ways. It was one of the toughest tickets in hockey history and the event began with Kate Smith's trademark rendition of "God Bless America." It was one of the most electric environments in sports history and Philadelphia has a tradition for having produced such memories. Some towns are great football towns or great baseball towns, etc. Philadelphia is a great sports town, unless you're Santa Claus.

Jack from Camp Lejeune, NC:
What makes players restricted and unrestricted free agents?

Vic: A player becomes a restricted free agent if his contract has expired after his third year of service in the league. A player becomes an unrestricted free agent if he is without a contract in any of the years after his fourth season in the NFL.

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