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He's gotta be tough

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

Ryan from Hamilton, Ontario:
The Jaguars are on the clock. Ernie Sims and Tye Hill are on the board. Who do you take?

Vic: Tye Hill will be gone by the time the Jaguars are on the clock, if they stay at 28.

Ben from Phoenix, AZ:
As I understand it, the agreement in principle reported as being reached does not address revenue-sharing at all, but rather places limits on cash over cap bonus payouts. Is this a concession by small-market teams who now won't see revenue-sharing expanded, or is it six of one, half a dozen of the other?

Vic: The owners don't call me with updates, so, understand that what I say is pure speculation, as it is for almost every reporter. The commissioner has put a gag order on his owners and information has been difficult to get. I will tell you, however, that in my opinion a proposal that does not include an adequate strategy for sharing local revenue will not be acceptable to the small-market owners who appear to have enough votes to block ratification of a CBA. In my opinion, if the proposal you have described is presented to the owners, there will be no deal. A plan for limiting cash-over-cap spending will not be viewed as an adequate replacement for revenue-sharing. Look at it from two sides. The majority of teams in the league need revenue-sharing and the players union certainly wants a revenue-sharing plan because spreading money around would provide for the future security of those teams and that would be to the benefit of the players. I can tell you that Wayne Weaver is firm in his position on revenue-sharing and the reports I'm getting are that the contingent of small-market owners is also firm.

Andy from Jacksonville:
I heard on Sirius' NFL radio some discussion about bringing Ray Lewis to Jacksonville. That would allow Mike Peterson to play his natural outside linebacker position. What do you think about that possibility?

Vic: Where do people get this stuff? Do they just throw it out there as shock radio to drive ratings? Ray Lewis is under contract to the Ravens. Can you really see the Jaguars spending draft picks to trade for a guy who is clearly at the end of his career?

Stuart from St Louis, MO:
I just heard that Shaun Alexander signed the highest contract ever for a running back and it was an eight-year deal. How can the Seahawks do this when there isn't a new CBA yet? Are they just banking on one getting done?

Vic: All teams are banking on a new CBA getting done, but that's not what drove the Shaun Alexander deal because even if a new CBA is ratified today, the proration of Alexander's new deal still can't be amortized beyond 2009. They could have an agreement, of course, to re-structure that contract after a new CBA is done and that would allow them to push the money past '09. Seattle had $15 million in cap room. The average of the contract is thought to be $7.75 million per year. The Seahawks had the cap room to handle that. The exact numbers of the deal are not available because the deal has not been turned into the league yet.

John from Tampa, FL:
What are your thoughts on the NFL being a diluted product during the salary cap era?

Vic: It is at the top. I accept that criticism. Just look at the previous three teams of the decade, the Cowboys of the 1990's, the 49ers of the '80's and the Steelers of the '70's. All three teams were built in the pre-cap era. What if they all of a sudden were hit with a cap? Well, the Cowboys were and we saw what happened. They started losing big-time players such as Alvin Harper, Mark Stepnoski, Robert Jones and Larry Brown in free agency. Did that make the Cowboys a better team? For the 49ers to keep Joe Montana they'd have to cut Steve Young; to keep Jerry Rice they'd have to cut John Taylor. If the Steelers wanted to keep Lynn Swann they'd have to cut John Stallworth; to keep Jack Lambert they'd have to cut Jack Ham, etc. So where would those players go? To other teams, of course, which is the formula for producing true parity. The top teams of the salary cap era couldn't compete with the top teams from the pre-cap era, but the bottom teams in the cap era have had so much more opportunity to be competitive than the bottom teams of the pre-cap era. During their Super Bowl run in the '70's, the Steelers were 100-1-1 against teams below .500. We don't see that kind of dominance in today's game and I think most people would agree the game is better for the parity the salary cap has produced. The cap has diluted the league's top teams, but it has clearly enriched the overall product.

Brendan from Rochester, NY:
You said Ernie Sims looked good in the Orange Bowl. What about picking Alan Zemaitis? He looked great in the Orange Bowl.

Vic: Anwar Phillips looked better.

Paul from Pittsburgh, PA:
Since we're all stupid here in Pittsburgh, do you have any suggestions regarding how to polish five football-shaped trophies? They're taking up the entire lobby and we've got to shine them soon.

Vic: Use one of those "Terrible Towels."

Chris from Notre Dame, IN:
After hearing you talk about him on several occasions as a fix for our right cornerback position, I looked up DeShea Townsend. I was surprised to find he is 30 years old. I thought this was a young man's game. How many years of production do you think we could get out of Townsend if we picked him up?

Vic: It is a young man's game, that's why I said I favor finding a cornerback in the draft, which is loaded with cornerback prospects. I used Townsend as an example of a possible stop-gap strategy because Townsend is still playing at a high level and he shouldn't cost much, but I hate stop-gap unless there's no alternative. In this case, I think the draft offers a strong alternative.

James from Hernando, MS:
I know I'm supposed to be patient but am I the only one who is starting to get impatient with the league for continuing to push back the start of free agency?

Vic: What you want is to sacrifice the future of the NFL for your immediate entertainment needs, and I can't respect that. We are witnessing one of the most critical events in pro football history. It is far more important than signing other teams' rejects.

Sharon from Gloucester, England:
As we've just come off the Oscars, what's your all-time favorite movie?

Vic: "The Deer Hunter."

David from Gainesville, FL:
Besides the physical abilities of a player coming out of the draft, what other aspects are important?

Vic: If I was a personnel guy accumulating information on a prospect, I would want to know four important things: Size, speed, athletic ability and toughness. If he's big, fast, athletic and tough, I gotta believe the percentages are in my favor. If he's not tough, I don't want him. A soft guy can spread his "disease" throughout your roster. In the later rounds, I may put less of an emphasis on size, speed and athletic ability, but the need for toughness remains the same. In fact, the need for toughness increases in the later rounds. You can make a guy stronger, and what may appear to be poor instincts are often the result of poor coaching and you can fix that, too, but there's no fixing softness. Vince Lombardi said football is first and foremost a running game, and I certainly believe in the merits of a strong running game, but I also believe that football is first and foremost a game of courage.

Sean from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
At the end of your reply to Joseph from Statesboro, GA., you said "I know people from Pittsburgh are stupid but I didn't know they were that stupid." I must've really missed something because I have no idea where that came from or what you meant. Help!

Vic: LaVar Arrington is from Pittsburgh and so am I. It was a joke. It was also a way of expressing my suspicions about returning $4 million to the Redskins because Arrington isn't stupid and neither are his agents.

Randall from Orange Park, FL:
You mentioned yesterday that some team is going to move to LA. I know it's a major media market but the way I see it three strikes and you're out. They didn't support the Rams, Raiders or even the Chargers, so what's to lead an astute team owner to believe they will support one now? I can't believe an owner would think a fourth team would change this proven pattern of non-support. Your thoughts?

Vic: Come on, Randall, you're smarter than that. Do you think the TV networks might want a team in Los Angeles? Do you think having a team in LA might help the league in negotiating a TV contract? Do you think you could sell some jerseys in the nation's second-largest market? Do I have to say it? It's about what, Randall?

Jedd from Deridder, LA:
If the Rams can sign La'Roi Glover and the Bucs can sign Chris Hovan, then what's stopping the Jaguars from going out and signing, say, LeCharles Bentley before the start of free agency?

Vic: Glover had been cut and he's a vested veteran which means he wasn't subject to the waiver process. The Hovan deal has yet to be turned into the league and probably won't be turned into the league until there's a decision on a new CBA. Nothing forbids a team from re-signing one of its players. The Jaguars re-signed, for example, Rob Meier before he made it into unrestricted free agency. As I've said in the past, nothing has to be reported to the league until the start of the league year. Bentley has not been cut or re-signed by the Saints and won't become free to sign with another team until free agency begins on the first day of the league year.

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