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How would you like a big check now?

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

Jon-Michael Harris from Starke, FL:
What is the playoff format going to be next year? I have not heard yet.
The playoff field will remain at six teams from each conference; the four division champions and two wild cards.

Jon Kurland from Jacksonville:
Tony Brackens held out almost all of training camp in 2000 for a new contract, so why did he appear so willing now to re-structure his contract? Did he do it to find an early exit from the team or has he come more into a team-player mentality? Also, now that the Jags have matched the offer for Jason Craft, should fans pencil him in as the opening day starter this season? And what does this mean for Stacey Mack's situation if a team is to make an offer sheet to him?
Why wouldn't Tony Brackens agree to re-structure? It was a simple conversion of salary to bonus, which allows the Jaguars to amortize that money over the remaining five years of the contract. Who doesn't want their salary paid in advance? Don't confuse "re-structuring" with "reduction." Re-structuring doesn't mean taking less money. As far as Jason Craft is concerned, the Jaguars didn't match the Saints' offer to sit Craft on the bench. Matching that offer will obviously make it more difficult to match any substantial offer Stacey Mack might receive. The Jaguars' "low tender" offers to Craft and Mack allowed the team to claim them as $563,000 cap hits. The Saints' offer forced the Jaguars to accept Craft as a $1.4 million hit, which means the Jaguars lost another $837,000 of cap room.

Patrick D. Braden from Jacksonville:
How common is the practice of re-structuring contracts? And what do you say to a professional athlete to get them to re-structure? If it was me, it would be frustrating to sign a five-year deal knowing next year we will be back at the bargaining table.
Re-structuring contracts is a common practice, especially among teams that are tight against the salary cap. What do you say to a player to persuade him to re-structure? Usually it begins with, "How would you like a big check now?"

Keith Johnson from Jacksonville:
Now that Tony Brackens' contract has been re-structured to re-sign Jason Craft, how will the Jaguars get the $4 million or so cap room to sign their draft class, as they are bumped right up against the cap all over again?
There are two ways to gain salary cap room: re-structure existing contracts, and cut players whose release would provide cap room. The Jaguars don't have a lot of players who would offer re-structuring gain; Mark Brunell, Jimmy Smith and Kyle Brady are the most likely candidates. The Jaguars may have to find the majority of the cap room they need to sign their draft class from their June 1 cuts. Keenan McCardell and Hardy Nickerson immediately come to mind.

Ryan Nash from Jacksonville:
I was wondering what your thoughts are on the re-structuring of Tony Brackens' contract. I think it was a good move. The Jags need both Jason Craft and Tony Brackens. What do you think? Also, is it still possible for another team to make an offer and get Craft, or Stacey Mack for that matter?
Jason Craft became the exclusive property of the Jaguars when they matched the Saints' offer. Stacey Mack remains a restricted free agent free to negotiate a contract with any team. I understand why the Jaguars were so intent on retaining Craft. He's a player they drafted and developed and have reason to believe is about to return a dividend on the time the Jaguars put into him. He's the kind of player a team most hates to lose because it appears he's just about to come into the prime years of his career. However, it disappoints me the Jaguars had to re-structure one player's contract to find the cap room to pay another player. That's the formula that helped get the Jaguars into their current salary cap mess. I consider it most important the Jaguars not push money onto future years' salary caps. If they had decided not to match the Saints' offer for Craft, to avoid "pushing money out," I'd be telling you now that I agree completely with that decision. As it stands, I understand why they matched, but I hope it will be an isolated case.

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