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Jaguars' turn begins

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

Dave from Jacksonville:
I just received the season ticket holder's magazine, "Sidelines." I started to browse through one of the articles without paying attention to who wrote it. I got to the part that read, "the Jaguars are not a snowman that will melt in the offseason," and I knew before I looked that you wrote that article. You truly seem to know the pulse of this team and the AFC South. You called the demise of the Titans. You have predicted the demise of the Colts. I don't think anyone saw what was coming for the Texans. I know it's early but how do you see the AFC South in 2006?

Vic: In my opinion, the Jaguars are squarely in their window of opportunity period. Yeah, the schedule is tough, but it's the same for everybody in the AFC South and the Jaguars should be best-equipped to handle that kind of schedule. The salary cap is starting to catch up to the Colts; we're going to start seeing them lose key players. I have suspicions about Peyton Manning. He threw the ball so wildly in the loss to the Steelers and in the Pro Bowl that I'm wondering where his head is. A lot of people are going to pick the Colts to go all the way in 2006, largely because the Colts remain a sentimental choice. I reserve the right to change my mind between now and the start of next season, but I'm not picking the Colts to go all the way and I doubt if anything will change my mind. I think their ship sailed this past season. Offseason moves could change my mind, but I expect the Jaguars will be my choice to win the AFC South. The Titans are nearing the end of their salary cap woes, but look at what they have left on their roster. I don't expect them to be significantly improved. The Texans are the team that could surprise us. They grossly under-achieved last season and with the first pick of the draft and a new attitude they could make major strides. There's an old saying: Don't miss your turn. I think the Colts did. The Jaguars' turn begins this year.

Jamile from Jacksonville:
What will happen to the Jaguars in 2007 and the years following if they are uncapped? Could the team be moved to Los Angeles?

Vic: I refuse to believe this team will ever call anywhere but Jacksonville home. That opinion is not based on sentimentality. It is based on obvious facts. Drive around Jacksonville and look at all the housing starts. Condo construction is explosive and the people who will live in those units are likely to be NFL fans. Growth in Jacksonville is almost reckless. It's only logical to assume, then, that if a million people can almost fill Alltel Stadium, then two million people will. But there's more. Look at Jacksonville's TV ratings for the postseason. Jacksonville had the third-highest rating in the country for the AFC title game, behind only Pittsburgh and Denver, the two teams that played in the AFC title game. Jacksonville is consistently at the top of the NFL's TV ratings. Jacksonville is currently a small market that doesn't offer the revenue streams larger markets offer, and that makes present-tense economics difficult for Wayne Weaver, but one day Jacksonville will be a mid-market city with a rabid pro football following and that'll make the Jaguars one of the most secure franchises in the league. As far as the possibility of reaching an uncapped year, the potential effect is obvious: Some poor town is certain to lose its team and Los Angeles would become an even more attractive outlet for a small-market franchise staring at the long-term prospect for red ink. That would be the result of the potential collapse of the salary cap system. Small-market teams would not be able to compete with their large-market brethren in an unregulated environment, and large-market teams would dominate the NFL just as the Yankees and Red Sox dominate baseball. Knowing that, there could be a rush of small-market teams to get to Los Angeles. Now, more than ever, it's important for Jacksonville to support the Jaguars.

Josh from Las Vegas, NV:
Why would an uncapped year in 2007 lead to a strike in '08? What am I missing? Wouldn't players get more money with an uncapped year?

Vic: You're looking at it from the wrong perspective. Don't think in terms of strike, think in terms of lock-out. The current CBA expires in the spring of 2008. If there's no extension by then, I would think the owners would begin considering replacement players.

Thomas from Orlando, FL:
I heard Gene Upshaw talking about some of the problems the union and owners were having. One problem he said they were concerned about is revenue-sharing. My question is why do the players put that as a big concern? Shouldn't this be more of an owners issue?

Vic: It's an issue for the players because any agreement the players and the league reach on a new CBA will be tied to a revenue-sharing plan on which the owners agree. As I said before I left for vacation, the owners are nowhere on a revenue-sharing plan. In fact, enmity has developed and the gap between owners of large-market teams and owners of small-market teams has grown wider than ever. The owners are set to meet again in Dallas on March 7, in a special meeting to talk more about revenue-sharing. Don't hold your breath. A revenue-sharing plan is critical to a CBA extension because it's all about negotiating percentages of the take. The owners can't agree to a percentage of sharing with the players until the owners agree to a percentage of sharing among themselves. That's why, just as I said before I went on vacation, any reports about the two sides nearing agreement on a CBA extension are premature. It all begins with revenue-sharing.

Dwayne from Jacksonville:
I am an original season ticket holder, still buying the season package for my family every year. I will not follow the sport if the NFL ends up with a system like baseball's, where small markets can't be competitive. If they can't give every team a fighting chance, I am not going to pay good money to witness the death spiral of the Jaguars. Does that make sense?

Vic: That makes perfect sense.

Kenny from Long Island, NY:
Last week I had Vic withdrawal and I am so glad you are finally back. The experience was simply ineffable, in a bad way. Anyway, how are the Colts spending all this money to re-sign players, if they are already in a salary cap mess?

Vic: The Colts are currently $9 million over the cap. They're going to re-structure Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, which will provide some room at the further expense of future salary caps. Barring an agreement on a new CBA, the Colts are likely to let Edgerrin James go in free agency. They're likely to cut Josh Williams, which would save about $1.3 million on the team's cap. It'll be interesting to see what they do with Dominic Rhodes, who would save another $2 million if he's cut. David Thornton is a free agent. Will they re-sign him? Mike Vanderjagt is a free agent and the Colts won't re-sign him. The Colts had to make choices and they decided two guys they wanted to re-sign are Reggie Wayne and Raheem Brock. As you can see, however, the cap is catching up to them. If there's no CBA extension, they will begin losing key players.

Kyle from Jacksonville:
If there's no new CBA deal, could it jeopardize the start of the season?

Vic: No, the next two seasons are not in doubt. It's 2008 and beyond that's in jeopardy.

Frank from Oviedo, FL:
Welcome back. We need that "C-SPAN CBA" stuff now more than ever, as things are starting to look pretty bleak. Your thoughts on the situation?

Vic: I've heard the small-market/large-market split between the owners is 18-14. Twenty-four votes are needed to ratify a revenue-sharing plan. That means six owners need to change sides and, from what I understand, it'll be very difficult to persuade six owners to switch sides. Yes, as it stands, it looks bleak. Could things change quickly? Sure, it happens all of the time as deadlines approach, but I'm not going to whistle past this graveyard.

Eric from Neptune Beach, FL:
Here's a quote from the lead story on "If Bush was able to display all of those skills and have the same level of production in the NFL that he had in college, we're talking about arguably the greatest running back, if not player, ever to wear a uniform." What is wrong with NFL reporters?

Vic: If his production in the NFL matches his production in college, he might, in fact, become the greatest running back of all-time, but you could've said the same about so many college players who never achieved the same success in the NFL that they did in college. Reggie Bush is intriguing because he was nearly unstoppable in college, but I have questions about his ability to run inside. Why did USC not give him the ball on fourth down against Texas? Would you not give it to Jim Brown if he was in your backfield? That's a major red flag for me. Bush could change the landscape of the AFC South if the Texans draft him, or he could be just another finesse player who tastes great but is less filling. Everybody loves the wide-open game, but it's the in-close game that wins. You need a guy who can pound out first downs; score when the ball is close to the goal line. Can Bush be that kind of player? That's the question I have.

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