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Keep risk to a minimum

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

Bob from Fernandina Beach, FL:
I am so glad Gene Smith is the man he said he was. Cutting Matt Jones was a tough call for a team with WR needs, but it shows Gene's consistency and sends a message to the players and the fans that character counts. I look forward to the draft choices he will make, confident the rebuilding of the Jags is in good hands. Hope you agree.

Vic: I agree with everything except the notion that it was a tough call. It wasn't, in my opinion, a tough call. It was a must call. You can't send a message of character counts and keep a guy who just spent a week in jail because he failed in his second chance. Plus, I've never been of the opinion that Matt Jones' talent was rare or difficult to replace. It was time to move on.

Rob from Orange Park, FL:
The question about the Jags player with star potential cut short by injuries: Brackens and Banks are the guys, no doubt. While centers don't have star potential, I feel the back injury to Michael Cheever hurt this team, also. He should have been a very good player for a very long time.

Vic: You're absolutely right, Cheever is the best example. I forgot all about him. Cheever was on his way to becoming one of the top centers in the league when he sustained a career-ending back injury. I remember talking to Tom Donahoe after the 1996 draft. We used to go through drafts and do an I-like-that-pick, I-don't-like-that-pick thing, and when he got to Cheever Donahoe said, "You got a really good player there." Donahoe loved him. If I'm not mistaken, Cheever was a dead-lift victim; biggest back killer of all time.

Kyle from Charleston, IL:
How immediate is the need for a standout receiver on this team?

Vic: As Gene Smith said, the team doesn't play a game until September. Everybody needs to chill out on the wide receiver thing. They'll sign a veteran and then either draft or sign in undrafted free agency another guy or two. I'll tell you what: The Jaguars will have a better receiving corps this year than they did last year. Yeah, write it down. I've said it and I'll stand by it. Wide receiver is no big deal. This team's two lines are the big deal.

William from Oviedo, FL:
With Matt Jones being cut, do you think signing a guy like Torry Holt would help if it was structured like Thomas' deal?

Vic: Holt would help this team. He's not the big-play receiver he was, but he would immediately give this team a credible pass-catcher. You are not, however, going to sign Holt for the deal Tra Thomas got. There is no signing bonus in Thomas' deal. Holt might get $4-$6 million in bonus money, provided he gets a clean medical evaluation. The question would be: Is Holt worth that kind of money? You'd like to be able to wait until after the draft to answer that question, but that's unrealistic. Don't forget, this is a very good draft class for wide receivers. There will be good ones among the undrafted players, too.

Josh from Jacksonville:
I know the Jags are trying to build through the draft, but after releasing a good deal of our franchise players that we have been watching for years, shouldn't the Jags start worrying about the fans' interest and ticket sales? Signing a free agent with a big name like Torry Holt, I know, would get a lot of people, including me, more excited about next season than all these young guns that we are trying to get. And now that we are in a hole at WR after we released Matt Jones, I don't understand why they won't go for a player like Holt, who is an experienced, big name in the NFL and at 32 still has 2-3 years of good football left in him.

Vic: I can't help but notice that you didn't say "I'll buy a season ticket if they sign Torry Holt." You said signing Holt would make you more excited, but will it or won't it make you buy a ticket? Come on, Josh, who you tryin' to fool with this baloney?

C.M. from Inglewood, CA:
Can you tell us about the "Maryland I" and if it's a legal formation in the NFL?

Vic: You're talking about the Maryland true "I formation," and not the abbreviated version we've come to know. Maryland invented the "I" and it was five men in a straight line, not four: the center, the quarterback, the fullback, the halfback and the tailback. It was a beautiful run-game formation and it's absolutely legal to use today. You could stick the ball down the middle linebacker's throat or you could fake a hand-off, effectively freezing defenders, and pitch it wide to the tailback. You could run plays with a scissors type of action and you could run off tackle with a pulling guard and two lead blockers; pure power. It was the forerunner of the wishbone and it wasn't very good for passing the ball, which is the reason the halfback was subtracted from it and re-deployed as a wide receiver, which is the modern version a lot of teams still use as their base offense today.

Keith from Jacksonville:
I remember the draft-day comment you made when John Henderson was picked. The Jags had the pick and you said, "If it's not Albert Haynesworth, I'm quitting right here and now. I'm retiring." I still think we got the better end of picking "Big John" over Haynesworth, though.

Vic: You have a good memory.

Dale from Hampton, VA:
Now that all of the tall receivers are off the team, what will they do in the red zone and goal line?

Vic: Throw it to somebody who'll actually catch it.

David from Youngstown, OH:
Did the Jaguars see anyone at Ohio State's pro day they might have interest in?

Vic: They saw Chris Wells run a sub-4.4 40. That'll erase his 4.5's from the scouting combine. I have to believe Wells is a definite first-round candidate for the Jaguars.

Keenan from Sanford, FL:
I was almost beginning to believe what you were saying, Vic, about the arrow of this team pointing up, but after looking at the team's offseason moves, I don't know what it is you are seeing. I want to trust the judgment of Gene Smith, but I'm finding that hard to do. What do we have that we should hold onto as signs of hope that this team is headed in the right direction?

Vic: Change.

David from Jacksonville:
Wouldn't it have made better sense to try and trade Matt instead of cutting him?

Vic: Oh, I think they probably tried.

Blake from Jonesboro, AR:
I am writing for the state of Arkansas today. I want to thank you for your honesty over the last three years. Matt brought all this on himself. Most of us Arkansans are college fans who follow ex-hogs and not the teams they play for. You finally got rid of us. I guess it does not matter how much money you make, if you don't like your job, what does it matter? Besides the off-the-field trouble, he acted the same way here. Good luck, Jacksonville. Signing off from Arkansas.

Vic: Good luck to you, too. We will genuinely miss you. One word of advice: The next time an NFL team drafts one of your players, don't start sending e-mails to that team's website telling the team's fans they don't know what they just drafted.

John from Starke, FL:
I know the Jaguars are now committed to character players after the release of Matt Jones, but how do they determine when they draft a guy, even if he is a character guy in college, that once he gets the big bucks he won't go sour?

Vic: They can't know. No matter how much background work you do on a guy, there's no guarantee he won't become a problem. In fact, I think it's guaranteed that a certain percentage of your roster is going to be problematic, because young men with money in their pockets tend to become aggressive in their lifestyles. A genuine effort to draft men of high character, however, should decrease the percentage of problems. That's the goal; keep it to a minimum. There's no getting away from risks. A large percentage of every draft class has "issues" of some sort, and you can't exclude everyone. You're going to gamble on a guy every now and then, but you've got to do everything you can to lessen the gamble. Hey, the kid next to me in my First Holy Communion picture stuck out his tongue, put his thumbs in his ears and wiggled his fingers, effectively ruining the picture for 100 saintly-looking kids standing at attention with their hands pressed together in front of their chests. The kid clearly had issues, but after the nuns beat him to a pulp, he never did another bad thing. That's the kind of guy you wanna draft.

Ryan from Las Vegas, NV:
Your answer to the state of the Jaguars gives me hope. I'd love this team even if we went 0-16. It sounds like this strategy will take some time, but will ideally produce consistent winning in years to come. Am I close?

Vic: You're close when you say it'll take time to produce consistent winning, but I don't agree with the 0-16. This team ain't gonna go 0-16 next season. Its schedule is favorable and should give the Jaguars hope of being a playoff contender.

Nick from Washington, DC:
This all has a very cathartic feeling to it, don't you think?

Vic: It does! I said that to someone yesterday. I told them that when I stepped out of the shower, I felt cleaner than usual.

Damien from Jacksonville:
What message is the Jaguars organization trying to send season ticket holders? We have done absolutely nothing in free agency, while the perennial powerhouses continue to make moves and improve.

Vic: They're not trying to send a message to their fans. They're trying to win and do it in such a way that winning can be sustained. This waste-money-to-sell-tickets stuff has to end. It's childish and it's whiney. There's no doubt in my mind that one of the considerations in drafting Matt Jones was that he would sell tickets. So how did that work?

Tyler from Oviedo, FL:
One of the franchises you listed as one the Jaguars should seek to imitate in philosophy is the Patriots, however, it seems the Patriots are taking more of a here and now approach the Jaguars took last year; they've signed quite a few free agents and are trading for an aging defensive end, Julius Peppers. Do you feel the Patriots are straying from their philosophy and, if so, do you think they will have problems in the future because of it?

Vic: I don't like trading for older players, but the Patriots have a very good track record for making the right personnel moves so I'll yield to their football acumen. In my opinion, the second-round pick would better serve the Patriots in the long term by using it on a young player in the draft, instead of in a trade for a player who may be on the downside of his career. I'm tempted to agree that the Patriots may be straying from their philosophy, though it's understandable that they're trying to squeeze as much out of Tom Brady's remaining career as possible, and that would require a little more of a present-tense mindset. You could make points for or against what they're doing. As I said, I don't like it but I'm not gonna rip it because the Patriots still have a full crop of picks and a good-looking salary cap.

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