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League doing the right thing

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

Jim from Warrenton, GA:
I noticed an article that said the Jags were considering the possibility of designating Donovin Darius as a franchise player for a second year and that they would have to pay him at least $3 million. In a recent response to a question, didn't you say that a franchise player had to be paid either the average of the five highest-paid players at his position or 20 percent more than the previous year, whichever is greater? In that case, would the Jags have to pay Donovin $3.6 million?

Vic: In using the "franchise" tag on a player, the team must pay that player at the average of the five highest salaries at his position, or at 120 percent of his previous year's salary cap figure, whichever is greater. In Donovin Darius' case, we don't know, yet, which it will be, because the salary figures for safeties could exceed the "120 percent" stipulation. What we do know is that Darius would receive no less than $3.6 million, which is 120 percent of his cap figure last year.

Paul from Jacksonville:
I liked your analysis of the Titans cap situation for 2004 and was hoping you would do the same for the Jaguars. So, how many players do they have under contract for 2004 and what is your estimate of the cap situation?

Vic: The Jaguars are about $10 million under the 2004 salary cap with 48 players signed.

Nick from Tampa, FL:
With respect to compensatory draft picks, who did the Jags lose last year in free agency, and do you think the Jags will be awarded extra picks?

Vic: The Jaguars lost Zach Wiegert, John Wade, Wali Rainer, Bobby Shaw, Todd Fordham, Stacey Mack and Pat Johnson in free agency. The Jaguars signed Hugh Douglas, Mike Peterson, Keith Mitchell, Marc Edwards, Jamar Nesbit and James Trapp in free agency. In awarding compensatory picks, the league weighs what you lost vs. what you gained. Given that, the Jaguars won't get much – if anything – in the way of compensatory picks.

Tim from Crescent City, FL:
I pretty much read your column every day and I'm getting tired of these people telling you how much they love and read your column, yet, they still ask you the same questions. How many times do you have to say the best available player? My question is: Do you feel the league is putting too much emphasis on helmet-to-helmet contact? After all, football is a contact sport. Sometimes, it's hard to avoid it.

Vic: When I began covering the NFL, the game bordered on "criminal intent." Head shots were commonplace, and what happened to Darryl Stingley was inevitable. Cliff Branch was lifted, turned and driven head-first into the turf, and Lynn Swann was karate-chopped in the back of the neck as he was being trailed downfield. The game had gone way over the line and I don't ever want to see it return to that kind of goonism. No, I don't think the NFL is overly sensitive to helmet-to-helmet hits. The Stingley incident must never be forgotten. I can't help but remember something Joe Paterno said a long time ago; I believe it was in the early-'70s. He said, and I'm paraphrasing, that if football didn't begin cleaning up its act, soccer would take over. No one took Paterno's remarks serious, and I'm not suggesting soccer has taken over, but soccer has become enormously popular for boys and girls. The NFL has made great strides in cleaning up its sport, and I suspect those efforts will intensify.

Jason from Middleburg, FL:
How many times can a team place a franchise tag on the same player?

Vic: As often as it wishes to do so.

Josh from San Bernardino, CA:
I looked all over to get this information, so I'm relying on you, Vic. Keyshawn Johnson was traded to the Bucs for two first-round picks; can you tell me who the Jets drafted with those two picks?

Vic: The Jets used those two picks to draft John Abraham and Anthony Becht. The Abraham pick also involved a trade with San Diego.

Kyle from Jacksonville:
Do you believe if Sean Taylor is the best fit and available the Jags should pick him?

Vic: I don't like taking safeties in the top 10; gotta get the big guys early.

Clay from Nashville, TN:
Vic, enjoy your column; Jag fan stuck in Titanland. Can you please list the team's free agents; restricted, unrestricted and exclusive rights?

Vic: Restricted free agents: Chris Hanson, Eric Westmoreland and Joe Tuipala. Unrestricted free agents: Donovin Darius, Fernando Bryant, Paul Spicer, Leander Jordan, Jamar Nesbit, Sammy Williams, Danny Clark, Mark Royals, James Trapp and Joe Zelenka. Exclusive rights players: Javor Mills, Blue Adams, Quinn Gray, Tony Gilbert, David Allen, Matt Leonard, Ray Perryman, Jimmy Redmond and Deke Cooper. Exclusive rights players are not free agents; they have no choice but to stay where they're at.

Chris from Pass Christian, MS:
I know when the offensive linemen "set" they are not supposed to move, however, check some footage on the Colts, and when Manning starts calling audibles the linemen twist, turn and point. Why isn't that called? They are down in their stances. Is it because Manning isn't directly under center?

Vic: I think you're talking about the center, who is usually allowed some freedom in making blocking-assignment adjustments. What's important to know is this: The officials will allow a degree of freedom, as long as a lineman's body language doesn't insinuate the start of the play or isn't intended to draw the defense offside.

David from Orange Park, FL:
ESPN came out with their list of greatest Super Bowl moments. What is your favorite Super Bowl moment?

Vic: My favorite moment is for purely personal reasons. It's from Super Bowl IX. Art Rooney was the founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers and he had never won a title in his 42 years of owning the team. He was a beloved man; by everyone. He called sportswriters "my boys" and he would often duck out of conversations with high-ranking NFL executives at league meetings so he could "go talk to my boys." His players loved him and called him "The Chief." In the Super Bowl IX trophy presentation in the Steelers locker room at Tulane Stadium, commissioner Pete Rozelle handed Rooney the Vince Lombardi trophy as Rooney's players chanted, "Chief, Chief, Chief." Those who knew Rooney spoke of the scene as having brought tears to their eyes. Whenever I think of "The Chief," I recall all of those burn holes in his ties and down the front of his shirts, from the friendly ashes that fell from his benevolent cigar. "The Chief" died in August of 1988 and you could've filled Three Rivers Stadium with the people who came to his North Side church to pay their last respects. I keep his holy card in my dresser drawer.

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