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Money not an issue

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

Terrence from Jacksonville:
The Jaguars seem to be on the verge of something good. The fans have seen from Eagles fans what it means to support your team. Do you think the Super Bowl has helped our fans see what truly supporting a team is all about? I even read that Philly fans were taking home-equity loans to see their team. If only we had this in Jacksonville.

Vic: The invasion of Steelers fans in December and the intense interest in professional football the Super Bowl created in Jacksonville may be just the ingredients this town needs to produce a similar passion for the Jaguars. Eagles fans grossly out-numbered Patriots fans. It was clear for everyone in Jacksonville to see and you didn't have to go to the game to see it. They were all over the area and I think Jacksonville got a kick out of them. Yeah, I think the Jaguars will benefit from all of this, but it still comes down to the heart. You have to have fans for which the fortunes of the team are an integral part of their lives, and you can't manufacture that kind of passion. It has to be genuine. In time, it'll come.

Steve from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Are the Jags going cheap with assistant coaches' salaries? If so, why would they expect to be able to compete?

Vic: The Jaguars are at the low end of the league in what they pay their coordinators. Mostly, that is the result of what the hiring of Norm Chow and Scott Linehan did to the average salary of NFL coordinators. All of a sudden, we have coordinators making head coach money. The Jaguars, however, are right in line with the league average in what the team pays its other assistant coaches. They are not "cheap" when it comes to what they pay position coaches. As far as being able to compete according to what you pay assistant coaches, I don't see the correlation. Jack Del Rio told me yesterday that he has not encountered one situation in which he lost a coach or coordinator candidate because he couldn't offer enough money. The staff he has is the staff he wants. It has not been compromised by salaries.

Pete from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
Do you really believe that a young, quick, 250-pound starting linebacker like Akin Ayodele would be protected by setting his compensation at a third-round pick?

Vic: Yes, I do, but it's not just about protecting Akin Ayodele. There are two variables that go with the tender offer to a restricted free agent: draft pick compensation and salary. A first-round tender would require the Jaguars to pay Ayodele $1.4 million in 2005; the third-round or original draft-pick compensation tender would set his salary at $660,000. So it's not just about protecting the player, it's about protecting your salary cap. I think the low tender would get it done.

Tom from Kingsland, GA:
In the upcoming draft, if the best player available in the first round is a defensive tackle, do you think the Jags would pick him or trade down?

Vic: I think the Jaguars would clearly like to focus on a position other than defensive tackle, where they have two guys in the Pro Bowl and potential depth in the return of Rob Meier and the development of Anthony Maddox. If a DT is clearly the best available player when it's the Jaguars' turn to pick, they might try to adjust their position in the order.

Kelvin from Atlanta, GA:
When the Eagles were trailing with 1:47 left on the clock, why would they choose to try an onside kick when all they needed was a field goal to tie? The Eagles would've received the ball in much better field position if they had kicked it away. What's your take on this?

Vic: In retrospect, you're absolutely right. If Bill Belichick wasn't going to be aggressive with the ball in Eagles territory, I doubt he would've been aggressive with the ball in his own end of the field. Had the Eagles kicked it away, the game might've gone into overtime. That's why I said the other day that I wasn't real impressed with the performances of either team or either coach.

Ryan from Atlanta, GA:
From what it looked like last year, Leftwich was on his way to a spectacular season until he got injured in Houston. With that in mind, it seems like stretching the pocketbook for a guy like Walter Jones makes sense. Do you agree that we should put a premium on left tackle, since Leftwich is immobile and has a windup that's susceptible to having balls batted down?

Vic: That's one of the big questions of the upcoming free-agent period. First of all, will the Seahawks allow Walter Jones to walk, or will they "franchise" him again? Secondly, how much would the Jaguars be willing to spend on Jones, because the competition would be intense and the price would be real high. I'm sorry, I can't answer your question, but I can give you some information on another player who fits into the Jaguars' situation at left tackle. Mike Pearson stopped in my office yesterday to tell me he began running on Thursday and that his recovery from major knee surgery is on a "miracle" pace. Pearson let me know the Jaguars don't need to find a left tackle, that he'll be ready to go for the start of training camp, and Pearson bounced on his bad leg in making his point. Wow! I was impressed because Pearson had suffered a trifecta in the home loss to Indianapolis. He blew out three – ACL, MCL and PCL – of the four ligaments in his knee. He said, however, that he sustained no cartilage or nerve damage and that he is well on his way to a complete recovery. Pearson will be in the final year of his rookie contract and would become an unrestricted free agent next winter. He has great motivation to make it all the way back and that's good for him and the Jaguars.

Philip from Fruit Cove, FL:
Do you believe the Jaguars will sell out with the seat reduction, making it a tough ticket?

Vic: Ticket sales from last season would suggest the Jaguars will fill Alltel Stadium next season, according to the downsizing.

Joey from Altamonte Springs, FL:
Do the Ravens have the salary cap room to go after both Moss and Brees?

Vic: Yes, if they're creative.

Alex from Mosinee, WI:
Do you think the Jags should be looking at wide receivers or defensive ends this offseason, and what names in free agency do you like?

Vic: In my opinion, defensive end is the Jaguars' position of top priority. The headline name that jumps out at me there is the Saints' Darren Howard. He was "franchised" last year and the Saints could do it to him again this year, but let's not forget that the Saints spent first-round picks on Will Smith and Charles Grant and they're just about all any team needs at the two defensive end positions. Denver's Reggie Hayward is another name that interests me. Wide receiver is a position the Jaguars need to address, but I don't like spending big money on wide receivers so I'd be more inclined to look at bargain-type guys in free agency or second-day guys in the draft. Corey Bradford is a WR who would interest me at the right price. He's a speedy guy who can catch the deep ball and the Jaguars need someone like that.

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