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More head-to-head games in realignment plan

Join Senior Writer Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Scott Henry from Jacksonville:
Do you think the salary cap will increase within the next few years to compensate and allow teams to pick evenly in the future drafts and keep the most valuable players on the team.

Vic: The salary cap limit will increase, but it has nothing to do with the league wanting to give its teams the chance to sign more players. The salary cap limit is 63 percent of the defined gross revenues of the league divided by 31. That formula is set by the Collective Bargaining Agreement. In 2002, the percentage will increase to 63.5, and to 64.0 in 2003.

Suzanne Webster from Jacksonville:
What happens if it turns out the Jaguars are unable to trade Hardy due to the market? Since he refuses to renegotiate his contract, where would that leave the Jaguars as far as the cap situation?

Vic: It's a situation similar to Mark Brunell's. Hardy is under contract for another year. It's not his fault the team got into cap trouble. The Jaguars need to negotiate a new deal with Hardy, to create cap room. If the Jaguars and Hardy are unable to reach an agreement on a new deal, and if the Jaguars are unable to trade him, then the options would be to retain him at his current contract and cap hit, or cut him. The Steelers faced a similar situation with Levon Kirkland prior to the March 2 cap deadline. His scheduled salary in 2001 made it impossible to trade him, and the Steelers didn't want to pay that salary or take that cap hit, so they cut him.

Mike Brown from St. Augustine, FL:
I was looking over the possible realignment options the NFL is considering and it appears there will be eight divisions of four teams each. How would the playoffs be set up?


Vic: There will still be six playoff teams in each conference; four division champions and two wild cards. Then follow the same formula: The two top-seeded teams in each conference get a bye the first week, while the bottom four play. The interesting thing about realignment, as it pertains to the playoffs, is that the head-to-head tie-breaker will be more important than ever, as far as determining berths and seeding. As a result of the new scheduling format, there will be a significant increase in head-to-head games during the regular season.

Joey Gabriel from Jacksonville:
Does a college player projected for the first round have any input on where he might play? For example, the Jaguars were stating interest in Kenyatta Walker. Say he wanted to play here. Can other teams bypass him so we can get him, since his interest would be here. In other words can a player's feelings or desire have any influence on where he plays?

Vic: Not unless that player is John Elway.

Jim Golder from Jacksonville:
How is the salary cap affected when a player is placed on injured reserve? Does his entire salary still count against the salary cap?

Vic: Yes.

Sid Gray from Richmond Hill, GA:
Why does the NFL structure minimum salaries so high for veteran players? It seems there are a lot of good veterans who would play for less money. Did the Jaguars end up losing players (Bryan Barker, Rich Griffith, Joel Smeenge, Quentin Neujahr) because of those minimums?

Vic: You're right, the minimum wage is so high that it's putting a lot of veterans out of work. However, the NFL isn't responsible for that fact. The players union negotiated those minimums, as part of the current CBA.

John Wallace from St. Augustine, FL:
Although the XFL was a big letdown, their method for paying players is interesting. Why not combine the idea of a salary range with the XFL concept of sharing the pie. At season's end, each player votes his teammates a performance-based share of the cap that wasn't used on base salary. Also, if there was a certain dollar amount for winning each game, performance would become a very dominant concern for the players.

Vic: If you can get the players union to accept that plan, call NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. He and the NFL owners would probably hire you to negotiate their next CBA.

Brian Skelding from Mobile, AL:
I saw a mock draft that projected Chris Weinke to be drafted by the Jags in the second round. Would they possibly look at drafting another quarterback, whether it's Weinke or someone else?

Vic: The Jaguars spent a lot of time in March scouting the quarterback pool. I believe they need to draft a developmental quarterback. Maybe Weinke will be that guy, but isn't he a little old to be developmental? The second round also seems high for a 28-year-old quarterback with no mobility. In my opinion, Weinke lacks upside.

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