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No reason to be glum

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

Alex Bezenowitz from Woodmere, NY:
First of all, I want to thrank you for your insightful column. I look forward to it every week. I noticed everyone around the Jaguars organization seems to be very glum about the rebuilding period. People even seem to be giving up all hope for next season and maybe even 2003. Do you think there's any way the Jaguars can remain competitive during the whole period of "rejuvenation" they're about to enter.

Vic: There's no reason to be glum. I find the idea of rebuilding to be very invigorating. We all know about NFL cycles; you build, you rise, you fall, then you re-build. It's time to rebuild, which means better days are ahead. I believe the Jaguars will remain competitive during their rebuilding process, but to have expectations of being anything more than competitive during that period of time is unrealistic. The next two years should give us reason to believe this team is on the way back up. What's glum about that?

Bryan Sebok from Berlin, Germany:
I read your column religiously, even as I am here in Berlin conducting research. You continually espouse the "best available athlete" drafting philosophy and, in general, I agree. But isn't that what the idea with Soward was? Shouldn't the Jaguars draft for the best available athlete and person? Surely, the Soward fiasco has taught us nothing less.

Vic: Football players don't have to be Albert Schweitzer. Just keep your nose clean and hit somebody on Sunday. You could make the point Soward was a best-available pick, but my take on his selection is that Tom Coughlin had focused on his perceived need for a play-maker.

Jon Walker from Orange Park, FL:
What is the penalty for a team if they do not get under the salary cap and can it be enforced? Could a team use alternate payment methods to keep a player; have a local car dealer, TV station, hotel pay them a significant amount to offset the team salary? It seems to me rules are sometimes meant to be, well, stretched.

Vic: Let's see, we expect the players to live by the rules and be men of honor and dignity, but we don't expect the same of the owner and coach? Alternative payment methods are not permitted. Ask Carmen Policy. If a team is over the salary cap, the league steps in and begins voiding contracts from the most recent signed and working backward, until the team is in cap compliance. A loss of draft choices and a fine are likely to follow, but those penalties are arbitrary and will be decided by the commissioner.

Ryan Glenn from Atlanta, GA:
I'm an impatient fan who's always looking for more information on the Jags. I know a lot is going to happen with the team between now and March 1. When will the Jags start making their roster moves.

Vic: I can't predict when that will occur, but logic would indicate nothing is going to happen until after the Texans expansion draft on Feb. 18. All teams must be under the salary cap by 4 p.m. on Feb. 28. I expect the majority of the Jaguars' roster moves to occur between those two dates.

Rick Davis from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I'd guess there are more good 6-3, 250-pound linebackers than 6-6, 300-pound run-stuffers. If this is the case, does a 3-4 defense make sense.

Vic: A better way of saying it is that there are more "tweeners" than there are players who fit the prototype for the conventional 4-3 defense. I like the 3-4, and I like the fact that it brings all of those "tweeners" into the draftable pool. I don't understand why more teams don't use it. There is one caveat that goes with the 3-4, however. You better find guys with legitimate speed.

A.K. Hall from Cleveland, OH:
"In Brunell's case, his scheduled 2002 cap hit is more than $2 million greater than his remaining amortization, which makes him a player of significant potential savings." Please explain your statement a little more.

Vic: Mark Brunell's projected salary cap hit for 2002 is currently at $8.25 million. That includes his 2002 salary and the prorated portion of his bonus money. His remaining bonus amortization is $6 million. If the Jaguars traded Brunell, which I don't believe they'll do, he would be a $6 million hit on the team's 2002 salary cap. That would represent a $2.25 million savings.

Tracey Biggs from Jesup, GA:
I am a firm believer that Coughlin is one of the best coaches in the NFL. Why do you believe he will only get a one-year contract extension when we are at least three years away from Super Bowl contention.

Vic: Tom Coughlin currently has two years remaining on his contract. A one-year extension would give him three years.

Kenneth Andres from Jacksonville:
Vic, I think your column is great and quite entertaining. That being said, the horse is officially dead on the subject of drafting the best available player. You have made your point several times about your drafting philosophy. What teams (if any) do you feel have followed the "best player available" philosophy and been successful.

Vic: Ken, I just answer the questions. Do you want me to lie? The Giants are the best example of a die-hard "best available athlete" team that has been successful with that approach. It is also at the core of the Steelers' draft philosophy. The Steelers adhere to the "best available" approach most firmly in the later rounds. The Cowboys popularized the "best available" philosophy under Tom Landry and Gil Brandt. Even the most disciplined "best available" teams will stray from that philosophy when they have a desperate need at a position and they have their eye on a specific player who doesn't fit where the team is drafting. At that point, it's critical for the team trade down to where that player fits. Or maybe the situation is the opposite, which requires trading up. When the Steelers cut Levon Kirkland, they had a desperate need at inside linebacker. They had their eye on Kendrell Bell and they traded up to get him. That's when the "best available" and "need" philosophies meet.

Lane Baker from Orlando, FL:
I have a salary cap question. Everyone keeps talking about how the Patriots will get rid of Drew Bledsoe. Didn't he just sign a $100 million contract last winter with a $15-$20 million signing bonus? If that's true and they cut him this offseason, wouldn't they have to claim the remainder of the bonus on next year's cap? I'm not sure there's a single team in the league who could afford such a cap hit, yet, everyone thinks it's a foregone conclusion he's gone. I don't get it. Can you help me out here.

Vic: Drew Bledsoe received an $8 million signing bonus last winter. The remainder of his bonus money was deferred. His remaining bonus amortization is $6 million, which is what the Patriots will take as a hit on their 2002 salary cap if they trade Bledsoe. The Patriots' cap is in good enough shape to trade Bledsoe and take the $6 million hit. He's gone.

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