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Not done until March 3

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

Matt from Albany, NY:
Vic, I submit questions all the time and not once have I gotten mine posted. It doesn't matter, though, because you always make your column great. My question is: If a player is designated a "franchise" player, can that player be traded?

Vic: He has to have signed the "franchise" tender offer first. Once he does that, he can be traded.

Jimmy from Vero Beach, FL:
Why is the NFL Combine held in Indianapolis instead of a nice warm location like California or Florida? I think having it at a retractable-roof stadium would be a good idea. When did the combine move to Indiana?

Vic: It didn't move to Indiana, it began there. The idea was that the Hoosier Dome, which is what the RCA Dome was called back then, offered an indoor, central location for the league's attending teams.

Gordon from Jacksonville:
Vic, great job with Salary Cap 101. I learned a lot and appreciate the obvious effort you put into it. Will the new Alltel Stadium scoreboard be one of those spectacular models like in Houston and Baltimore? Or will it just be a newer but identical version of what we already have? In my opinion, our current scoreboards have a lot of wasted space, especially those "non-video" screens to the left of the Jumbotrons. Have any specifics been discussed yet?

Vic: My understanding is the video boards will be state of the art and the overall improvements will make the Alltel Stadium scoreboards comparable to those in the NFL's newest stadiums.

Jason from Houston, TX:
I'm not sure I understand the amortization part of the salary cap. If the money is already paid, then why doesn't it count toward the year its paid instead of spread throughout the life of the contract?

Vic: Signing bonus money must be divided evenly over the years of the contract. That's the rule, per the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The same goes for option bonus money. Roster bonus, reporting bonus and workout bonus money must be declared in full in the year they're paid. The same goes for salary money. Why? Because that's the arrangement to which the players association and NFL owners agreed.

Bill from Jacksonville:
In keeping with the salary cap theme, I seem to remember hearing that in addition to the cap there's also a minimum a team must spend, presumably to prevent a cheapo owner from loading up his roster with 53 minimum-wage guys. Is that a fact or am I just misinformed? If so, what's the amount?

Vic: Last year, the salary cap was $75 million; the minimum was $63.2 million. The minimum is not an issue because no one leaves room on their salary cap. If you see you're going to be way under the cap in a particular year, you start moving money forward from future years to create room that will allow you to "overspend" in those years. How do you move money forward? Restructure a player's contract and pay salary money from future years in this year, which requires that it be declared in full on this year's cap. Each NFL team has an expert salary cap manager who makes sure his or her team's salary cap is being utilized to its fullest potential. Nobody wastes room. Forget about the minimum.

Chris from Jacksonville:
I understand the "franchise" tag is placed on a player to retain him for at least another year. Say a player was the highest-paid athlete at his position, and his contract was coming to an end. Could a team place a tag on him and pay him less than what they were paying him the previous season?

Vic: Peyton Manning is the example of what you're describing. The "franchise" designation requires that a player be paid at the average of the top five salaries in the league at his position, or at 120 percent of his previous season's cap number, whichever is greater. In Manning's case, it's the 120 percent rule, which means franchising Manning would result in an $18 million salary. Those are the rules. If a team has its "franchise" designation available to be used, it may do so in an attempt to retain a player who's about to become a free agent. At that point, he will be paid at one of the two rates. Unless my brain has been completed fried by having watched too much football, I'd have to believe being the highest-paid player in the league would result in that player being paid at the 120 percent rate, which would be an increase over his previous year's salary.

John from Jacksonville:
Vic, you wrote a great series of articles on the salary cap. My question is on Likely To Be Earned (LTBE) bonuses. Since these bonuses are charged to the salary cap in the current year, does the team get credit on next year's salary cap if the incentive is not actually met and the bonus not paid?

Vic: LTBE incentive money not earned would first be credited to whatever room remained on the cap of the year in which the LTBE incentive money was not earned. The balance would then be credited to the following season's cap.

Rafi from Jacksonville:
Vic, if you don't wanna answer any of my questions, that's fine, just please answer this one: What would you estimate the Jaguars' cap to be (currently $9.3 million under), after the release of Brunell and, perhaps, Tony Brackens?

Vic: If the Mark Brunell trade goes through, and Brunell waives the $2 million roster bonus, the Jaguars would save $8.5 million over Brunell's $10.5 million scheduled 2004 cap number. Tony Brackens is scheduled to be a $9.3 million hit on the Jags' cap. If he were released before June 2, he would be a $7 million remaining amortization "dead money" hit, which would be a $2.3 million savings. You don't like having that much "dead money" in one player, but the Jags certainly will have the room to do it now and get it off the books for good. Brackens is due a $1 million roster bonus on March 3. Contrary to other reports, I don't expect the Jaguars to pay that roster bonus.

Bill from Philadelphia, PA:
Am I correct in understanding the difference between a team slapping an "exclusive franchise tag" vs. a regular "franchise tag" on a player is the average of the upcoming year's five top salaries at his position vs. the previous year's top five salaries at his position?

Vic: The "franchise" tag designation allows the player to negotiate with any other team in the league, and any team signing him must compensate the player's original team with two first-round picks. A "franchise" player will be paid at the average of the top five salaries in the league at his position from the previous season, or at 120 percent of his previous season's cap number, whichever is greater. An "exclusive franchise" player may not negotiate with another team and he is paid at the average of the top five salaries at his position in the league in the upcoming season, or at 120 percent of his previous year's cap number, whichever is greater.

Clay from Jacksonville:
OK, so you said you are gonna weigh in when the deal for Brunell was done. It's done. Jump on the scale. I'd say we've done pretty good for ourselves, considering we were planning on just cutting him.

Vic: Did I miss something? When I woke up this morning the calendar said Feb. 20. Did I sleep for almost two weeks? Is this March 3? That's the first day trades may be made. Anything before then isn't done.

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