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Owners get the credit

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

Ben from Phoenix, AZ:
With Walter Jones having signed a new seven-year deal with the Seahawks, are there any other left tackle prospects that interest you in free agency, or is our best bet now to wait for the draft?

Vic: As I suspected would happen, free agency is rapidly becoming a collection of secondary prospects. That trend began a couple of years ago when teams started doing a better job of identifying and retaining their best players. The bottom line is that premium players such as Walter Jones at premium positions such as left tackle aren't likely to be allowed to escape into free agency. Now what? Well, it's time to look down the list of available players and find a few who got away, so to speak. Two offensive tackles who interest me are Oliver Ross of Pittsburgh and Cooper Carlisle of Denver. They are players who would represent depth at the position. I do not see a premium player left among the free-agent tackle prospects. That shouldn't be surprising.

Jeff from Jacksonville:
If a player does not get drafted his first year out of college, how long can he keep his name out there for teams to still consider him for their roster, or is there a time when after a couple of years go by that he no longer is allowed to be drafted?

Vic: The draft is a lot like the electric chair: You get one shot at it, unless you are drafted and are unable to reach a contract with the team that drafted you. In that case, you re-enter the following year's draft pool. Those who are draft-eligible and are not drafted become free agents. For example, I am a free agent.

Howard from Homestead, FL:
With the NHL canceling its season, would you agree that the current success the NFL is enjoying can be traced back to the league's decision to use replacement players in 1987 and the acceptance that move received from the fans?

Vic: The strike of 1987 is one of the watershed events in NFL history. The owners' courageous decision to play with replacement players, and we're talking about something that was extremely unpopular and controversial in traditional labor markets such as Pittsburgh, Detroit, Cleveland, etc., is largely responsible for the labor peace the game has enjoyed ever since. The owners won, no question about it, and that caused the players and their union to posture themselves a little more humbly. Just as importantly, however, the owners didn't flaunt their victory by attempting to oppress the players. The owners responded by offering the players a plan that would allow them to share the wealth, and that's exactly what's happened. The two sides have shared in the wealth. The players got the largest percentage of the gross and, in exchange, the owners got a collective bargaining agreement that provides for a salary cap and protects the legality of a college player draft. The fans' acceptance of the '87 strike, however, played no part in all of this because, quite frankly, the fans were anything but accepting. They were highly critical of paying regular prices to see inferior players for the three replacement games, and attendance dipped dramatically during that period. All of the credit goes to the owners. Their courage was magnificent.

Terrence from Fort Gordon, GA:
I just purchased season tickets for the third time in four years. I'm excited to go but forgot to tell my wife I spent nearly $1,000 on two tickets. How should I tell her I bought tickets? She gets sick of me talking about the Jaguars anyway. She's still upset over the previous five-hour trips we've made just to see the Jaguars lose. Help!

Vic: What I try to do in situations such as yours is lie. Did you provide for a slush fund with which you could've bought the tickets? It's important to hide the money so she can't trace it back to you. Then you tell her you got the tickets as part of a give-away, or a military promotion, or whatever. Be creative. You have to sell value. If she thinks she's getting something for free, she'll buy into the project. The success of your marriage may be at stake. A marriage is only as good as the quality of its lies.

John from Atwater, CA:
ESPN just reported that the Seahawks and OT Walter Jones have agreed on a seven-year deal, but they never said anything about any "franchise" tag being placed on him. Does this mean the Seahawks can still use the "franchise" tag on Hasselbeck or Alexander?

Vic: You don't "franchise" a player you've just signed to a contract. You use the "franchise" tag on a player you are unable to sign to a contract. Yeah, the Seahawks still have the "franchise" tag to use. In my opinion, if the Seahawks are going to use the "franchise" tag on either Shaun Alexander or Matt Hasselbeck, they should use it on Alexander. The "franchise" price $6.3 million for a running back and it's $8.1 million for a quarterback. In my opinion, Alexander is closer to being worth $6.3 million than Hasselbeck is to being worth $8.1 million.

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