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Previewing the AFC Central

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

Joey Cummings from Jacksonville:
What's the word on Tom McManus? I've seen him around town. I thought he'd land on someone's roster. Is his career over? Also, any thoughts on the Jags going after a veteran third receiver? I saw where the Vikings re-signed Jake Reed for peanuts. If we get cap room within the next few months, is that an option you think Coughlin will consider, or is he comfortable with Soward?

Vic: Tom McManus is retired from football and living in Ponte Vedra Beach, where he and his wife are expecting their first child. Tom was one of the subjects of a recent series on the 1995 team. The series is in the archives. As far as a veteran third receiver, you must remember the Jaguars are capped out; they don't even have "peanuts." I don't think Coughlin is comfortable with Soward's situation, but help would seem to have to come from an unproven source.

Javier McKim from Palm Bay, FL:
I greatly appreciate you taking the time to answer us Jaguars fans' questions. Do you see any other teams in the AFC central rising up, besides the top three and possibly Pittsburgh? In other words, is either of the Ohio teams going to show some level of improvement to round out the toughest division in football?

Vic: Baltimore is clearly the dominant team in the league. I expect the Ravens to stay at that level in 2001. Watch out for Pittsburgh this season, and I'm very close to saying the same about Cincinnati. Cleveland has done some things in the offseason that make me believe they can get real good real fast, but not within one year. Tennessee is the team I believe to be headed for a fall. They lost key personnel and I don't understand how they can believe Kevin Carter will make them better on defense. Now they have two defensive ends who can't play the run, in the best run-the-ball division in football.

Ryan Patrick from Charlotte, NC:
Do you think there's a greater gain to be made by drafting a quality interior lineman in the first round to support a healthy Fred Taylor, rather than getting a defensive lineman or linebacker?


Vic: Drafting a quality player at any position would be a gain. Offensive linemen traditionally don't make a major immediate impact; defensive linemen and linebackers can. I'm a big best-available-player guy. Tom Coughlin is a draft-for-need guy. Regardless of the philosophy, if the Jaguars draft productive players, they will have been good selections.

Fred Wells from Jacksonville:
You have stated that releasing Hardy Nickerson is impossible, due to salary cap problems. I like Kevin Hardy. I think he is a great player, but due to the situation, do you think releasing Hardy, playing Slaughter, who is a very talented player plus he is young, and using the Hardy money to build a strong draft class is a good idea?

Vic: Good question; that's something the Jaguars have to answer, and soon. No team likes to give up on a player who was the second pick of the draft. Hardy has been a building-block player since 1996. They will continue their efforts to sign him, but it's clear the Jaguars are not going to give Hardy major money. If they can't sign him to a new deal, they would probably like to keep him for the remaining year of his contract. His presence makes the Jaguars better. However, the Jaguars' cap situation tugs at that logic. If they can't trade Hardy, let's wait to see what the draft produces in the way of linebackers. That'll give us a hint as to what decision they may make on Hardy.

Landon Kirk from Provo, UT:
Can you give us some information about the handful of players who were signed a couple of days ago? I noticed most are defensive players and one is a kicker. Are they legitimate backups or players to fill up the roster for right now?

Vic: The five players signed after the Jaguars had added backup quarterback Jamie Martin have to be considered roster filler at this point in time. They are players who will be observed for signs they are worthy of serious consideration. Nothing is written in stone about these players. They are merely being given opportunities their talents have warranted.

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