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Salary cap just like ketchup

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

Ryan from Atlanta, GA:
What are your thoughts on the Eagles' offseason? Have they landed two up-and-coming stars in Owens and Kearse, or have they overspent trying to get over the NFC championship hump?

Vic: The Eagles have been the league's most salary-cap-conscious team in recent years. They are what's considered to be a hard-cap team, and their success has had an impact on how other teams manage their caps. For example, one of the Eagles' cap techniques is to pay roster bonus instead of signing bonus, because roster bonus must be declared in full in the year it's paid, while signing bonus is spread out over future caps. Roster bonus is a way of protecting your future. Well, the Jaguars did that with the Mike Peterson contract, and with some others, and that's one of the reasons the Jaguars' future is so healthy. Now the Eagles have reached that point that, as you say, they've got to get over the hump. More than anything else, they need a big-time receiver and a big-time pass-rusher, and those are the players they've spent a lot of money to acquire. If it gets them over the hump, it will have been money well-spent. But if Jevon Kearse and Terrell Owens turn out to be disappointments, the Eagles will have mortgaged a significant amount of their future for no gain in the present. It's a major risk/reward scenario. My instincts tell me the Eagles made a mistake, but I can understand their thinking.

Joe from Tallahassee, FL:
What is the Jaguars' salary cap at after the Ephraim Salaam signing?

Vic: About $7.6 million under the cap.

George from Drummonds, TN:
Do you have any opinions on the proposed changes at the league meetings; specifically, expanding the postseason from 12 to 14 teams, each team having at least one possession in overtime and adding a 15-yard penalty for excessive on-field celebrations.

Vic: I don't have strong feelings one way or the other on expanding the playoff field, but I am very much in favor of any measures that would promote sportsmanship, and I'm against changing the existing overtime formula. If it was good enough to make the 1958 NFL title game "The greatest game ever played," then why does it need to be changed?

Jon from Ocala, FL:
You seem to be receiving a lot of e-mails, not just locally and from around the U.S., but from around the world, too. Did you ever think people throughout the world were going to ask you questions?

Vic: When the idea of a question-and-answer column was first presented to me, the intent was to create filler text. No one thought it would become this popular. My original thoughts were that it would be a great forum to explain salary cap situations. News stories just don't provide the space to get into the inner-workings of the cap. "Ask Vic" certainly has been a great vehicle for salary cap discussion, and I think that's been its most important contribution. I've compared the NFL to Heinz ketchup: The NFL is marketing a product driven by a concept the average fan doesn't understand; Heinz makes a product you can't get out of the bottle. Yet, each dominates. Amazing! Anyhow, what "Ask Vic" has taught us is there are a lot of geographically-displaced Jaguars fans who need a link to their favorite team, and is that link. We have a large contingent of military people who come to to ease their homesickness. My greatest regret is I can't answer every question. But I read every question, and that is the absolute truth. That's my promise to "Ask Vic" fans. Your questions deserve to be read, and they will be.

LeRoi from Cleveland, OH:
How's it going, Vic? Long-time Jaguar fan and daily reader. I love how you were able to enlighten us on the intricacies of the NFL's salary cap. Now, certain teams have had major salary cap purges over the last several years that have decimated their rosters. In the case of the Ravens, they were able to win a world championship out of it. Was it worth it? And is it only worth it if you win a Super Bowl?

Vic: The Super Bowl is the goal, therefore, I have to say it's worth it. But you better win it all, because falling a game short isn't worth ruining your long-term future. Was a berth in the AFC title game worth four consecutive losing seasons? And the Jaguars aren't the only team to whom that has happened. What is Tennessee's gain for having mortgaged its future? How about Oakland? Is this the end of the line for Indianapolis, too? The Washington situation is laughable. The Super Bowl is the goal; no doubt about it. But I don't think targeting one season is the best way to get there. In my opinion, the best way to reach the Super Bowl is to be a playoff-contender year in and year out, with the idea that as your playoff appearances increase, so does your chance of winning it all.

Dale from Atlanta, GA:
What type of strong-side LB do you think the Jaguars will want to use? Will he primarily be a cover guy on tight ends and running backs, or will he help out mostly with run-support and the safeties will pick up the tight end and backs? How do you understand their thoughts on that position?

Vic: Every team wants a guy who can do it all, but at strong-side linebacker it all begins with the ability to drop into pass-coverage. You can't play strong-side if you can't cover.

Joey from Jacksonville:
Great job on "Salary Cap 101." Peter King has a story dated March 29 in which he says "The Titans were in salary-cap trouble entering the offseason; more than $20 million over the league's $80.5 million per-team limit. McNair agreed to play ball with them, and the Titans handed him a $6.09 million signing bonus and extended his contract three years, through 2009, but lowered his base salary for 2004, allowing them to spread out his new signing bonus over six years instead of three and saving them money against the cap this year." Now, if I understand this correctly, then something is wrong. You are not allowed to amortize past the 2006 season. What gives?

Vic: You're understanding of the "three-year rule" is not correct. The "three-year rule" forbids teams from amortizing a contract more than three years beyond the CBA's last capped year. Currently, the last capped year is 2006, which means contracts may be amortized through the 2009 season. By the way, what the Titans did with Steve McNair to create cap room this season is what's called "converting salary to signing bonus," and its particulars are covered extensively in "Salary Cap 101." The "salary to signing bonus" technique is what got the Jaguars into salary cap trouble. Bon voyage!

Jerald from Jacksonville:
Who do you think are the best offensive and defensive players in the game today?

Vic: Michael Vick and Ty Law.

Lee from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
This has been the most enjoyable offseason ever due to your prolific writings/teachings. Thank you. Quick question: Given an opportunity, from the Jags perspective, would you pick WR Roy Williams or CB DeAngelo Hall at number nine?

Vic: Let's start with this: Whichever player is ranked highest on the Jaguars' draft board. That's always my answer, Lee. But I think you'd like some discussion on the matter, so let's have at it. If the choice came down to those two players, the Jaguars would be delighted. Roy Williams and DeAngelo Hall could be the two most-gifted athletes in the draft. I made my feelings about Hall known a couple of columns ago. He's a cut-the-field-in-half cornerback who scores touchdowns returning punts. I don't think you can go wrong drafting him. But I have to believe "Shack" Harris wants to get his young quarterback a touchdown-making wide receiver. It's very important that Byron Leftwich is provided the tools necessary to succeed, because fan dissent can ruin a kid. So, I could understand and sympathize with a degree of prejudice for Williams. But his reputation for disappearing in big games bothers me. I'm having trouble silencing the voice inside me that says, "Warning, warning!" If you don't mind, Lee, I'd like some more time and more information before I make my "pick." I'll do it during the week leading up to the draft.

Dan from Columbia, MD:
If the Jags saw a player they like, can you see trading two third-round draft choices for a high second-round choice at a key position? Quality over quantity?

Vic: Sure.

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