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Strike of '87 caused change

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

Keith from Jacksonville:
OK, just to test your "you pay it, you claim it" mantra: Suppose a guy gets a $1 million bonus over a four-year period, with $500,000 paid up front, and $500,000 after two years. Let's say the guy gets a career-ender during year two. Is the second $500,000 guaranteed or can the team cut him, not pay the bonus and, therefore, not have the liability for it?

Vic: If it's signing bonus, it's guaranteed, which means that even though you haven't paid it, you gotta pay it, and that means you gotta claim it. If the second installment of bonus money is designated to be option bonus, the team may elect not to exercise the option, which would end the contract and allow the team to avoid paying the bonus, and if you don't pay it, you don't have to claim it.

Howard from Homestead, FL:
If you had to pick one position at which you'd be most willing to overpay for the right guy, what position would that be? Personally, I wouldn't mind overpaying for a top-quality kicker. Keep up the good work.

Vic: Consensus of opinion is that if you're going to overpay, it's best to overpay for a kicker. Why? Because kicker money won't significantly damage your salary cap if the kicker turns out to be a dud, but the rewards for having a quality kicker who wins games at crunch time will far exceed the cost.

Rob from St. Augustine, FL:
What do you mean that 2006 is the last capped year? Are you saying there will be no salary cap after 2006?

Vic: The current Collective Bargaining Agreement provides for a salary cap through the 2006 season. I fully expect the players association and the owners to agree to an extension but, as it stands now, '06 is the last capped year and that means teams may not extend amortization beyond 2009.

Jon-Michael from Starke, FL:
Why is it the NFLPA works with the ownership more than the other sports' unions? It seems as if the other unions care more about beating the owners.

Vic: In my opinion, the foundation of cooperation that exists between the NFLPA and the league's owners is the 1987 players strike. That year, the players and owners got into the most harsh labor strife in NFL history. It had been brewing for some time. There was a significant loss of season in 1982 due to a players strike, and a lot of veterans lost their jobs when players went on strike for the 1974 training camp and preseason period. In '87, the owners were ready for a players strike. When players went on strike after the second week of the season, the owners retaliated with replacement players. It only took three replacement games before the players union realized it had been defeated. At that point in time, the players union was dust. Its ranks were broken and the owners were in complete control of the game, but what the owners came to realize very quickly was that they needed the players to have a strong union as much as the players needed to have a strong union. Why? Because the owners needed a players union with which they could negotiate a labor agreement that would provide for a draft, among other things. Baseball has anti-trust, but football doesn't. Without a Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NFL would have reason to worry its system of distributing talent would be challenged in the courts. And if the NFL lost its current system for distributing players, what chance would the Green Bays have of competing against the big-market teams? What we have today is a system in which the owners and players share the wealth. The salary cap system, which baseball would "kill" to have, provides for players to receive a negotiated percentage of the league's defined gross revenues. It is, in my opinion, the single-most important ingredient in the success of the NFL. Pete Rozelle gave the league the concept of "pool the revenues," and the current salary cap system redefined that philosophy as "share the wealth." In my opinion, the '87 NFL players strike is one of the most significant events in professional sports history. Since then, almost everything about the NFL has changed, and it was change that was absolutely necessary. The NFL is the model for every other professional sports league.

Jonathan from Jacksonville:
Who do you go with between Kellen Winslow and Ben Troupe? Personally, while Winslow may have a bit more talent, Troupe isn't going to be the huge pain in the neck it looks like Winslow is going to be.

Vic: The pro scouts at Miami's pro day last week weren't concerned about Kellen Winslow's "neck." He lit it up, Jonathan.

Jim from Jacksonville:
Vic, your column is the greatest. My question is, why do players fall so hard or rise so fast simply on the basis of a one-time, non-game workout? It would seem equivalent to picking NBA players on the basis of one day of summer basketball camp.

Vic: That's a very valid question. It doesn't seem logical to put so much stock in what a player does in a non-contact workout, but that's what the scouts do and, frankly, they don't miss on many guys. They want to see a player perform according to what they consider to be drills that will best-indicate if the player has the athletic ability to succeed in the league. They want to see him out of the scheme and without the protection of those around him. Can he run, can he jump, can he matchup athletically with those against whom he must play professionally? If the workout indicates the answer is no, then it doesn't matter what the kid did in college.

Will from Augusta, GA:
Do you think Deon Grant will help bolster the defense?

Vic: I think the acquisition of Deon Grant could be a difference-maker. He's an outstanding coverage safety, and the Jaguars desperately needed that. He's not a big-hitter, but he played much stronger last season than he did in his first two seasons as a starter. In my opinion, the Jaguars solved a major need. In the process, they have given themselves flexibility with their salary cap and with their roster. Deke Cooper is thought to have the ability to play strong safety, and I quoted "Shack" Harris on Tuesday as saying Lewis Sanders can play cornerback and safety.

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