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They get paid to know

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

Gabe from Jacksonville:
Give us a little insight on Brian Williams. What did the Jags see in him to sign him to a long-term, high-money deal on the first day of free agency? Did the Jags, through Tice, have some insider information on him?

Vic: The Jaguars saw a big corner who can run and play man-to-man and zone coverages. They had targeted him before Mike Tice was hired by Jack Del Rio and Tice confirmed the Jaguars' opinion of Williams after Tice joined Del Rio's staff. At that point, he became their guy. Did Tice have insider information on Williams? Of course he did. Teams make a lot of mistakes on draft picks, but seldom do teams err in the evaluations of their own players. Why? Because when you see a guy in practice every day, you have a pretty good idea of what he can do. The Vikings were high on Williams. They didn't want to lose him and considered putting a "transition" tag on him. If the Vikings made a mistake, it was not appreciating Williams' talents soon enough. They signed Fred Smoot for big bucks in 2005 free agency and that was something they not only didn't have to do, it was something that caused them to lose Williams in '06. If last year was this year, the Vikings don't sign Smoot. That's the prevailing thought right now. We'll find out next season if that's on the money.

Brandon from Malabar, FL:
Why is an upgrade at linebacker so needed? Akin Ayodele is a good linebacker who had over 100 tackles a few years ago and is still young, and Daryl Smith is still very young and seems like he can only get better. I don't even need to mention Mike Peterson's name, as we all know he should have been in the Pro Bowl. Which linebacker are we looking to replace?

Vic: I guess the Jaguars will have to replace Akin Ayodele, since he signed with the Cowboys on Monday. The Jaguars had offered Ayodele a new contract, but he got more money from the Cowboys.

Vinny from Jacksonville:
Sign Kevin Mawae, move Brad Meester to guard, draft Ernie Sims in the first round and we go to the Super Bowl. Am I making this sound too easy?

Vic: Yes.

Ryan from Jacksonville:
Our long-term fixture at running back is in this year's draft and will be at pick 28. His name? Laurence Maroney. Any thoughts?

Vic: He's a very good back and he'll probably be available when the Jaguars pick in the first round; Maroney may even be available early in the second round. There's concern for Mauroney's durability. He missed a few games in his senior season and he didn't run at the combine because of a bad hamstring. Believe me, nothing will raise a red flag about a guy faster than a hamstring pull. If you're looking for a team that might have its eye on Mauroney, you might consider the Colts a few picks later.

Patrick from Billings, MT:
Since the need for cornerback is gone, what do you think of linebacker Thomas Howard from UTEP?

Vic: If you held my hands to the fire and asked me today who the Jaguars will pick in the first round of the draft, my answer would be Thomas Howard. He's exactly what the Jaguars want and have wanted at linebacker since Del Rio became this team's head coach. Del Rio wants a linebacker who will be disruptive. He wants a guy who is fast and aggressive; a guy who can chase down plays and create havoc. Howard, though he's a smallish guy, has the speed and aggressive instincts to be an impact player. The problem is the draft is still more than a month away and I have a feeling Howard is going to climb up the board on the strength of his workouts. He's a guy who will knock your eyes out in a workout.

Jared from Gainesville, FL:
How do the Titans have the cap room to sign Thornton? Does this signing signal the Titans' ascent back to respectability?

Vic: Why do so few people understand that the new CBA provided a lot of salary cap room that wouldn't have existed under the old CBA? All of a sudden, teams have room to sign guys, which we knew would happen under a new CBA. David Thornton, however, isn't going to take the Titans from 4-12 to playoff contention. The Titans need a lot of help. They need to start hitting home runs in the draft, again. That's how the Titans built themselves into a perennial playoff team.

Ryan from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
With the Colts having to re-structure due to cap problems and the Texans and Titans rebuilding young teams, do you concur this is our year to take hold of our division?

Vic: That's a reasonable expectation.

John from Atlantic Beach, FL:
I was reading about Brian Williams and they had him tagged "transition."

Vic: The Vikings didn't "transition" Williams because the rules for "transition" changed with the new CBA. The new rules guarantee the tender offer if the player signs the tender. It would've also been fruitless for the Vikings to "transition" Williams. They knew he was going to get a good offer and they knew they wouldn't match, so why bother putting the tag on him?

Mark from Yulee, FL:
Why is it that centers are a cheaper commodity? They play a pivotal position on the line. What determines the value of a position?

Vic: Center is an important position but it's undervalued for a couple of reasons: 1.) The skills necessary to play the position aren't so specific that it limits the supply of players capable of playing the position; 2.) Centers are not out on an "island." That's what determines the value of a position. Players in critical matchup situations are more valuable than players who can be hidden or assisted by other players around them. Left tackles are on "island" against the defense's top pass-rusher. That's why left tackle and right defensive end are considered to be of premium value. Cornerbacks, especially left cornerbacks, are on an "island." Quarterbacks, of course, are the most scrutinized players in all of sports.

Jordan from Lincoln, NE:
You're the GM for the Jags. Who do you want to get in free agency?

Vic: After the big-bucks signing of Brian Williams and the moderate-money signing of Mike Williams, I'm looking for a bargain-basement Williams.

Darryl from Jacksonville:
Jacksonville has shown they will always be a small-market team with a small-market mentality. You pay $32 million to a guy who lost his starting job last year. Essentially you paid for a nickel back. What were they thinking when you had Ty Law and Charles Woodson or even Deshea Townsend?

Vic: You got the small-market part right, but you missed on Brian Williams. He got his starting job back when Fred Smoot got hurt, then kept it the rest of the year as a result of his performance.

Donny from Lake Mary, FL:
I've always trusted your viewpoints but I think it's possible you might be wrong about the cap catching up with at least the high-revenue teams that abuse it now. While I get that the new CBA provided more cap room and the 30 percent rule went away, the Redskins have instantly gone from not being able to even field a team to throwing cash around like it's monopoly money. Is it possible the Redskins have figured out that by driving their revenue as high as possible every year the cap will grow by such leaps and bounds that they will always be ahead with Peter and won't ever have to pay Paul?

Vic: What you're suggesting is the same as saying if I keep getting raises I'll pay enough taxes for George Bush to be able to pay off the national debt. You're giving Dan Snyder too much credit for strategy. I don't see a strategy. I just see a guy who wants it and wants it now, regardless of what it costs. Where's the genius? Two winning seasons in seven years?

Eric from Columbus, IN:
How much more cap room do the Colts have and are they still looking at salary cap casualties?

Vic: The Colts are currently $10 million under the salary cap. They didn't have to let Edgerrin James or David Thornton go in free agency. The Colts could've made room to keep both of them. The fact that they chose not to do that lets me know the Colts are mindful of the future and aren't going to recklessly mortgage what they have left of their future caps.

Daryl from Jacksonville:
Do you see Antonio Cromartie being available at the 28th spot?

Vic: Yeah, I think Cromartie will be available when the Jaguars pick and he's someone they'd have to consider because he's an exceptional talent, but picking Cromartie that high would represent major risk because he's coming off ACL surgery last July. I don't think that's a risk the Jaguars would be willing to accept in the first round. Cromartie ran a great 40 at the combine but declined to do the cone drill. That tells me something.

Stuart from St Louis, MO:
What's your opinion on Maurice Drew? I know he's on the small side but why does that hurt his draft status? He's really fast and plays bigger than 5-6. Would the Jags pick him in the second round?

Vic: Big is better than small. I think we all understand why. Drew is a sensational player. He's a triple-threat guy; run, catch and return kicks, which makes him a poor man's Reggie Bush. Watching him play, I'm immediately reminded of Mike Garrett and James Brooks, too smallish runners who were great players. Drew could be a great pick for someone. I don't know what the Jaguars' interest is.

Shaun from Jacksonville:
You said you are inclined to believe Jacksonville is saving room this year for more shopping in free agency. Is it probable they are making that room available for John Henderson?

Vic: I think that goes without saying.

John from Orlando, FL:
I understand the Jaguars really like Brian Williams and that good corners aren't cheap but was it necessary to pay him $32 million? I didn't hear his name being mentioned in any of the top 50 free agents list. Do you think there was going to be that much competition that we had to pay him almost $6 million a year?

Vic: What are you saying, that Brian Williams told the Jaguars he'd sign for a $5 million bonus and the Jaguars said, no way, you'll take $10 million or the deal is off? The Jaguars began free agency with $23 million in cap room. I think they've proved their frugalness. They paid Williams what they paid him because that's what it took to get the deal done and because they wanted him very badly. You don't sign players based on other people's rankings. You sign players based on your rankings. In time, we'll know if the Jaguars had Williams ranked correctly. In the end, these personnel people stand alone. You can't use the excuse that everybody else thought he was great, too. Talent acquisition is a crystal ball business. It's the one part of football about which we can say, you should've known. They get paid to know.

Safa from Atlantic Beach, FL:
Please explain the 30 percent rule as it applies to the salary cap and how it is under the new CBA?

Vic: The 30 percent rule is gone, for now. It does not apply to the new CBA until we approach the next uncapped year which, at the earliest, would be 2010. The 30 percent rule was a creation of the old CBA. It's intent was to protect the dumping of money into the uncapped year (2007) and it was a major strategical success. It may be the reason we have a new CBA.

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