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Think out of the box

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

Kelvin from Atlanta, GA:
Which undrafted free agents should we keep an eye on during mini-camp?

Vic: Aside from not being able to see anything else but a guy who's 6-7, 358 pounds, I was told to keep my eye on Richard Collier, an offensive tackle from Valdosta State. He's athletic for a guy his size but he's very raw and will have to catch the coach's eye as a developmental prospect. Jamaal Fudge, a safety from Clemson, and Colorado LB Brian Iwuh are accomplished players. I've heard good things about San Jose State CB Trestin George. Northeastern DT Ryan Gibbons has size (6-6, 318) and Tennessee DT Tony McDaniel is talented. Texas CB Edorian McCullough is a speed guy.

Jedd from Deridder, LA:
Thanks for all the great info and insights, but it's really frustrating when you just give yes or no answers. I, too, was wondering what happened to Anwar Phillips. Could you please elaborate?

Vic: No.

Ron from Jacksonville:
You've talked about players with overblown contracts "holding teams hostage." Honestly, though, it seems that sometimes teams hold themselves hostage. They'll pay an aging guy big money.

Vic: What you're describing is "dead money," which is what you get when a player is on your cap but off your roster, and that's likely what's going to happen when you sign old players to pricey deals. Football is a young man's game.

Rick from Fairport, NY:
I saw where the Redskins picked up LB Spencer Havner from UCLA. His name often popped up on several draft boards as a player we would possibly draft. Could you explain why the Jags didn't pick him up and also how the undrafted FA system works? Is it first come, first serve? Highest bonus money? A player's favorite team? When do teams begin calling? Who are some past undrafted players that have had the most NFL success?

Vic: Teams begin calling undrafted players the moment the draft is over. The Jaguars completed their list of undrafted free-agent signings within a few hours after the final pick of the draft was made. Undrafted guys are looking for a team that offers a strong opportunity, which means the team is deficient at the position he plays or traditionally gives free agents a legitimate chance to make the team. Money certainly factors into the decision. The best undrafted free agent I've covered is a safety named Donnie Shell, who played 14 years and had 51 career interceptions. Shell was a free agent at a time when the draft was 17 rounds.

Gary from St. Marys, GA:
If the draft was abolished, how do you think college players could be fairly and cost-effectively distributed?

Vic: How about all free, all the time and nothing more than one-year contracts? What effect do you think that system would have on the players' market value? Think out of the box. Don't be restricted by convention.

Joe from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
What qualifies a lineman as a "mauler?"

Vic: A mauler is a guy whose best technique is grab you, hold you and out-muscle you. If he's an especially good mauler, he'll finish the block. What a mauler can't do with technique, he'll do with brute force and determination. A "technician" is the opposite of a "mauler."

Malosi from Valencia, CA:
I hear "deep ball" ability every day from draftniks on every website and talk show. I would just like your definition of what a "deep ball" is? Is it throwing 70 yards in the air?

Vic: That's a deep ball. I think you'll know one when you see it. Everything doesn't have to be strictly defined. You have to have some feel for the game.

Brian from San Diego, CA:
I've got a question about the Steelers' "heavy nickel" package. When Dick LeBeau goes to five defensive backs, he brings in three safeties but moves to four down linemen as well, taking two linebackers off the field in a 4-2-5. With their standard 3-4 base, wouldn't a 3-3-5 be a more natural fit?

Vic: All you're talking about is the difference of about 50 pounds, which is why they call it a "heavy nickel," because a defensive lineman is about 50 pounds heavier than a linebacker. Linebackers are great pass-rushers in a blitz, which is a surprise rush package, but you're not going to catch anybody by surprise in an obvious passing down. Linemen are better pure rushers than linebackers, for the obvious size reason, so when everybody knows you're in a rush mode, it's better to go heavy up front. By the way, the standard "nickel" includes four defensive linemen and two linebackers. The configuration of defensive backs is immaterial. You put your five-best coverage people in the game.

William from Jacksonville:
My wife actually asked me what you thought of the draft. After recovering from the shock that she would bring up the subject, I gave her the thumbnail of your thoughts and used the term "targeting" in my reply. She asked what that meant and I explained that most teams are now getting really good at maneuvering so they can balance need and value. She just laughed and said, "How can that be new? A lot of smart women have been doing that forever."

Vic: It kind of stings when you find out you weren't the best available, doesn't it?

Howard from Homestead, FL:
How can the "Ask Vic golf tournament" be counted as revenue for the team if it doesn't make any money?

Vic: You're confusing gross with net. The players get 65 percent of the Jaguars' gross. That means their money comes off the top; they would get 65 percent of all the money that comes in before any of that money is used to pay expenses. That's why I say we would be forced to pay 100 percent of the costs with 35 percent of the gross revenue. Now consider what that formula is going to mean to owners in every financial matter involving their franchise. The previous system was DGR (designated gross revenue), and local revenue that included parking, concessions, radio rights, TV preseason rights and all premium-seat tickets was not designated so owners had a reservoir of revenue from which they could draw. Now we're in a TFR (total football revenue) model and the players get the biggest cut of everything, even an "Ask Vic golf tournament." I'm working on it. We'll figure out a way to make it happen.

Jason from Hagerstown, MD:
What sells tickets, big-name players with record-breaking stats or wins? Do not be biased on this, please.

Vic: I almost didn't answer your question because of your little dig. Jason, I give my honest opinion on all questions. If you don't believe that, you shouldn't read one more edition of "Ask Vic." In fact, if you don't believe I give my honest opinion, I don't want you to read one more edition of "Ask Vic." Now, the answer to your question is both sell tickets, but wins sell more tickets and for a longer period of time. Big-name players are here today, gone tomorrow. Long-term winning establishes a tradition that can last forever. It's also difficult to be a big-name player without being on a winning team. They tend to go hand in hand.

Mike from Jacksonville:
Who is the best tight end to ever play the game?

Vic: John Mackey; he and Mike Ditka defined the position.

Cory from Jacksonville:
Do you think we're in a golden age of football?

Vic: This is the golden age of football for big-market teams. For the small-market teams, the color is going to be more to the red side.

Wade from Jacksonville:
In season, you often say "help is not on the way." Now that the majority of the Jags roster is set for the 2006 season, where do you see the areas of most concern on the roster, or areas where they will really need one of the "jars on the shelf" to step up?

Vic: Every area of the Jaguars has been addressed. No team is without weakness, but I don't see any glaring weaknesses on the Jaguars, as long as those players play up to expectations.

Armando from St. Augustine, FL:
What was Byron's 40 time?

Vic: I don't know and I don't care. Why is this important? Why don't people ask about Peyton Manning's 40 time? Byron says he's faster than half the quarterbacks in the league and I don't care about that either. Just stay in the pocket, get rid of the ball on time and put it into your receivers' hands. That's all that matters. Find me one personnel guy or coach in the league who doesn't think that's good enough.

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