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Time to 'fess up, clean up

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

Emil from Tallahassee, FL:
I was surprised to find yesterday that Calvin Johnson actually tied Larry Fitzgerald last season for most touchdown catches. I saw him play only a couple of times, but I thought he was fantastic. Is he another receiver it's OK to get high, or do you think the Lions reached?

Vic: This has become a "players, not plays" issue and I don't think I'll ever make the wide receiver lovers see my point of view. Johnson is a sensational receiver. He is absolutely worthy of a high choice, but don't you have to ask the question how did it work for the Lions? Hey, they didn't win a game. Let me re-phrase that: THEY DIDN'T WIN A GAME. How about the Cardinals? When did they starting winning, right after they drafted Larry Fitzgerald, or was it after they drafted Levi Brown and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie? Nobody thinks more of Fitzgerald than I do, but wide receivers are luxuries, not necessities. Tackles and cornerbacks are necessities. If you don't have them, you're not gonna win, no matter now many great wide receivers you have. A wide receiver can be the missing link. He can put a team over the top, but it's the premium position players, such as quarterbacks and tackles, that provide the foundation of success.

Chris from Arroyo Grande, CA:
What is the difference between protecting your source's anonymity and off the record?

Vic: Off the record implies that you're not going to report what the source tells you. Anonymity means the source understands that what he or she tells you will be reported, but it won't be attributed to them. No reporter should go off the record. Whether or not a reporter agrees to anonymity is usually determined by the policy of the media outlet the reporter represents. Some outlets will agree to anonymity, while others insist on attribution.

Matthew from West Lafayette, IN:
There's a lot of talk about this year's draft right now, but what about an early evaluation of last year's draft? We thought it would be a weak draft but the quarterbacks have been terrific. What do you think of last year's draft class as a whole?

Vic: It lacked depth but it gave us some star-quality players, such as Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Chris Johnson, Jeff Otah and others. It doesn't appear to be as bad as advertised.

Jon from Jacksonville:
Does it make you as furious as me that congress has decided to devote so many resources and so much time dealing with baseball and steroids? I lost half of my income in 2007 from '06 and another half from '07-'08 and every time I read or hear a story about that subject my blood boils.

Vic: I can understand why you feel the way you do but, frankly, I think we've reached a point of 'fess up and clean up in this country. Sports, as well as Wall Street, need to answer some questions.

Wes from Houston, TX:
Sometimes I don't get you. You say you would go to jail to protect anonymity, yet, players voluntarily got tested because the results were supposed to remain anonymous. How is that any different?

Vic: The media didn't grant them anonymity. The Major League Players Association agreed to do that; not the media. The union didn't do a very good job of it, did they? They pulled a Nixon. They didn't burn the "tapes."

Drew from Jacksonville:
You don't see the Jaguars dipping their hands into the free agency pool at all? There's a lot of great defensive players in the free agent market. I agree we need to draft talent, but don't ignore free agency.

Vic: I don't expect the Jaguars to ignore free agency. I expect them to ignore expensive free agency.

Liam from Cardiff, Wales:
How many times have the Jaguars used the franchise tag in their history and when was it used and who was it used on?

Vic: The Jaguars used the franchise tag on Tony Brackens in 2000 and on Donovin Darius in 2003, '04 and '05. Brackens signed a new contract with the team prior to the start of the 2000 season, whereas Darius played under the franchise tag in '03 and '04 but agreed to a new contract prior to the start of the '05 season.

Mike from Pensacola, FL:
Do you think Brett Favre's retirement raises the value of the Jags' first-round pick?

Vic: It could. Another team in need of a quarterback has emerged and that could increase the value of the Jaguars' pick at number eight.

Steve from Lancaster, PA:
So I guess you were right. The Packers look pretty smart now, huh? The Jets used Favre as a temporary solution to fill an immediate need, instead of building through the draft. Now they are in a desperate position with little depth at QB. Vic, let this be your way of showing the readers to trust your judgment.

Vic: The Jets are right back to where they started and they have nothing to show for it. It was so predictable.

Peter from Atlantic Beach, FL:
Having cut Jerry Porter and Drayton Florence, will we have a cap charge, dead money or will it create cap space?

Vic: Porter and Florence will each count $2.5 million on the Jaguars' 2009 salary cap. Their deals were front-loaded.

Wesley from Jacksonville:
Seriously, Vic? Marie Torre? Ten days (in prison) for sources critical of Judy Garland? This is your example of journalists taking one for their sources? Tell your readers to educate themselves with names like Judith Miller, Joshua Wolf and Jim Taricani.

Vic: Marie Torre was the first. She blazed the trail. She set the standard for all journalists and she went to her grave never having divulged her source, not even to her family. Maybe you should read about her instead of dismissing her as not worthy of your standards.

Sean from Anaheim, CA:
I am a big horse race fan and I say that to bring up the point of using illegal drugs to win. A horse has no choice and that's the problem I have.

Vic: Then it shouldn't bother you if the horse testifies against his trainer.

Ricky from Melbourne, Australia:
As the months wear on, I'm sure stock will soar in some of the players in the draft but, in all, do you think this year is impressive at the top, or do you think the real value this year will come in later rounds and undrafted players?

Vic: I interviewed Mike Mayock of "NFL Network" on Wednesday. I hope to have the story posted today or tomorrow. Mike really likes the talent at the top of this draft and he thinks it spills all the way through the third round. Mike impressed me as someone who really studies this stuff and knows it. By now, I know what questions to ask to find out if a guy's faking it or not, and Mike passed all the tests. It's funny, it seems like only a few years ago he was a rookie in the Steelers' training camp. I told him on Wednesday that I remember how devastated he was when he was cut, but he never stopped making football his livelihood and I think he does a great job.

Kyle from Rochester, NY:
I have never been good when it came to understanding the salary cap and now isn't any different. I don't understand how the cutting of a player has an effect on your salary cap. I see a lot of people talking about guaranteed money being wasted. Can you please explain?

Vic: When a player signs a contract with a team, he usually acquires money in two ways: guaranteed money and salary, which is not guaranteed. Signing bonus is guaranteed and it is assigned to a team's salary cap by dividing it evenly over the length of the contract. Salary is declared in full in the year it is paid. So, if I give you a $10 million signing bonus on a five-year contract and I cut you after four years, then I have $2 million in remaining amortization of your signing bonus left on my cap. The salary I was supposed to pay you in the fifth year is not guaranteed. If that salary was, say, $3 million, then I have a cap savings of $1 million in the final year of your contract. If it was to be a $1 million salary, then I have a $1 million hit to take in the final year.

Davies from Cardiff, UK:
Surely, if the Jags gave Porter and Florence that much guaranteed money they should keep them on the roster up until the point where they would have had to pay non-guaranteed money.

Vic: You would run the risk of players you've decided you don't want on your team, sustaining injuries that would force you to pay their salaries for another year. The evaluations were complete and the decisions had been made. It was time to move on.

Geoff from Sydney, Australia:
I don't understand, if the truth is the pure defense, why would you have to protect your source? Isn't this contradictory?

Vic: Because often there are negative repercussions and punishment for telling the truth. Think about that for awhile.

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