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Try not to obsess

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

Mike from London, Canada:
I know you hate saying where we are with our salary cap right now, but if you made an estimate about how much the rookies will take up, how much would that leave us to deal with Ogunleye (another of your favorite topics)? Could we possibly work a contract heavy in roster bonus instead of signing bonus?

Vic: The salary cap isn't the issue. The Jaguars have the room. It's a matter of whether or not they believe Adewale Ogunleye is worth the price they would have to pay. In this case, the price would probably involve draft picks and a big contract. I'm not going to play scout because, frankly, I haven't seen the guy play but twice in person. All I can tell you is that I am old-school on these matters and I would be reluctant to trade for Willie Mays for what it might cost in picks and money to acquire Ogunleye. The Dolphins originally signed Ogunleye as an undrafted free agent. That's how you do it.

Robert from Jacksonville:
Is it a new trend to wait so long into the offseason to get draft picks signed to contracts? They are going through workouts, obviously, but if I was a number one choice there would be no way I would be risking injury during a voluntary or involuntary mini-camp without a contract. I am not sure what the agents are thinking but you have to believe with their guys in training camp without contracts they are not sleeping well at night.

Vic: First of all, no player can report to training camp without a contract. As far as spring practices, all rookies without contracts are protected financially against injury by the team. That's why they attend. Eleventh-hour negotiations are not new. It's standard operating procedure. The start of training camp is the deadline and most rookies don't sign until the week leading up to the start of training camp. It's been that way for a very long time; we're a deadline society. Both sides are attempting to negotiate a contract that represents their needs. These are very difficult negotiations and the two sides are going to use all of the time available to them. Be patient.

Jim from Tampa, FL:
I love the column and I'm looking forward to the convention. My question is why does it take until mid-July to start signing draft picks? There seems to be very little negotiations for the late-round picks. At least we should be able to get them signed. Who's holding up the process, the team or the agents?

Vic: The late-round picks aren't the problem. The contracts they'll sign will be ordinary, providing for a small signing bonus and a salary at minimum wage. Late-round picks often have to settle for three-year contracts, which the team wants so it might use the restricted free agent process to its advantage. One of the big issues in signing the rookie class is the rookie pool of money available to each team. It's got to spread the money out among its picks and, of course, the first-round pick is going to get the bulk of that money. So, how do you do it? Sign the first-round guy first and tell all of the other picks this is what's left, take it or leave it? Or sign the late-round guys first and tell the first-round guy this is what's left? The conventional method is to sign the late-round guys first, so, applying that logic, we have to wait until the late guys are done before we can expect the early-round guys to fall. It's a long process that plays out like dominoes falling. Be patient. Byron Leftwich missed almost all of training camp last year, and that wasn't a good thing, but it was a very good thing that the contract he eventually signed protected the Jaguars' future, and that's much more important than a few practices in training camp.

Joe from Green Cove Springs, FL:
Who are the remaining kickers that were active last year or rookies this year that are still available to be signed? I was just wondering if you thought there were any other candidates for our kicking position that are better than what we currently have.

Vic: They looked at everybody; turned over every rock. They took a shot at the Graham kid in Cincinnati, but the Bengals matched. They went after Matt Stover and Todd Peterson, but they re-signed with their teams. What the Jaguars have in Seth Marler, Jeff Chandler and Josh Scobee is a trio of kickers who are worthy of the opportunity to compete in training camp. The Jaguars punting situation was very similar in the summer of 2002, and it resulted in cutting everybody and signing Chris Hanson off waivers. That worked out pretty well and it could happen this summer in the kicking game.

Mack from Jacksonville:
I got the same answer from Comcast that Greg told you about. I informed them that their information was incorrect. I read off the statement that you had from Seth Palansky and they told me Seth's information is incorrect. Maybe we should start an online petition or something. Seems like we are just getting a big run-around on some answers to this problem. I will be highly ticked if I don't get to see this.

Vic: Seth Palansky is the media director for NFL Network. He was very forceful in making his remarks to me. I tend to view the situation this way: One of the top executives at NFL Network invited Jacksonville's local cable provider to join NFL Network. Maybe the local cable provider should just give Palansky a call.

Erika from Atwater, CA:
Vic, I realize you're old school when it comes to signing players to big contracts, such as Adewale Ogunleye, but he is in his prime and only going to get better. So why pin all your hopes on an unproven draft pick that may or may not pan out at that position? Don't the Jags have the cap room? Is there absolutely no way to sign him without him taking the team hostage in contract negotiations? And with their dire need at defensive end, why not make this one exception to the rule, especially since we passed on Kenechi Udeze in the draft? By the way, sorry if I upset anyone with my last e-mail. I just really want to see the Jags succeed this year.

Vic: Erika, you sure filled up my e-mail bin, but that's a good thing. I think I've answered your question now at least a couple of times and I'm not likely to change my opinion. If they can get him at an affordable price, I'm for it. But if getting him means mortgaging the future of the team's draft and salary cap, no way. Try not to obsess on this issue. Last summer at this time everybody was obsessing about J.J. Stokes. Now, are you going to ride in my golf cart?

Scott from Canandaigua, NY:
I was just wondering if you could explain in detail what the NFL Network televises and if it's worth the price to get it. Also, do you know if you can order the NFL Network through Dish Network?

Vic: Look, I don't know this stuff. I can tell you I love NFL Films' work and if that's what's on NFL Network, then it would surely be worth the price. I love watching the old films. I love the history of the game and I have to believe NFL Network is a great place to go for that. Call your local cable provider and ask them what they can offer you in the way of a trial offer. And while I have your attention, I'm going to urge you to spend more time reading and less time watching television. Read anything, just read. There are a lot of great football books. If football is your passion, read them. Just read, baby, read.

Justin from Jacksonville:
I have read that the Jaguars have 15 camps and they used them and can't do on-the-field action until training camp. Can the players and coaches still get together and practice and talk on their own, like at a park or at their house. Do any of our players train during this break with any other players?

Vic: It's not 15 practices, it's 14, and, yes, they used them all. Between now and the start of training camp players may use the Jaguars practice and training facilities, but team practices are not permitted. In one of my last stories of spring practices, I detailed Reggie Williams' and Byron Leftwich's plans to work-out together during this break period. They don't have to go to somebody's house. They can do it right here at Alltel Stadium, and they may meet with coaches, but coaches are not to conduct practices. Frankly, this is a vacation time coaches spend with their families. All across the league, coaching staffs are gone from their buildings, re-charging their batteries and taking final looks at their families before they say goodbye. This is the "Dead Zone" before the start of training camp. Nobody is trying to cheat. They're just trying to get in some vacation.

Mike from Jacksonville:
It seems like you know your way with the ladies, Vic. That's good because my wife kicked me out of the house and I am currently living in my son's treehouse. Any suggestions?

Vic: Flowers, always flowers.

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