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Washington conspiracy?

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

Joshua from Jacksonville:
You're the new Packers head coach. The decision of Favre staying another year rests in your hands. Do you start over with Rodgers or take another shot at the Super Bowl?

Vic: Another shot at the Super Bowl? Is that what the Packers did in 2005? They were 4-12. It's time to move on. This is a young man's game.

Chip from Jacksonville:
Do you think the Redskins have lost their mind? They are paying head coach type money to assistants and inventing titles to give them. What's going on?

Vic: What the Redskins are doing is what a deep-pockets corporation would do to competitors of lesser financial means. The Redskins are skyrocketing the value of assistant coaches, which will have a trickle-down effect that will be passed on to all of the teams in the league who don't have the kind of money the Redskins have. I'm starting to think the Redskins are doing this intentionally. I'm starting to think this might be a conspiracy against small-market teams. At a time of fiscally-conservative head coach hirings, the Redskins have gone bananas on assistant coaches. There is something nefarious, certainly rebellious, about that behavior. Is it some kind of reaction to the lack of progress on a CBA extension? Does it have something to do with the enmity that's developed in the revenue-sharing negotiations? Where's the leaguethink?

Kyle from Jacksonville:
Do you think the tough schedule talk is a bit premature? This year's schedule was supposed to be tough with the Texans, Ravens and Jets. They were supposed to be on the rise but those teams were not good. So how does one know if these teams will be good?

Vic: I agree with you that grading next year's schedule could be considered premature, but I don't know where you're getting that stuff about miscalculations on the 2005 schedule. Yeah, the Jets and Ravens under-achieved, but by and large the Jaguars' 2005 schedule was analyzed perfectly on the day it was announced. We all said the first seven weeks would be difficult and if the Jaguars got through that period in playoff contention they might sail through the final nine weeks, and that's exactly what happened. When I look at next year's schedule, what I see are a lot of premium franchises that don't fall off much from one year to the next. Maybe all of those teams will lose their starting quarterbacks the week before they play the Jaguars, but when you consider a schedule that includes premium franchises such as the Patriots, Giants, Cowboys, Steelers, Eagles and Chiefs, and you stir in an up and coming team such as the Dolphins, you should dismiss any thought of an easy stretch. I expect next year's schedule to test the Jaguars on a weekly basis.

Fred from Portland, OR:
I still don't get that explanation because I've never heard them announce "so-and-so is reporting as an ineligible receiver." Have you ever heard that?

Vic: I have never heard it, either, but there's a good reason for that: Why would a team ever want a player wearing an eligible-receiver number to be announced as an ineligible receiver? The explanation I received on the Hines Ward penalty for covering the tight end makes perfect sense to me. If a player wearing an ineligible-receiver number has to report his intention to be an eligible receiver, then a player wearing an eligible-receiver number should have to announce his intention to be an ineligible receiver.

Brandon from Morehead, KY:
The Pittsburgh tight end wasn't able to inform the officials that he was an ineligible receiver because Ben called an audible at the last second.

Vic: That's correct but, nonetheless, the tight end was covered by the wide receiver and that constitutes a violation. Had Hines Ward been a yard off the line of scrimmage, everything would've been fine. Ward apparently didn't know players wearing eligible-receiver numbers had to report as being ineligible on a running play. He complained to the officials about the penalty but Bill Cowher did not. Cowher, obviously, knew the rule and I give him credit for that. I guess this fits under the category of "we learn something new every day." This is new for me. I knew players had to report as being eligible, but I didn't know they had to report as being ineligible.

John from Port Orange, FL:
Have we seen the last of Mike Pearson? What is the present status with his health and with the team?

Vic: Mike Pearson is an accomplished left tackle, which makes him a premium player. Obviously, Khalif Barnes established himself this past season as the Jaguars' left tackle of the future. I'd love to see the Jaguars re-sign Pearson because I think depth at the tackle position is so important, but Pearson is destined to become some other team's starter. That's what Mike wants and it'll be difficult to prevent it. As I've always said, this is a game of replacement. If you're going to maintain a healthy salary cap, you must be willing to lose players and capable of replacing them. I like Mike. I hope he finds a team where he can settle in at left tackle and re-establish himself as one of the good, young pass-blockers in the league.

Ancil from Charleston, WV:
I would give our 2005 draft a solid "B." Khalif Barnes, Matt Jones, Alvin Pearman and Gerald Sensabaugh all made positive contributions. How would you grade our 2005 draft?

Vic: Barnes was so good and such a great pick at such a premium position that he immediately makes it a "B" class. Pearman, Sensabaugh, Scott Starks, Pat Thomas and Chris Roberson would appear to be the kind of depth players that every team has to get out of its draft for it to be considered successful. That brings us to Matt Jones. He's the guy who has to put the '05 class over the top. That's what's expected of a first-round pick. Jones' rookie numbers are OK. If you wanna build a case based on numbers, you can do that with Jones. I'll also say that expectations for him were ridiculous and they've caused his rookie performance to have been graded a little too harshly. I wanna see more toughness. That's the next step, in my opinion, for Jones. I wanna see him being more aggressive – with both hands – in going after the ball. I wanna see him play with more energy; more grit and determination. If he does those things, the grade goes up.

Kamal from Novi, MI:
I would like to comment on the remarks made by Alan from Buford, GA, on Monday. Seattle has had the easiest schedule; in addition to playing the easiest regular-season schedule, they played the number five and number six seeds in the playoffs, instead of the usual number two and number three. They have not faced a real test all season.

Vic: That's an interesting observation, Kamal. I will take that into account, but I gotta tell you, I was really impressed by what I saw of the Seahawks against Carolina. Furthermore, I think the NFC number two and number three teams were weak-schedule impostors and that Carolina was the NFC's true number two team. Those two studs the Seahawks have on the left side of their offensive line could give the Steelers match-up problems. Walter Jones could make Joey Porter ineffective in the pass-rush and that could force the Steelers to expose themselves in other ways to get pressure on Matt Hasselbeck.

Richard from Woonsocket, RI:
With the salary cap rising every year, isn't that defeating the purpose of the salary cap to begin with?

Vic: The purpose of the salary cap isn't to cap the players' salaries – and clearly it hasn't – it's to govern spending among the teams, which promotes competitiveness. Granted, some teams find ways around the cap by putting a lot of money into bonuses that are cash over cap, but there's a penalty down the road to be paid for that tactic. The salary cap is a wonderful invention. Revenue drives the cap higher and the players and owners each benefit. Restricting one team from spending more than another defends every team's ability to compete.

Jeremy from Jacksonville:
I knew the salary cap grew every year but never had I had it put into perspective the way you did with the history of the Jags; from $35 million to $92 million in 12 years seems to be a death sentence on small-market teams. Is this something that is part of the CBA extension or can we expect this rise to continue?

Vic: A rising salary cap is good for the game and the players and the owners mutually because it means the game is continuing to grow; revenue is what drives salary cap increases. The issue for small-market teams is how that revenue is shared. It must not disproportionately favor the large-market teams. You can't have large-market teams creating costs small-market teams must absorb, without sharing revenue to pay for it. Wayne Weaver has referred to large-market teams as "passing their player costs on to small-market teams." With that statement, Weaver is referring to reckless increases in salary and bonus money that deep-pocket, large-market teams are throwing at players. Those increases are causing rapid rises in salaries and bonus money throughout the league, which means they are being passed on to small-market teams in the form of higher salary and bonus standards. A CBA extension will obviously address salary cap issues, most prominently the issue of the designated gross revenue model vs. the player-proposed total football revenue model, but the real issue of large-market teams passing their players costs on to small-market teams will be addressed directly in revenue-sharing negotiations among the owners.

Jordan from Lincoln, NE:
How exactly does signing bonus work? Does it affect salary cap?

Vic: I give you a $5 million signing bonus on a five-year contract. One million dollars is charged to each year's salary cap. Signing bonus is divided evenly over the life of the contract. That's the way it is in normal times. These are not, however, normal times because the lack of a CBA extension means bonus money can't be amortized beyond 2009, so make that example a $4 million signing bonus on a four-year contract. Read "Salary Cap 101" in the "News/Feature series" archives.

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