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We hang our heads

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

Bill from Jacksonville:
Could you review the "30 percent rule" for the uncapped year?

Vic: The "30 percent rule" is a salary cap invention that forbids teams from dumping money into the uncapped year, which would be 2007. The "30 percent rule" begins in 2006 and, until the CBA is extended, will continue through 2009. Very simply, the rule forbids teams from increasing a player's salary by more than 30 percent of his 2006 salary (excluding signing bonus) from one year to the next. Here's an example of what it does: Say a team wants to re-structure a player's contract to create cap room in 2006 and let's say that player has a salary of $5 million a year for each of the next four years. In normal times, the team would do a standard salary to signing bonus conversion. They would take $4 million, for example, of the '06 salary, give it to the player in the form of signing bonus and amortize that amount over the remaining years of the contract; $1 million worth of proration in each year. The team would've created $3 million in cap room in '06. These are not, however, normal times. The "30 percent rule" would require the team to automatically lower the player's salary to $1.3 million in '07, $1.6 million in '08 and $1.9 million in '09. Now, tell me, what player is going to agree to that salary reduction? What if he does? Would you be suspicious of money moving under the table?

Steve from El Dorado, AR:
For a guy who was sold on Byron for such a long time, you seem to have changed your mind about who the starting quarterback should be.

Vic: That's not true. Byron Leftwich is and should remain the starting quarterback. He has played well enough through the first three years of his career to maintain that distinction. David Garrard played well enough at the end of last season to have earned the right to compete for the job. My opinion of Leftwich hasn't changed. My opinion of Garrard has. David played well enough in the final six games of the 2005 regular season to have established himself as a productive, starting-caliber quarterback. Until then, I don't think he had done that.

Gabe from Jacksonville:
During the Pro Bowl, the talking heads went on and on about how the Colts have to re-sign James and that it would be a huge mistake if they let him go. Do the Colts have a choice or are they at a point with their cap where they have to let him go?

Vic: That was horribly irresponsible commentary. They never once qualified what they were saying in terms of the salary cap or a CBA extension. If there's no CBA extension, the Colts have little choice but to let Edgerrin James slip into free agency. At no point in the conversation was that said or was the Colts' cap difficulties explained. TV has all these former players in the booth and they explain to us ad nauseum the difference between cover one, cover two and cover 900, but I have yet to find one guy who truly understands the salary cap and can accurately represent what a team is facing in the way of cap-imposed decisions. That's incompetence. If you don't know the cap, you know nothing. The cap decides who stays and who goes. I don't need someone to tell me Edgerrin James is a good football player. No kidding. The Colts don't know that? As part of the endless Super Bowl pregame show, one reporter said the Steelers had a cap problem because they were $4.6 million over the cap. What he didn't say is that the Steelers would get $5.3 million in cap relief the moment Jerome Bettis retired. That's poor reporting.

Brian from Chicago, IL:
I noticed in the Valentine's Day postings that some of your readers weren't easy on you and it seems like they picked up where the men left off. Your thoughts?

Vic: I cried all night.

Billy from Jacksonville:
What do you think of Al Davis rehiring Art Shell?

Vic: I don't think there's anything wrong with the hire, it's the process that made the Raiders look bad. Imagine an offensive coordinator saying he'd rather be an assistant coach in Pittsburgh than head coach in Oakland. That's embarrassing for a franchise that has always boasted a "commitment to excellence."

Nick from Las Vegas, NV:
What does one look for when evaluating or differentiating a good run-blocker from a good pass-blocker?

Vic: Good run-blockers play low and with their shoulders. Good pass-blockers move well laterally and use their hands.

Bill from Ware, MA:
The Jaguars are on the clock, there's a quality cornerback and outside linebacker available that have comparable draft grades. Which would you pick?

Vic: If you're asking which is the more premium position, the answer is cornerback.

Chris from Jacksonville:
Has Wayne Weaver made a decision on covering seats for the 2006 season? After a 12-4 season and with such high caliber visiting teams in 2006, I would think Mr. Weaver would be tempted to uncover the seats.

Vic: Alltel Stadium's seating capacity will stay the same; seats will not be uncovered. Here's an idea. Petition the league to schedule the game against the Steelers for the day after the Florida-Georgia game, with the idea the league would grant a one-game exemption from the rule that forbids teams from changing the seating capacity of their stadiums during the season. I understand that rules are rules but 80,000 in attendance for a Steelers-Jaguars game would sure drive a lot of extra revenue and it wouldn't hurt the Jacksonville economy having all of those Steelers fans in town either. I can't imagine the NFL saying no to extra money.

Cory from Jacksonville:
When is the national media going to start talking about the CBA extension, March 2?

Vic: I am embarrassed for the job we have done covering this story, which I believe could turn out to be one of the most important stories in professional football history. At the least, it's the number one story of this offseason. We, the media, have failed to give football fans the information they need to understand and appreciate what's at stake. A little more than two weeks from the March 3 deadline, our heads hang in disgrace. As fans, you should be disgusted by our performance.

Benjamin from Jacksonville:
I don't think you're a jerk. I also don't think a little sarcasm and wit ever hurt anyone. If it has, well, ah, poor baby. Keep up the wonderfully witty commentary.

Vic: I don't know how witty it is but I'm not likely to turn "Ask Vic" into "Dr. Phil."

Alex from Fairfax, VA:
Even though the NFC won the Pro Bowl, do you still think the AFC was stronger this year?

Vic: Let me put it this way: There were eight teams in the AFC better than the Seattle Seahawks.

Casey from Richmond, VA:
Do you ever like to cut up a banana and put it on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? I do.

Vic: When I'm in a hurry, I just take the banana out of the peel and smear peanut butter on it. It takes less than 10 seconds to prepare and eat.

Hasso from Jacksonville:
You recently said that if the league doesn't reach a new CBA agreement, then the teams that make the second round of the playoffs next season won't be able to spend a lot of money in free agency in 2007. For a team like the Jaguars, who are good and are expected to get better and also have a lot of cap room available, don't you think it would be a good idea to expend twice as much on this free agency, just in case they are one of the "elite eight" next season?

Vic: You're talking to the wrong guy. I think free agency is a trap for fools. In my opinion, the teams that do well in free agency are the ones who are bargain conscious. I don't think you can ignore free agency, but I think you have to regulate yourself very strictly. Buy the work pants in free agency, buy the dress pants in the draft.

Zach from Lubbock, TX:
It seems that every time a well-known free agent comes on the market all the fans want him to sign with the team. In most cases the player is old, nearing the end of his career and is a shell of his former self. I think the fact that his old team was willing to release him says a lot. Isn't loading up on overpriced free agents what got us into cap problems a few years ago?

Vic: By, George, I think you've got it.

Jimmy from Jacksonville:
I read today on that the free agency period could start off slow due to the CBA not being extended. They said teams may wait until later in the month of March to sign contracts, if the CBA gets extended after the March 3 deadline. Would they be able to do that? If the CBA is not extended can teams just wait?

Vic: You'd be crazy not to wait. Until the CBA is extended, teams can't prorate bonus money beyond 2009. That means that if you sign a guy to a six-year deal, you can only use the next four years to "house" his amortization. If he's a high-priced guy, you're probably going to want those other two years, right? That's why teams are going to wait. In the case of high-priced guys, they may need more years to amortize bonus money. Now, in the case of a team such as Jaguars, which is to say a team in really good salary cap shape, they could sign a guy before the CBA is extended and eat his amortization up front. That's why this free agency period, if the CBA is not extended, could be a great time to do some bargain shopping for teams such as the Jaguars.

James from Puyallup, WA:
What are your impressions of Chuck Knox as an NFL coach?

Vic: He was known as "Ground Chuck." He was a coach who always had great running games; Lawrence McCutcheon in Los Angeles, Joe Cribbs in Buffalo and Curt Warner in Seattle. James Harris played quarterback for Knox in LA. Knox never won the big one, but he won a lot of little ones and he won everywhere he coached.

Brad from Rocklin, CA:
These guys from the Monday column crack me up. Ty Law? Keenan McCardell? I hear Tony Boselli's available.

Vic: You better watch yourself. The geriatric care society will get mad at you.

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