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Will teams violate spirit of minimum-wage relief plan?

Join *Jaguars Inside Report *Senior Editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

John Casteen from Jacksonville:
You stated that the minimum wage is costing role players their professional football careers. Why not make the minimum wage the same for all players, or make the minimum wage salary cap hit the same for all players.

Vic: The proposed changes for the 2002-2007 labor agreement deal specifically with minimum wage and its effect on the careers of veteran players. It allows for salary cap relief for certain minimum-wage veterans, but at first glance I'm skeptical of the plan. I wonder how long it will take for teams to find the loophole in the plan. Will they start negotiating dummy contracts with minimum-wage salaries for vested veterans, with the idea the team might "skate" on the relief portion of the minimum wage? The spirit of the changes is meant to protect the marginal veteran. Will teams begin using the relief proposal to creatively structure contracts for their veteran stars? What concerns me about this plan is that it might devalue low-round draft picks and discourage the development of young talent. I applaud the effort, but I remain suspicious of how it might be executed.

Ben Corby from Jacksonville:
With Richard Huntley having been cut by the Steelers, Jacksonville is staring at a competent backup for Fred Taylor. Obviously, we can't take his current contract, but would it be a good move to try and get him at minimum, or do you think Shyrone Stith and Stacey Mack can handle the backup job well enough?

Vic: I think you answered your own question. Huntley would be a perfect fit for the Jaguars, but they couldn't afford him unless Kevin Hardy did a major re-structuring.

Aaron Thomas from Jacksonville:
I haven't heard of any of the Jaguars' picks being signed. What kind of money are Stroud and Williams expected to get? I believe they are the Jaguars' keys to this season.

Vic: The Jaguars recently signed sixth-round guard Chad Ward and seventh-round safety Marlon McCree. Yes, Marcus Stroud and Maurice Williams would seem to be key players this season. John Abraham was the 13th pick of the 2000 draft and he signed a five-year deal with the Jets for $4.355 million in guaranteed money. The deal was structured in such a way that Abraham got a $2 million signing bonus and $2.355 million in guaranteed salary. San Diego drafted safety Rogers Beckett with the 43rd overall pick in 2000, and Beckett got a four-year deal that included a $1.14 signing bonus and an average salary of $700,000 a year. The Jaguars will insist that Stroud sign a five-year deal. Expect him to get in the neighborhood of a $5 million signing bonus and an average salary of about $1.4 million a year. Williams is likely to get a four-year deal with something in the neighborhood of a $1.5 million signing bonus and an average salary of $800,000 a year.

Joe Ingram from Middleburg, FL:
People can say the Jags might go 8-8 if they want to, but with the core players back, I see them going 11-5. Is that too unrealistic?

Vic: That's not unrealistic, but it is certainly lofty.

Fred Garvin from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
On Tuesday, Mike Hollis was on a local radio program expressing his extreme disappointment with his contract and the Jaguars' overall handling of personnel issues. His bitterness was very clear. Do you expect him to continue at his high level or do you see a drop-off due to a new holder and his plan to be somewhere else next year? He mentioned Houston.

Vic: Mike Hollis is too much of a professional to allow his bitterness to detract from his performance. Kickers are in a tough spot. I saw this with Gary Anderson in Pittsburgh.

Atlas Rankin from Jacksonville:
On paper, the Jaguars have one of the most high-powered offenses in the NFL. Smith, McCardell, Dawkins, Soward and Whitted on the field at one time means Pro Bowl for Mark Brunell. Taylor in the backfield with Brady and Jones on both ends of the line means 1,500 yards or more for Taylor. Am I just wishful thinking or could this actually become a reality

Vic: You've named nine players. Have you forgotten about the five in-line positions? I agree with you on Fred Taylor, but you might want to temper your enthusiasm a bit.

Vic Ketchman is the Senior Editor of Jaguars Inside Report, the official team newspaper of the Jacksonville Jaguars. One-year subscriptions may be purchased by calling 1-888-846-5247.

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