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Yes, he really was 'splendid'

Join Senior Editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Howard from Homestead, FL:
Can you think of one good reason why Peyton Manning should be motivated to negotiate a long-term deal with Indianapolis at this point? If he can make $18.3 million for one year and then hit free agency, why would he want a long-term deal now?

Vic: It was called to my attention recently that Seahawks offensive tackle Walter Jones, who has been "franchised" for the third consecutive year, will earn more salary this season than his agent wanted in signing bonus on a new contract three years ago. You see, the "franchise" tag allows a player to keep up with inflation because the "franchise" tag must be renewed every year. That's the situation Peyton Manning is in. He can't possibly have any complaints. As you said, "franchising" him should make it even more difficult to sign him because he has little motivation to do so. He'll make $18.3 million this year, and if the Colts fail to reach an agreement with him and they "franchise" him in 2005, he'll earn 120 percent of $18.3 million, which is nearly $22 million. I don't see any way out of this situation for the Colts without it destroying whatever team they have left. It could even wreck the franchise. The crazy part is that it was so easy to see coming.

Paul from Gainesville, FL:
I was reading on another NFL-oriented website that Hugh Douglas' contract is structured in such a way that the Jaguars could cut him by June 1 without absorbing much of a cap hit. Do you know how much this cap hit would be?

Vic: The Jaguars would only absorb a $255,000 loss on their 2004 salary cap, but that's only because Hugh Douglas' salary cap number for this year is a substantial $4.545 million. His remaining amortization is $4.8 million, which would accelerate onto this year's cap in the form of "dead money." You'd rather not do that. You'd like to think last season was Douglas' adjustment year and that he'll become the productive player this season that you thought he'd be when you signed him. This team has a rather thin situation at defensive end and dumping Douglas after just one bad year might only worsen the situation. It's not enough just to know cap hits and cap savings. Teams employ a broad salary cap profile of a player when they make decisions, and "dead money" is a major part of that profile. Tony Brackens already offers the prospect of $7 million in "dead money," though his release will result in a $2.3 million cap savings. Nearly $12 million in "dead money" at defensive end isn't what you want.

Bruce from St. Simons Island, GA:
We're hearing a lot now about the top players available in this year's draft. I know you know about these players, so my question is: What is your impression of the top defensive ends, receivers and linebackers in this year's draft? Also, I've read that the Jags may have an interest in Maurice Clarett, so what is your opinion of him?

Vic: The defensive end crop isn't that deep, but this draft is loaded with receivers and linebackers. From what I can tell, most people have all the right prospects and have a pretty good idea of where they fit, with the exception of one player, Kenechi Udeze. Udeze is a bit of a wild card. He didn't workout at the combine and there's not a lot of information on him from college. Udeze weighed 380 pounds as a high school senior. He's shed a hundred pounds and has kept the weight off, but some teams will be concerned about the potential for putting on that kind of weight. At this point in time, it's tough to get a read on where Udeze fits. If you're looking for a defensive end on whom most scouts agree, it's Will Smith. He would seem to be a consensus top-15 pick. As far as Maurice Clarett is concerned, he's a talent.

Kelly from Santa Rosa, CA:
I've heard you mention "core" players that a team can build around and add to in free agency and in the draft. Who are the Jags' new "core players," in your opinion, and could you embellish a little on the states of those players' contracts? Thanks for "Salary Cap 101." We Jaguars fans might now be some of the best-educated in the league.

Vic: Fred Taylor, Byron Leftwich, Maurice Williams, Vince Manuwai, Marcus Stroud, John Henderson, Mike Peterson and Rashean Mathis represent the new core of this team. There may be others, but those eight are firm. Williams is the only one who doesn't have multiple years remaining on his contract. He will be entering the final year of his contract this year and I expect the Jaguars will do a new deal with him either before the season begins or before the season ends.

Robert from Daytona Beach, FL:
Do you think the splinted splinter was the greatest Williams ever to swing that sweet stick? Or do you have another favorite?

Vic: Bob, it's "The Splendid Splinter," and, yes, I do think Ted Williams is the best Williams to ever swing a baseball bat. But there's another Williams who I think was one of the most natural hitters in baseball history. His name is Billy Williams, who starred for the Chicago Cubs in the 1960s and early-'70s.

Brad from Nashville, TN:
Ted Williams; sounds like a good choice to ask a question on. What are your thoughts on the cryogenic freezing of his body and severed head? I think it's terrible. We should put his son in there and see how he likes it.

Vic: You're missing a major point, Brad. Ted Williams is dead; his son isn't.

Richard from Woonsocket, RI:
I know Ted Williams was a great baseball player and Hank Williams was a great country and western singer, but who the heck is Esther Williams?

Vic: Let's make this a multiple choice answer. Esther Williams is: a. Ted Williams' estranged wife; b. Brian Sexton's cleaning lady; c. The name of Jeff Lageman's fishing boat; d. A former bathing beauty and movie star; e. The first woman in space.

Eric from Columbus, IN:
I have heard about Terrell Owens not being able to become a free agent. What did he forget to do that would've made him a free agent?

Vic: Terrell Owens' contract was originally to void on the last day of the 2003 league calendar year, but the date had been moved up to Feb. 21. His agent did not inform the 49ers by Feb. 21 of his and Owens' intention for the contract to void. As a result, the contract did not void and the 49ers retained their rights to him. However, the situation is controversial because it involves a moved date. Stay tuned.

Terrance from Jacksonville:
As always, you give the best info, but are you going to give the answers to Part III of the salary cap test?

Vic: Take the test then click on "Grade My Exam." It will give you your score and the correct answers for each question.

Nick from Clearfield, PA:
OK, we've got it. No more Mike and Roy. But what about Reggie? He could turn out to be the best of all three. Is he worth the ninth pick in the draft?

Vic: Any time you have a draft class as deep at one position as this draft class is at receiver, some of those guys are going to get knocked down lower than they should, simply because not every team wants to draft a guy at that position. Larry Fitzgerald, Kellen Winslow, Mike Williams, Roy Williams and Reggie Williams are all outstanding receivers, and if you spread them out over five drafts they might all be top-five picks. But a couple of those guys are going to fall in this year's order, only because there's a glut of receivers in this draft. As far as receivers are concerned, this year it's not about whether or not a guy is worth the ninth pick; it's about how many teams in the top nine selections are looking for a receiver. Most teams are looking for big guys, and those teams will probably have to move up in the order to get the guy they want. Those teams high in the draft who want receivers may end up trading down to a place where they can still get their guy and pick up an extra pick. I could be wrong, but I don't expect five receivers to go in the first nine picks.

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