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You are what you amortize

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

Daryn from Gainesville, FL:
Now that Leftwich has signed and the deal looks good on both sides, has this franchise finally realized the importance of signing cap-friendly contracts and the implications it has on their future?

Vic: I don't like the term cap-friendly because, in my opinion, that describes a team that pushes money onto future salary caps to clear room on the current year's cap, and those are the actions of a team headed for trouble. The Jaguars were that team, but they've changed their philosophy dramatically. I am most impressed by the Jaguars' efforts to keep bonus money to a minimum. In my opinion, you are what you amortize. Remaining amortization is what allows players to hold teams "hostage." You can avoid a high salary by cutting the player, but if you cut a player with high remaining amortization, it not only sticks with you, it accelerates. Yes, the Jaguars have finally realized the importance of responsible salary cap management.

Juanus from Los Angeles, CA:
Thanks for all of your insight. I am happy to see Byron Leftwich in camp, however, it seems everyone is dismissing David Garrard and basically handing the future over to Leftwich. And while you may say something to the effect that "they didn't pay him $10.9 million to sit on the bench," do you think people are overlooking David Garrard?

Vic: I am not overlooking David Garrard. He is a major talent.

Thomas from St. Petersburg, FL:
Does Leftwich have sufficient "football smarts" to grasp Del Rio's system and make a significant contribution this year? In my judgement, because of his lack of foot speed, Leftwich will require an outstanding line in order to be effective. Do the Jaguars have such a line?

Vic: Byron Leftwich will need time to develop and so will his offensive line. Thomas, it's not about this year; it's about the future.

Ed from Fernandina Beach, FL:
What do you think of the Leftwich contract? Have the Jags mortgaged their future on a guy who might not even be the second-best quarterback on the team?

Vic: It's a sound and fair contract. From Byron Leftwich's standpoint, it'll put $10.3 million in his pocket over the next year. From the Jaguars' standpoint, the bonus amortization is manageable and the potential big salary year doesn't occur until year four of the deal. At that point, the team should know the direction of Leftwich's career.

Zach from Green Bay, WI:
First off, I would like to say I like your column and I read it every day. It helps me get news about the Jags because up here we only get news about the Packers. I have (a) question, though. (It's) about rookie fullback Malaefou MacKenzie. Could he become the next great rushing fullback, like Mike Alstott or Mike Anderson?

Vic: Fo MacKenzie has distinct running skills. After all, he was recruited to USC to be a tailback. What's that tell you? But the fullback position in the NFL is 85 percent blocking, 10 percent receiving and five percent rushing. He'll make or not make this team based mostly on his ability to block. I'll tell you a story from long-time offensive coordinator Ron Erhardt, who was listening to a complaint from his fullback that he wasn't getting enough carries. The fullback was averaging 3.9 yards per carry and the running back was averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Erhardt told the fullback, OK, when I want to gain 3.9 yards, I'll give you the ball, and when I want to gain 4.9 yards, I'll give him the ball.

Gamma from Santa Fe, NM:
Love the column, Vic. My question is: Would a team struggling financially, like the Arizona Cardinals, be able to do like the Montreal Expos are doing in Puerto Rico and play some games in a close foreign country with high football demand and capable facilities, such as Mexico City?

Vic: That almost makes too much sense.

Don from Jacksonville:
Before the Jags, I was a Rams fan, especially in the days of the "Fearsome Foursome." My question is: Have you any idea, since they never kept records in those days, of the number of sacks Deacon Jones had in his career and how his numbers would compare to the "official" sack leaders of today?

Vic: The Rams list Deacon Jones as their "unofficial" all-time sacks leader with 159.5. They give him credit for a team-record 22 sacks in each of the 1964 and 1968 seasons. Of course, those numbers are "guesstimates;" he may, in fact, have had more sacks. But I don't need statistics to tell me Jones was a great player. And, in those days, defensive linemen played a technique known as "two-gap," which was a stop-the-run strategy. How many sacks do you think defensive linemen such as Jones, Gino Marchetti, Bob Lilly, Joe Greene, etc., would've gotten had they played in the sack-conscious strategies of today?

Sali from Staten Island, NY:
In your opinion, who has been the greatest Jaguar in team history?

Vic: Mark Brunell gets my vote. I think it is one of the great accomplishments in NFL history that Brunell has remained the starting quarterback of an expansion team for the first nine years of its history. Tampa Bay may have used nine quarterbacks in its first nine games.

Sam from Jacksonville:
Do you think there will be any worthwhile defensive linemen available after the final cuts? We could sure use some help at end. By the way, I'm also a four-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust guy, like yourself.

Vic: The Jaguars could find defensive line help from the waiver wire, but it would likely be a stop-gap player. The real fix will probably have to occur next spring.

Alan from Jacksonville:
I love your column. It is very informative and kept me sane during the offseason (it was touch and go there during your vacation). My question has to deal with something I read in the paper. It said the problems in negotiating Leftwich's contract were not about the signing bonus, but about escalator clauses. Firstly, wouldn't the signing bonus be more of a concern because of cap problems the Jaguars had in the past? And secondly, what exactly is an escalator clause? Is that just a fancy way of describing incentives?

Vic: Actually, the escalator clause was an agreement between the team and Byron Leftwich that he would get the first ride on the new escalators at Alltel Stadium. Sorry, Alan, I had to give it a try. Yes, it is just a fancy way of describing incentives, and certainly those incentives (or escalators) were a major issue in negotiations because the language for earning those incentives is so involved. But another big issue was probably the length of the contract. The voidable clause after the fifth year leads me to believe that. And, yes, signing bonus is always a major issue in negotiations because bonus amortization is the single-greatest factor in a team's salary cap health.

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