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Ask Vic

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Expand the playoffs and play in the spring, too

Posted Mar 19, 2014

Ted Thompson masterful in free agency


Mitch from Eau Claire, WI

Why does it seem you are making fun of fans for getting into free agency?

Why are you being so sensitive? This has to stop.

Daniel from Corona, CA

How do you feel about the NFL adding more teams to the playoffs? Is this a good idea or bad?

It snowed again last night. I’m so bored that if the NFL announced it was starting the season tomorrow, I’d run barefoot down Oneida St. I’m all for expanding the playoffs. Football is fun and more football is more fun. Let ’em all in. It works for college basketball. How about having two seasons, a fall season for the really good players, and a spring season for developmental guys? I’d love it. Let’s play two.

Rhonda from Appleton, WI

Vic, I think all this free agency stuff is crazy. I will never understand the fans getting so nuts. I have more important things to worry about right now. Are you going to have an “Ask Vic” get-together this summer?

Why are you making fun of the fans for getting into free agency, Rhonda? I’d like to have an “Ask Vic” get-together today.

Ryan from Fox Lake, IL

Why did the Bears cut Peppers before free agency started? Wouldn’t it have been better to lose him in free agency and get a compensatory pick?

They were bored and just wanted to do something exciting; just kidding. He was owed $13.9 million in salary and $100K in workout bonus. They needed the room to get under the cap.

Sternrage from Cedar Rapids, IA

Vic, is it true the Bears are paying Peppers over $8 million this year to play for us, while we are only paying him a total of like $3.5 million?

Not true. The Bears are no longer paying Julius Peppers, but their cap must assume what remains of his bonus proration. That’s dead money. His scheduled $14 million salary in 2014, however, makes Peppers a significant cap savings for the Bears this year, which is the major reason they’ve been able to be active in free agency. The Packers will have paid $8.5 million in real money to Peppers in 2014. The $3.5 million to which you referred is his salary cap number for ’14. It includes his bonus proration of $2.5 million and his $1 million salary. Salary cap money is monopoly money, but you get a limited supply of it and, therefore, it should be treated with the same reverence reserved for real money.

Sean Jones

John from Olympia, WA

I researched the same thing Jerry from Wausau did, but I didn’t cherry-pick the part that made my case. The DBs and LBs were mostly homegrown. Sean Jones and Santana Dotson were good, veteran players available as free agents, similar to Julius Peppers. So what’s the difference?

The difference is 17 years, several new collective bargaining agreements, an uncapped year, a lockout and a vastly superior understanding of how to manipulate and manage the system. The voidable had yet to be invented. A lot of modern-day cap inventions had yet to be discovered. A lot of teams had yet to hire a cap man. They just turned it over to their accountant, but the book that provided the salary cap guidelines was the equivalent of “War and Peace,” and most of those accountants had yet to finish the first chapter when they were plunged into their first free agency period. I am begging Packers fans to let it go. That team of the ’90s was a product of its times. Why do you think the Jaguars and Panthers were able to make it to their respective conference’s titles games in just their second seasons? Do you think that would happen in today’s game?

Damone from San Jose, CA

Vic, James Jones went from being homeless in San Jose to being a millionaire, and he is an owner of a Super Bowl ring. He does a lot of work in San Jose, which is about 45 minutes from Oakland. He is simply coming home. What’s wrong with going home?

There’s not a thing wrong with it. We’re all trying to go home, Damone. It’s the place where we feel we belong, and we spend our lives trying to find it.

John from Saint Augustine, FL

What the heck is going on with the Jaguars? Are they destroying their future by signing so many free agents?

They had a ton of cap room and they’ve made several sensible free-agent acquisitions that will make them a better team in 2014. Wayne Weaver left the new owner with an empty cap. It is a radical departure from where the team was in 2002, when it might not have been able to get under the cap had it not been for the Texans expansion draft. Better days are ahead.

Will from Kenosha, WI

Not sure if you can answer this, but is it better to be the No. 3 guy on a good team or the No. 1 guy on a bad team?

I think most players would say it’s better to be the No. 1 guy on a bad team. More than anything else, players want the opportunity to distinguish themselves as one of the top players in the league at their position. You can’t do that as a No. 3. I wouldn’t want a guy on my team that was satisfied with being a No. 3. I can tell by the questions I’m getting that fans really struggle with this team vs. the individual thing. Let’s stop the naiveté. Before a player can enjoy the success of a team, he’s got to belong to the team. In most cases, a No. 3 is living on the edge of being cut. He’s not sure from day to day if he’ll be on the team. How can he truly enjoy the success of a team? He needs to feel vital to enjoy the team’s success; he needs to play.

Shawn from Albany, NY

I respect James Jones for the way he left. In an interview, he admitted that money will come first no matter what, but that he would not go to another NFC North team. Not many players admit that about the money. He then said a winning team and good quarterback come next. I really wish he could have gotten that on top of his money. He deserves it. Good luck to James in Oakland. I’ll still be cheering him on.

He’s a pro. It’s the ultimate compliment.

Drew from Dubuque, IA

“Jurassic Park” was 1993, not ’97. That is all.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997). I just assumed you knew that.

Tim from Kimberly, WI

Get me a free agent on the phone! And get me a free agent to talk to while I’m waiting!

Yeah, I’m bored. When is Ted gonna sign another free agent? I need some excitement. Can’t he just overpay somebody so we can have some fun?

Scott from Lincoln City, OR

Vic, would you take more money to be an editor for a soccer team?

Not if I had to cover the games.

Paul from Farnborough, UK

Vic, when and why was the salary cap introduced and how long did it take you to get your head around it?

It was 1993, and I can remember Dan Rooney showing me this incredibly thick book and telling me I better learn what’s in it because if I don’t, I won’t be able to cover pro football. I remember thinking to myself, “I’ll fake it.” I was wrong; he was right. Within two years I knew I was hopelessly lost – so were most of the personnel directors in the league – so I began learning about the salary cap. By then, I was in Jacksonville and I had to know how the salary cap worked because the Jaguars were signing free agents left and right and using every trick in the book to push the money out. The Jaguars made me learn about the cap. I thank them for that.

Jason from Klamath Falls, OR

After the Bucs released Darrelle Revis, I thought of how you said you tailor your scheme to the talent you have, and I was hoping you could shed some light as to why they released one of the best cover corners in the NFL, instead of working him into Lovie Smith’s playbook. Who doesn’t need Darrelle Revis shutting down any receiver?

If Lovie’s gonna play cover two in Tampa, as he did in Chicago, he doesn’t need a high-priced, shut-down corner because each corner will have help over the top.

Justin from St. Louis, MO

Vic, I read one article on the Jaguars website where you talked in third person. Can you do it again?

Yeah, we had “Nice Vic” days and “Third-person Vic” days. They were fun. I’d like to do some fun stuff like that, again, but I’m afraid I might offend someone. We’re very sensitive.

Jay from Merton, WI

What is the current balance of players lost vs. signed, as far as future compensatory picks are concerned?

The Packers have lost James Jones, Evan Dietrich-Smith and M.D. Jennings, and have yet to sign a free agent who would count against the team in the net loss/gain formula for awarding compensatory picks. It’s all net loss right now. Pretty smart, huh? You get the free agents and the extra draft picks, too.

Aaron Murray

Mark from Dalton, GA

Vic, I love reading your column every day, and your column has helped me learn a lot, even though I don’t think I will ever truly understand how the salary cap works. I just wanted to know your opinion of Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray.

I think he’s a talented, instinctive and natural passer of the football. If I could put him in a bigger body, I think he’d have star potential. My concern is that he might not be sturdy enough to withstand the punishment that goes with being a starting quarterback. Unless he gets bigger and stronger, he might be limited to a backup role.

Brandon from East Peoria, IL

I know you are primarily a draft-and-develop man, but what is your opinion on renting a depth player in free agency for a year? The cap hit would be relatively small and would add some competition at some thinner positions on the roster.

That’s the trend, and it is further accentuating the fact that this is a game of replacement. Sign your core guys to long-term deals; everybody else is replaceable. That’s how I see today’s game. What I like most about it is that it’s a means for hard-capping yourself. When you sign guys to true one-year deals – no voidables – whatever you spend on that player is on that year’s cap. Ted Thompson’s performance in free agency this year has been masterful. I think he may have found a fondness for free agency.

Aidan from Manchester, UK

Will there be another “April Fools Ask Vic” this year?

Do you think we’re tough enough? I mean, I don’t want to offend anyone.


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Vic Ketchman

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Do you have a question for Vic? Your question could be posted on packers.com. Vic has covered the NFL through 42 seasons, including 23 years covering the Steelers and 16 years covering the Jaguars.

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