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It was the moment of truth for Flynn

Posted Mar 9, 2012

Jeremy from Savannah, GA

The Lions have a situation coming up. Calvin Johnson has hit all of his bonuses and is due $21 million this year, the last of his contract. If franchised next year, he'll be due $25.2 million. That being said, how does a team avoid getting in a situation where this doesn't arise? I can't wait to see where he goes next because Detroit sure can't keep him at those numbers.

The cap man, who is often a team’s lead contract negotiator, is a very important person. He has to be able to see deep into the future and how it will be impacted by the contract he’s structuring today. The “120 percent rule” is what’s driving up Johnson’s franchise figure for 2013. He needed a lower cap number in 2012 to prevent that. I’m sure the Lions’ cap man has a plan. I get questions every day from people asking me why don’t the Packers sign this guy or that guy? All the fan sees is what the player might mean to the team on the field. What the fan doesn’t take into account is how the signing of that player will impact the team’s cap and the team’s salary structure.

Luke from LaCrosse, WI

You've stated numerous times that Aaron Rodgers can “make all of the throws.” Do you extend that same assessment to Matt Flynn?

There was a seminal moment in the season finale against the Lions when I think Flynn proved, beyond a doubt, that he can make all of the throws. It was a cold and windy day. It was the perfect day for Flynn to showcase his arm to all cold-weather teams that might be interested in his services. Early in the game, as the Packers were moving north to south, Flynn fluttered a pass to the left sideline. It clearly died in the wind and I thought to myself, “Uh, oh.” Then he came right back with a laser shot to the right sideline. It was an even deeper throw and it was from the far hash and the ball never wobbled or left its line. It was one of those classic “honey hole” throws and it was in difficult weather conditions. At that precise moment, Flynn proved to one and all that he has the arm strength to make all of the throws.

Erik from Clarkston, WA

You're exactly right about the free-agent pickups this time of year. Every fan wants to see their team sign the big-name free agents.

I didn’t get it for a long time. There was this undeniable body of evidence that spending big in free agency doesn’t tend to result in success, that it usually results in regret, yet, at this time of the year I would be bombarded by readers manic for the team I was covering to mortgage the franchise’s future on a free agent. I came to call it the “J.J. Stokes Syndrome,” because I have never been bombarded by the name of one player – T.O. came close – as I was by Stokes’ name. I decided that if his name was Vic Stokes, nobody would’ve wanted him. Anyhow, what I’ve come to realize is that the players’ greatest ally in free agency is the time of year it’s conducted. It’s March and we’re all bored. We’re all dying for some kind of entertainment, and a lot of fans want their favorite teams to entertain them by spending ridiculous sums of money in free agency, even if it’s on players that aren’t the equal of prospects at their positions in the draft. Free agency is football’s “Hot Stove League.” You rip the team for not signing the guy, and you rip the team later if they do sign the guy and he’s not productive. I’ve looked at the free-agent list. I like the draft crop a lot more.

Terry from Watertown, WI

You've said the bounty system news in the 1980s barely caused a ripple in the news compared to today. Do you think the current outcry is a reflection of our society in general? People just seemed tougher back then.

That’s not it. It’s that back then we regarded football as a violent game and it was widely accepted that the men who played the game had a sinister side to them. There’s a classic NFL Films video of an old linebacker named Bill Saul. Jerry Kramer wrote about him being a zany character. Well, Saul was wired for sound in the video and he is repeatedly heard in the huddle to be targeting a particular Redskins player for injury. At one point in the video he says, “Hey, I think I got him,” and he had. The video was viewed by everybody as a comical reflection of the game; it had a kind of warmth to it. Pete Rozelle allowed such a characterization because the NFL was trying to become popular. It needed flavor and rough stuff always tends to satisfy taste buds. Then the game became too rough in the 1970s and things had to change, and they’ve been changing ever since. The days of targeting players for injury are over. This commissioner won’t allow it. He’s changing the culture of the game and that’ll be his legacy, whether it’s for the good of the game or not. We’ll see which it is.

Brian from Durand, IL

I was watching something the other day on the Packers and they were talking about the QB school. They showed Rodgers doing this drill where you had to rotate the ball between your legs, changing hands. It was amazing how fast he was. Can you expound on that?

Mike McCarthy is big on ball-control drills, as you would expect of a point guard in basketball. It makes sense. Quarterbacks are ball-handlers.

Joe from Trumbull, CT

I read an article in which John Madden was talking about quarterback safety and said there should be even more precautions and penalties for hitting them after a throw (he compared it to the penalties levied for running into the kicker). While I find this intriguing and agree with the safety aspect of it, would it soften the game too much?

Just allow the quarterback to spike the ball to avoid being hit. We’re heading in that direction so let’s just go there and get it over with. If he doesn’t want to get hurt, then spike it. If he doesn’t spike it, then all protections are off. There’s too much gray area in the rules that protect the quarterback; too much subjectivity. I genuinely believe that allowing the quarterback to spike the ball to avoid a sack would fix the problem. Instead of defenders getting sacks, they’d get spikes.

Joe from Minneapolis, MN

Why not just make the franchise tag available for the premier positions for which it was intended: QB, LT, CB, etc.? You can't use the tag on a kicker if there isn't one available for kickers.

That’s not a bad idea; it would help promote true free agency. Other than for a few first-week guys, free agency has evolved into something closer in scope to the old “Plan B” system of the years immediately preceding the salary cap era. I’m kind of surprised the players didn’t go after the tags in the last CBA.

Paul from Salem, WI

The timing of the $28 million owed to Manning seems peculiar to me. Why would a team give a roster bonus to a player at the end of the season and not at the beginning of the season when the final roster is set?

The date the roster bonus due is provided in the contract the team and player negotiated. Why would a player agree to a roster bonus deadline that would occur after teams have set their rosters? His value would be greatly diminished. Manning’s roster date is standard; it’s meant to launch him into free agency if the team doesn’t pay it.

Paul from Lakeside, MT

Vic, I took a break from sports blogs after the loss to the Giants. I have worn khakis the last two days and started reading your blog again. It's good to be back.

Life goes on.

Edward from Canton, SD

If Raymond Berry could have worn the gloves today's NFL receivers are allowed to wear, how many drops would he have had for his career? My guess is single digits.

Berry dropped a pass?

Adrian from Rochester, NY

What happens if an RFA is tendered at the first-round level but the team interested in signing him doesn't have a first-round draft pick to offer?

You have to have a first-round pick that is your original pick or higher to be able to sign to an offer sheet a player that has been tendered at the first-round level. The same applies to selecting a player in the supplemental draft, because you’re going to forfeit that pick in the next year’s regular draft.

Don from Tomah, WI

Every day, “Can we please sign a free agent?” If you hurry up, there’s still time to help the Eagles celebrate their Super Bowl victory. Or you can help Snyder's Redskins enjoy all the Lombardi trophies their free agents have won them. Maybe if we sign one we can enjoy the same success these teams have enjoyed.

You’re being sarcastic, aren’t you?

Tom from Spokane, WA

With several pro days going on daily over the next few weeks, I was wondering how large is the average NFL team's scouting staff? Do the scouts specialize in scouting a particular position or are they regionalized?

Personnel departments are divided into pro scouting and college scouting. My guess is that most teams probably have 6-8 guys on the college side and a couple of guys on the pro side. Most of the college guys are “area scouts;” they’re responsible for scouting a particular area of the country: Southwest, Midwest, Northeast, Southeast, Far West.

Skip from Woodstock, VT

Why can't they just walk away like Jim Brown did? So many seem to need that one more year, and then one more year after that. Brett won it all and should have hung them up. Now Peyton is pushing his luck against another injury. Neither needs the money. It's like they’re addicted. Why, in your opinion, was Jim Brown different? Smarter? Less needy? You are around these guys. What say you?

First of all, Brown is a different kind of guy. He has a rogue personality and when Art Modell gave Brown the ultimatum of stop with the filming of “The Dirty Dozen” and report to training camp, Brown reacted by retiring. Nobody gives Brown an ultimatum. Had he marched to Modell’s orders, Brown’s persona would’ve suffered. Secondly, he was probably making more money filming “The Dirty Dozen” than he would have earned as a running back for the Browns. Everything about the game is different today. These guys make so much money that it’s tough to leave that much on the table. The Jets paid Brett Favre $12 million, and he had a bad arm. That’s insane, but that’s today’s game. Peyton Manning’s situation is really intriguing. By continuing to play, he’s accepting an inevitability that makes his decision very courageous, and I’m impressed by it. The levels directly above and below the fused level in his neck are going to go bad with time. That’s just the way it is with neck fusions, and he’s been told that. Playing football isn’t going to slow that process, and he’s a young man. The good news is that they’re doing multi-level artificial disk replacements in Germany, and I’d be willing to bet he’s very aware of that fact, too.

Zac from Eagle, ID

I keep hearing that Manning has to clear waivers. Do teams not pick him because they don't want his contract?

A player with four accrued seasons becomes an unrestricted free agent when he’s released by a team and is not subject to the waiver process. The exception to that rule is the period between the end of the trade deadline and the end of that season.

Franklin from Birch Run, MI

Does money that teams generate as individual franchises, such as parking, concessions and even the Packers stock sale go toward determining the salary cap?

The current CBA provides for an All Revenue (AR) model, which means the salary cap is determined by all of the revenue generated by the league’s 32 teams. Parking and concessions are included in that AR model, stock sale proceeds are not.

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