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What if someone drafted Clowney as future?

Posted Feb 20, 2013

Why don't teams use the transition tag?

Dustin from Newark, DE

I live with an insufferable Eagles fan and he always argues that the Packers should have another stock sale so they can buy better players. I know stock sales go to stadium renovations and the like, but where exactly does all of the money come from to sign player contracts?

We’re in a total football revenue system and you could say players are paid with ticket-sales money and merchandise-sales money, etc., but through the years, the player’s cut has usually been equal to the money TV has paid the league. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember and one of my all-time favorite stories comes from a time in the 1970s when the league signed what was then a huge TV contract that was going to pay each team something like $15 million, a paltry sum in today’s NFL but a big number back then. The agreement was announced during training camp and I remember Steelers owner Art Rooney coming down to the field and the media people congratulating him on the league’s new contract, and I remember him chuckling and then taking the cigar out of his mouth and uttering these immortal words: “All we’re going to do is take the money from TV and then give it to the players.” How’s that for clairvoyance?

Nick from Houghton, MI

I’m sure you’ll get about a hundred variations of this question, but how does the Packers’ decision to release Woodson affect the salary cap situation?

The release of Charles Woodson produced a $10 million cap savings.

John from Somis, CA

So what is the Packers’ cap, or is that a dumb question?

It’s not a dumb question, but it must be understood that teams’ caps are fluid right now; they can change dramatically from day to day, especially at this point in the offseason. The Packers currently have $20 million in salary cap room. I can think of one new contract that would make a lot of that money disappear instantly.

Tim from Santa Clarita, CA

Do you think Kansas City would consider trading its pick, considering the absence of a franchise quarterback in this year’s draft?

My guess is that’s something they’d like to do. When a team is that high in the order, it usually has more than one need, although the Chiefs have a better roster than their position would indicate. They could be a quick-turnaround team. Should they trade back, however, they could acquire some picks ammunition that might allow them to trade for a quarterback without depleting their picks. The question is what player in this draft is worth coming up to No. 1 to pick?

Mario from Rome, Italy

Vic, I really enjoy having a good column to read on packers.com daily, especially to learn more about football. There’s something I don't understand about player substitutions during a game: Who calls the men who have to go out or in?

It’s prepackaged. It has to be or teams would expire the play clock. A coach on the sideline will yell, “12 personnel,” which means one back and two tight ends, and the people that fit that personnel package run onto the field. One of the things fans need to understand about play calling is that it must also be accompanied by a tightly executed coordination of the play call. The genius is always in the execution. Jack Del Rio would always end the first week of training camp with something he termed a “mock game.” It was played in the stadium and fans were invited to attend what was nothing more than a tag football game. At first I thought it was ridiculous, but what I came to see was that it was a dress rehearsal for sideline communication and conduct. Jack would even have the players line up for the national anthem. Mostly, the mock game was about coaches brushing up on their communication skills at getting play calls from the press box to the sideline and into the game, and at getting the right personnel packages onto and off the field. It’s not as easy as saying they should’ve run play-action. You have to get that call into the huddle along with the people you need to run it, and you have to do that with 70,000 people screaming and the play clock ticking.

Brian from Collingswood, NJ

What was the favorite game you had the chance to cover?

I remember special moments from special games, but often times little things stick with me for reasons I can’t explain. The “Immaculate Reception” game is certainly a favorite. I’ll never forget the savage brutality of the 1975 AFC title game and the sound of those snow shovels chipping at the ice along the sidelines. The Packers-Giants game in New York in 2011 is a favorite of mine. There’s also this one moment from one game in 1996 that I’ll never forget. It was a great game that went into overtime, but I’ve covered a lot of great games that have gone into overtime. I think this one was special to me because it was between the Jaguars and the Steelers, my new team and my old team, in Three Rivers Stadium, where I had covered games all of my adult life. What I remember is the drama of the overtime coin toss. By that time, I was down on the field and I remember the referee’s voice on the PA during the coin toss and instructing Jacksonville to call it in the air. The crowd, which had been howling, went deathly silent. Then I remember hearing Tony Boselli’s voice say, “Tails.” There was a seemingly long, pregnant pause before the referee said, “It is heads,” and then there was an explosion of sound from the seats and the lower-level seats began to bounce, as they always had in that stadium. It was just one of those moments that left a mark on me. It was one of those critical late-season games and in that bullring of a stadium that always seemed to make the rest of the world disappear. I remember looking around and absorbing the scene and thinking to myself, “I’m glad I do this.”

Nikki from Greenville, SC

Vic, I understand the NFL is a business, but you have players like Woodson who made a difference on the team and gave fans good memories of the game. To make players so expendable is harsh. It is as if we no longer need you so be gone. That is the part of the game that is not nice. These players put it all out there for the craft and fans. I guess I didn’t have a question. I have invested a lot of time and just wanted to express my thought. You have being doing this so long that you’re used to it, I guess.

Football is not nice. It’s the other side of us, the side we’re supposed to hide. I think we all need a place to not be nice.

Bob from Perth, Australia

I think what Luke meant about transition was that with Driver, Jennings and Woodson gone, the Packers are currently undergoing a veteran leadership transition. A new generation of veteran leaders is emerging, including Rodgers and Matthews. Who else would you describe as an emerging veteran leader?

I’m sorry, Bob, I’m just not into the veteran leadership thing. I think it’s a romantic notion fans enjoy, but the real truth of the matter is the coach is the ultimate leader. He’s the heartbeat of the team and his players merely echo his words. I’ve never had to ask a coach what he said to his team because whatever the players say is what the coach said. Just do your job. That’s all that should be expected from any player.

Ali from Illogan, Cornwall, UK

Vic, is the transition tag still in existence? I do not recall it being used since the start of the new CBA. If it has been done away with, how much do you think it was due to the poison pills between the Vikings and Seahawks?

You’re talking about the Steve Hutchinson situation, which is a rare example and I don’t like using exceptions to the rule to make a point. Yes, the transition tag is still in existence, but the bottom line on the transition tag is that in most cases it’s useless and teams stopped using it long ago. All you’re doing is letting a competitor negotiate a contract by which you’ll have to live, and vice versa. I covered the Jaguars when they wasted a lot of time and publicity on a contract for Alonzo Spellman the Bears matched. The same thing happened with Quentin Coryatt and the Colts. In both cases, the Jaguars were lucky the contracts were matched. All the Jaguars did was play agent for Spellman and Coryatt: Thank you for helping me get my money without having to move. Both teams lost; Spellman and Coryatt were the only winners. It’s better to make decisions on players and move on.

Chris from Coquitlam, BC

When a team is filling up its cap space, do they have to leave room to account for all of the LTBEs they have given out?

Yes, they do. If an incentive is likely to be earned, it must count against the cap. There’s a way around that, of course; make it NLTBE. For example, if a player scored 10 touchdowns last season and his contract includes an incentive for scoring nine touchdowns this year, which means it’s likely to be earned, then change the contract to reflect 11 touchdowns as the incentive and that immediately qualifies it as NLTBE, which means it won’t count against the cap. If he scores 11, however, the incentive money he earns will go onto next year’s cap. It’s a way of making room by pushing money out, but the more you do that, the more you rob from your future to give to your present. It’s the exact opposite of my philosophy: Take care of the future and the future will take care of the present.

Paul from Madison, WI

Do they take measurements for other lifts at the combine, such as squats, deadlifts and power cleans?

No, only for the bench press. Hey, you don’t want to get these guys hurt; that won’t help convince them to participate in the future. All you want to know is what their current level of strength and conditioning is. The bench press is considered the best and safest weightlifting exercise to express strength and conditioning. Deadlifts are especially dangerous. The mere mention of the word makes the disks in my back hurt.

Thomas from Davie, FL

I think the Packers should focus mainly on DL, RB and OL early in the draft, depending on what is available. All three positions demand toughness and the Packers need a healthy dose of toughness added to the roster. Is it possible to address all three needs this year in the draft based on the talent you see so far?

Yes, I think it is, but they would probably have to fit themselves to the pick to stay true to their board, and that means having to find trade partners. It can be done.

Hayden from Palmerston North, New Zealand

Vic, I know you talk of having “The Man” at quarterback, and I completely understand what you mean, but is there a position that you believe a franchise needs to have as a deputy to “The Man” for that franchise to be successful?

If you have “The Man,” you better have a left tackle to protect him.

Brian from Vancouver, WA

In my opinion, Jadeveon Clowney would be the best player in this year’s draft if eligible. Could the Packers draft Clowney this year and retain his rights for next year?

No, the days of drafting futures has long since passed. Teams may pick only from the ranks of eligible draft prospects. My guess is the commissioner would fine a team if it did something stupid like that, and the team would probably lose that pick by having spent it on a player who’s not eligible. What a disaster that would be. I’ve never seen it happen.

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