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What's better gauge, Senior Bowl or combine?

Posted Feb 28, 2013

The fans want to know about all of these salary-to-bonus conversions

Keith from Indianapolis, IN

In today’s pass-happy, soft-hitting NFL, and in response to needing team speed to stop the read option, why do defenses not field all-cornerback defensive backfields? Having five cornerbacks on the field in the nickel seems intriguing.

Cornerbacks are often bad tacklers. You need a couple of safeties back there who are dependable tacklers. What you’re looking for are a couple of safeties that have cornerback-like coverage ability.

Brian from Yorktown, VA

As an Army officer, I had a great brigade commander in Korea say “you can shoot your way out of bad planning, but you can’t plan your way out of bad shooting.”

Beautiful!

Angel from Selma, CA

Hey, Vic, what do you think about Christine Michael? He looks better than all of the backs in this draft.

I’d feel better if his name was Michael Christine.

John from Lemont, IL

You’re saying five years at $57 million is the going rate for a top NFL quarterback?

No, I’m saying Tom Brady was not a free agent. I repeat, Brady WAS NOT a free agent, therefore, the contract he restructured should not be compared to the one Joe Flacco is going to get. Flacco’s contract will set the standard for the going rate for a quarterback. Brady was under contract for two more years. The Patriots didn’t have to do anything, but they wanted to create cap room so they came to him with a proposal. Brady had two options: 1.) Receive $30 million in 34 weekly installments over the next two years. 2.) Receive a check for $30 million immediately and receive a $3 million thank you in 34 weekly installments over the next two years. The Patriots did not give him the option to tear up his contract and do a new deal at the going rate. The three years they tacked on were solely for the purpose of pushing more money out of 2013 and ’14, but everyone is focusing on the back three years of the contract and that’s nonsensical because the Brady contract will probably have to be re-done in 2015 to reflect where he is in his level of performance at that time.

Joe from Silverdale, WA

What are some of the things teams do to figure out what other teams’ draft boards are like?

It’s about what they do to try to get an idea who each team might pick in the first round. The personnel departments I’ve known have conducted mock drafts. Each person in the personnel department will be assigned two or three teams to study and try to find out who they might pick. That’s one of the reasons scouts and reporters have been friendly through the years. Scouts will call their reporter friends and ask them who they think the teams they cover might be focusing on drafting. Armed with that information, personnel departments conduct mock drafts, with the scouts picking for their assigned teams. The hope is these mock drafts will provide a preview of draft day and how the picks might fall.

Andrew from Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

So, are the Pats now facing cap hits of $14 million when Brady is 39 and $15 million when he is 40? And what are their options if he does not last to 2016?

If he becomes injured in ’15 or his skills have clearly declined, the Pats might do a conversion to roster bonus, bring potential dead money forward and get it over with as quickly as possible as they transition into a new era. If Brady is still a capable quarterback, they might do another salary-to-signing-bonus conversion, add years and structure the contract to soften the dead money hit they’d have to take when he’s done playing. The main concern right now is maximizing the Brady era by creating room so they can add players to the roster. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime quarterback; you don’t commit to rebuilding in that kind of quarterback’s final years. Look at what the Colts did with Peyton Manning. They pushed money out for as long as they could. They’d probably still be pushing it out if they hadn’t had the great fortune to have the next Peyton Manning fall to them.

Joe from Saint Paul, MN

When determining performance-based contract incentives, who determines if it is likely or not likely to be earned?

If a player scored nine touchdowns last season and he has an incentive in this year’s contract for 10 touchdowns, then it’s not likely to be earned. If he scored 10 last season, then it’s likely to be earned. If you want to make cap room this year by getting rid of that player’s LTBE incentive for 10 touchdowns, then restructure his contract to reflect 11 touchdowns. Warning: Players usually want a little something for the effort when they agree to restructure.

James from Rhinelander, WI

Which do you prefer, soccer or fantasy football?

A stomach virus isn’t an option?

Nick from Houghton, MI

At the risk of asking a dumb question, if a player is suspended for any number of games without pay, his salary for those games still counts against the cap, right?

The team receives a credit on its cap for the games the player was suspended without pay.

Bill from Pittsburgh, PA

Which hurts a potential draftee more, a bad showing at the NFL combine or at his school’s pro day? Some players skip the combine to just use their pro-day performances.

As long as you’ve performed well at one of the two, you’re OK. Stepfan Taylor, for example, can erase the stigma of his bad combine workout with a good pro-day workout. A bad pro day, however, would confirm his combine numbers. Guys that skip the combine better hit a home run at their pro day; they got one shot because they can’t be sure teams will request a personal workout.

Dan from Houston, TX

“Fundamentals over scheme. We do so much at the line of scrimmage; we rely on it too much. Whip his (butt). Stop worrying if he’s in a four-technique or a four-eye. Keep it simple.” Will the fans take Coach McCarthy’s word for it?

Madden has turned fans into players, but you can’t whip somebody’s butt in Madden, all you can do is outsmart him. That’s the problem. That’s why we’re losing an appreciation for the beauty of the doing.

Max from Evansville, IN

Vic, I am concerned about Bernard Pollard’s comments that the NFL won’t exist in another 30 years due to the current trend in rule changes, fines for good, hard hits and the like.

I’m not concerned. The NFL will exist and it’ll be bigger than ever, it just won’t be the same. We are going to see changes in the game as we have never seen before. I’m starting to wonder what’s more popular, the NFL or Madden. The game is clearly imitating the combine. In terms of the fans’ fascination for play-calling, is football beginning to also imitate Madden?

Tou from Eau Claire, WI

Please tell us some things about this Dwayne Gratz kid.

He caught my eye at the combine. Tony Pauline was telling me how much he liked this cornerback from UConn, a guy named Blidi Wilson, who projects as a high-round pick. A little later I said, “Yeah, that Wilson kid made a nice play there,” as he was wearing a UConn helmet. Tony said, “No, that’s the other kid from UConn, Gratz.” That’s when I began focusing on him and I liked what I saw. The book on Gratz (pictured) is that he has nice size and speed, but underperforms in games. In other words, he’s the kind of prospect made for the combine. Someone will pick that talent and coach it up.

Colm from Belfast, Northern Ireland

I feel I’m beginning to understand the cap better thanks to this column, but I’ve had a setback getting my head around this Brady deal. If converting salary to signing bonus frees up cap room, does that not make a mockery of the whole idea?

It can help a team in the present, but it’s a dangerous tactic that has sent a lot of teams into extended periods of irrelevance. Converting salary to signing bonus robs a team’s future for the sake of the present. A little bit of converting is OK, but drawing the line becomes difficult. When I covered the Jaguars, they converted so many contracts and pushed so much money out that they literally had to restructure every contract on the team and push as much money out as possible just to get under the cap.

Nick from Toronto, Ontario

I just read an article about the Cowboys and their potential restructuring of almost 10 contracts to save cap room by converting salary to bonuses. The NHL recently added restrictions to the max length of contracts to prevent teams from subverting the cap by doing the same. Do you see the NFL perhaps following suit?

They already have. You can’t push signing bonus money out more than five years. That’s why Brady’s extension only added three years.

Felipe from Edinburg, TX

Your thoughts on Stephan Taylor after his combine?

He looked great playing real football at the Senior Bowl, and bad in gym-class football at the combine. Which one do you want to believe is the truth?

Bennett from Marshalltown, IA

Gil Brandt said he thinks Jarvis Jones could slip down in the draft to the Packers because he didn’t go to the combine. If every team passes on Jones, is that a steal for the Packers?

Jones went to the combine. The issue with Jones is a neck injury. There’s concern for stenosis at the C5 level. Jones spoke to the media about it and said he felt fine, but the medicals on him will tell the tale.

Jake from Tucson, AZ

Is it possible for a team to avoid pressure on their cap by declaring all of a player’s payment to a signing bonus?

No, it is not. All players must be paid a minimum wage, which is determined by their level of experience. When teams convert salary to signing bonus, they convert everything down to the minimum wage level.

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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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