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You be the cap man; what's his cap number?

Posted Feb 18, 2013

Charles Woodson is gone, but the memories remain

Alicia from Ishpeming, MI

Do you think the Packers should look for a wide receiver in the draft or do you think they have enough talent at that position?

When you lose two players at any one position, you need to be sensitive to acquiring new talent at that position. I expect the Packers to draft a wide receiver, not only because they have need at that position, but mostly because the prospects at wide receiver are always many and you can find those guys late in the draft and often in undrafted free agency, too. They’re good special teams players and they increase your team speed. It’s always a good idea to add wide receiver talent.

Steve from Hyde Park, OH

You’ve frequently used the phrase “the salary cap is a means for rich teams to transfer player costs onto ‘poor’ teams.” What exactly do you mean by that?

The cap number is determined by revenue. When a high-revenue franchise drives additional revenue in a creative way small-market or low-revenue franchises can’t, the high-revenue franchise is transferring player costs onto all of the teams in the league because that added revenue is driving the cap higher for everybody. The problem for the small-market and/or low-revenue franchises is that they share in the burden of that revenue, but not much in the profit from that revenue. That’s what I don’t like about the cap system. Anybody who thinks the cap system levels the playing field is wrong. It’s also why we need revenue sharing, but the revenue sharing system in place atones for only a fraction of that money high-revenue teams pass onto low-revenue teams.

Adam from Oshkosh, WI

In one offseason, my favorite offensive player has retired and my favorite defensive player is released. Time to find my new favorites, I guess, but I’ll still wear Donald’s and Chuck’s jerseys with pride.

That’s the right attitude. It’s a game of replacement, but we never replace our memories, we only add to them.

Jamie from Rhinelander, WI

Vic, I’ve been a Packers fan all my life, 30 years. With them cutting Woodson, I’m done being a Packers fan. Never again will I root for them.

That’s the wrong attitude. You’re blaming the Packers for doing what is best for the team.

Bowe from Coarsegold, CA

Vic, I am really struggling to see what part of a player’s contract counts toward a team’s cap each year. Will you please elaborate?

A lot of monies can count toward a player’s cap number. Let’s start with salary. Then there’s the prorated portion of a player’s signing bonus. If he signed a four-year contract with a $4 million signing bonus, then $1 million of that signing bonus counts toward the salary cap in each year of that contract. If he received a $2 million roster bonus in any year, all of that money counts toward that year’s salary cap. If he has LTBE (likely to be earned) incentives, they count in the current year’s cap. If he has NLTBE (not likely to be earned) incentives, they don’t count in the current year’s cap but will count in the following year’s cap should those incentives be earned. We need to do a cap primer. I’ll get to it after I get back from the combine. Here’s an easy one you can work on: A player with a salary of $1.25 million received a roster bonus of $2 million, has $500,000 in LTBEs and $1 million in signing bonus proration. What’s his cap number?

Brandon from Milwaukee, WI

Driver’s retirement was heartwarming. Now back to the heartless business side of the NFL.

Congratulations! You get it. It’s a tough game for tough fans, but our hearts never harden.

Don from McFarland, WI

Soft cap vs. hard cap? Please explain the difference. Who does the snow blowing while you are in Indy?

First of all, nobody touches my snow blower but me. Should there be a storm while I’m gone, they are to stay in the house and wait for my return. As for soft cap vs. hard cap, a hard cap requires that all money paid in the year stays in the year, whereas a soft cap allows money to be pushed out into future years. In the beginning, the players were willing to agree to a hard cap system, but the owners rejected it, mostly because the Cowboys and 49ers were the league’s premier teams at the time and they couldn’t have endured such a system. It would’ve collapsed both teams immediately. As it turned out, it collapsed them anyhow, but the soft cap delayed the inevitable. The Cowboys and 49ers caps were so overburdened in the beginning that the league actually allowed for an uncapped “window” to sign players. It was an exclusion created almost solely for the Cowboys and 49ers.

Taylor from Amarillo, TX

I guess Woodson was one of those tough salary cap decisions you alluded to.

It was easy to see it coming and I wanted to start preparing fans for it. When a player’s contract is structured so that it spikes in salary – remember, salary is declared in full in the year it’s paid – in any one year, that’s the equivalent of a line in the sand. When that happens, both sides are agreeing that it’s decision time. They are agreeing that the year in which the player’s contract spikes in salary is the end of the line, and either a new contract has to be negotiated or the player will be released. If you learn how to read the cap, you won’t get caught off guard by personnel decisions.

Dan from Saint Joseph, MI

I just heard today on ESPN that Chip Kelly wants to spend 80 percent of the Eagles money on defense and go with less expensive offensive players with the idea of holding opponents under 20 points and being able to get 21 with his offense. This seems to run counter to your comments earlier this week and I’m interested in your opinion of Kelly’s approach and chance of success?

I’m delighted to hear that. I like boldness. I like creativity. The NFL needs more of it. I’m skeptical of his chance of success with something that radical, but I hope I’m wrong because that’s exactly the drum I was banging nearly 20 years ago when I said the team that would take the lead in the salary cap era would be the team that would find a way to devalue the quarterback position. The quarterback is eating up too much of the cap. If Kelly can devalue that position, which it sounds as though he’ll attempt to do, then he’ll have a whole lot of cap room to spend on other positions.

Bridget from Chicago, IL

Your comment about players going to prep school and coming into the draft sooner, I’m not familiar with that. What are the rules?

A player must be three years removed from high school graduation to be eligible for the draft. Everyone just assumed it meant the player had to spend three years in college before he could seek eligibility for the NFL draft, but Larry Fitzgerald challenged that thinking when he sought eligibility after two seasons at Pitt, on the basis that he was three years removed from his high school graduation; he spent a year at Valley Forge Military School between high school graduation and Pitt. Fitzgerald was granted eligibility by the NFL and LeSean McCoy followed the same path to the NFL. That’s why I say that if the eligibility rule stays the way it is, it’s likely to make prep schools more attractive to top prospects.

Kris from Las Vegas, NV

Why do we still have players on our cap list that no longer play for us?

Every team does. It’s called “dead money” and the Packers don’t have much of it, which says everything about the Packers’ successful cap structure and personnel management. Greg Jennings is scheduled to become a free agent, which means his contract will have expired, therefore, he will not be dead money on the Packers’ 2013 cap. A player who is released prior to the end of his contract, however, usually has some bonus proration remaining, and that proration has to pass through a team’s cap. Conservative cap managers protect their team’s cap by structuring the contract so that the salary of a player who might not play out his contract is higher than his proration late in the contract. A player with a $2 million salary and $1 million of remaining bonus proration is a $1 million cap savings when he’s released.

Jesus from El Paso, TX

I don't know the details of the cap, but I know it limits the amount of money teams can pay players. Do I know pro football?

That’s a good starting point.

Mark from Chesapeake, VA

You say the 2000 Baltimore Ravens played in a past time, which I did not know. I didn’t know the rule change was that recent. So what does that say about players such as Montana, Marino and Rice? They accomplished so much on the offensive side of the ball in a defensive friendly league.

I didn’t say the rule change was recent. I said the major point of emphasis on it was. The chuck rule goes back to 1978. Montana, Marino and Rice are products of the chuck rule; they all benefited from it. It was in the late 1990s that enforcement of the chuck rule slackened and defenses started having their way again. The issue came front and center following a Patriots win over the Colts in the 2003 AFC title game. Bill Polian accused the Patriots of “mugging” the Colts’ receivers. Polian was an influential member of the competition committee and he spearheaded the major point of emphasis in enforcement of the chuck rule in 2004 that spawned a whole new generation of record-setting quarterbacks.

Mike from Moorpark, CA

Vic, is this year’s draft class a sign that NFL-ready pocket passers are starting to dry up?

I think it is, and I think the situation is going to worsen. If you have a pocket passer, protect him because he is a very valuable commodity. Coaches are paid to win, and college coaches have found they can win more games by plugging in a run-around quarterback than they can spending time developing a pro-style quarterback, only to have him leave for the NFL when he’s finally showing signs of development. I call it “drop back and run football,” and we’re going to see the colleges go harder for it as time goes on, because they’re losing their players to the NFL earlier all the time.

Kenny from Fairfield, CT

Vic, my favorite player on the Packers is gone. I think it was time and it definitely opens up cap space but it still hurts. I will miss seeing him make plays all over the field. He is the most versatile defender I have seen. What will you remember most about Charles Woodson?

I will always remember his White House lawn banter with President Obama. They were both sensational. Covering that event is one of the highlights of my career.

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