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Gladdys found the salary cap mistake


Brad from Waukesha, WI

Regarding Mason Crosby's kicking issues last season, by not at least bringing in someone to tryout, in my opinion, McCarthy set the stage for players to feel secure in their jobs as long as they try hard. What do you think?

For a team in the hunt for homefield advantage in the playoffs, the middle of the season isn't a good time to begin threatening your kicker's job security. I think the other players on the team understand and appreciate that. If you've lost faith in the guy, then get a new guy. If you still believe in him, and Mike McCarthy was steadfast in professing his belief in Crosby, then it's best to support him and express your faith in him, without babying him. I think McCarthy did that. Training camp is the place for the kind of competition you're describing.

Chris from Kenosha, WI

Vic, I am tired about all of this salary cap talk. Please move on.

I'm sorry, Chris, but I won't do that. This is the salary cap season and for those fans that want to participate in all of the NFL's seasons, I'm going to make sure they get the information they need and deserve for them to truly understand and appreciate this business. The salary cap is critical in making decisions that will affect each team for years into the future. You might even say the outcome of next season is being decided now. Most of all, I want fans to gain an understanding for why teams do what they do. Among fans such as yourself, which is to say fans that want to turn a deaf ear to the salary cap, and I understand why, I think there's a belief that the cap can be circumvented, that if a team really wants to sign a guy or keep a guy, they can do it. What I'm trying to show everyone is the ramifications of that approach. If you'll take the time to digest the fundamentals of the salary cap, you'll never regret it. It'll give you a baseline for a more fulfilling fan experience.

Chris from Eau Claire, WI

I feel like more than ever teams are cleaning house and this year has a loaded free-agent class. Is this because the new salary cap isn't growing as much as it used to?

The cap is staying flat but salaries are growing, and that's forcing teams to either be creative with their cap and restructure contracts that'll create room in the present and extend contracts into the future, or release or allow players to slide into free agency. That's why there are so many big-name players in free agency. Teams had to make tough calls on guys and that usually means parting with older players that have big contracts; that's how you get the most cap room the quickest, and that's why it's a young man's game. This free-agent class is loaded with players who will make interested teams answer this question: What does he have left in the tank?

Tim from Indianapolis, IN

Vic, have you ever been scared of a football player you covered?

One guy, Ernie Holmes. He was an engaging man with a big smile, but when he got that look in his eye, he sent chills up and down my back. When he shaved that arrow into the top of his head for Super Bowl IX, I thought he was the scariest looking man I had ever seen.

Scott from Livingston, NJ

Why didn't you talk about the salary cap as much last offseason?

It wasn't an issue. Most teams were still flush with cap room from the new CBA and the 2010 uncapped year. This year it's an issue because salaries have outpaced the cap, as they want to do. The cap is back to being a major player. It's going to shape what happens in the league this year.

Nick from Springfield, MO

You have to love the success of the "Ask Vic" column. You seem to bring out emotions in every follower. They seem to either love your work or hate you personally, but regardless of how they feel, they are still reading your column daily.

Hate doesn't bother me. It lets me know I'm alive.

Jerome from Midland, MI

Vic, why do you think GMs and teams take the win-now philosophy in free agency? I have yet to see it work.

It worked for some teams in the beginning; the Packers are one of those teams for whom it worked. That was then. The cap was new, teams didn't know how to lock up good players and a lot of those players made it into free agency. Those days are over. You can find a guy here and there, but the Reggie Whites don't make it into free agency now. The lack of mastery of free agency and the salary cap in the early years of their existence is symbolized by the use of the transition tag. Everybody was using it. What they found out was that it's a useless device. Nowadays, free agency is better described, in my opinion, as a trap for fools. There's nothing wrong with measured spending in free agency, but overuse is a killer. Wayne Weaver explained his team's overuse of free agency, which crushed his team's future, by saying the lure of the Super Bowl is a powerful intoxicant. The good teams stay sober.

Chris from Voorhout, Netherlands

Seems like someone has a full-time job just checking contracts the whole time and projecting the cap room. Who takes responsibility for the figures? Do the clubs calculate it and then the NFL checks and agrees, or does the NFL manage it centrally and inform the team?

Each team has a cap person that crunches the numbers and manages the team's cap. The league has an army of accountants that approve every contract, apply it to each team's cap and make sure every team is in cap compliance. Even with all of those number crunchers involved, mistakes still happen. I can remember from the early years of the cap that the Steelers discovered they had made a mistake on their cap; I think it was a whole year after they made it. They informed the league of their mistake – the league never caught it – and the league fined them $150,000 and took a third-round draft pick. The cap is critical to a team's success and the league is stern in its enforcement of it.

Ben from Westmoreland, NY

Is it possible the Packers add a wide receiver from the free-agent pool rather than drafting one? What's the better option?

It's possible, but the draft is almost always a better option for player acquisition.

David from Maineville, OH

I'm all for smaller and weaker players in order to avoid injuries, as you suggest. If the NFL were inclined to make this a reality, how could they do so?

You can tailor the rules of the game in many ways to achieve a desired result. The commissioner spoke a few years ago about eliminating three- and four-point stances. That would do it.

Gladdys from Rolling Meadows, IL

Your cap master story and test are terrific, but is there an error in problem two? The problem states, "This is the fourth year and the player and the team have agreed to a three-year contract extension that converts his $27 million in salaries in '13 and '14 to signing bonus." Shouldn't that be $25 million in salaries ($12 million $13 million)?

Congratulations, Gladdys, you found the error. I always put an error into my cap tests, just to see who's paying attention (LOL). I've fixed the mistake and, with an apology, I'm going to delay the release of the answers until Monday's "Ask Vic," so everybody has a chance to rework their answer according to the correct information. Thanks.

Joe from Franklin, WI

I understand entirely when a team gets charged on the cap for a player's bonus money, but when does the player actually receive that money?

Players usually receive their signing bonus money when they sign their contract. Payment can be deferred, but the amount is still spread evenly over the life of the contract. Once upon a time, teams could push even more signing bonus out into future years by deferring payment of portions of that signing bonus. For example, if $5 million of a $15 million signing bonus wasn't paid until the second year of a five-year contract, that $5 million was amortized over the last four years of the deal, which allowed for even more room in year one. That was one of the signature tricks of the truly desperate. The train eventually hit them. The league has since closed that loophole.

Scott from Cedar Rapids, IA

Can anyone enter or be eligible for the NFL draft? What does one have to do to enter it?

You don't have to do anything. Everybody is eligible to be drafted in one year of their life. My year of eligibility was 1973. I wasn't picked.

Mike from Kernersville, NC

It's the Midwest; grew up there; salt of the earth; farmland mentality; providence dictates the crop. Evil shouldn't be a thought, much less an act. The only thing we knew about the East was the Andy Griffith Show, which we watched every night. Big cities don't count.

The only thing I knew about the Midwest was that it started in Ohio. The worlds we lived in back then were much smaller. We stayed closer to home. My father would take us to Lake Erie for vacation. It felt like we were going to another world.

Conor from Milwaukee, WI

OK, Vic. First I will start with a word to describe you: Sardonic. Now, as a million better adjectives came to mind than winsome, I decided to go with enigmatic. Mostly because there are so many words that describe us, most people have to visit Lambeau before they really get it. Also, this word doesn't make you sound like a condescending jerk, which is actually important here in the Midwest. Here is a short list (of words) that are all better choices than winsome: fervent, congenital (we're fans from birth), erudite, motley, astute, etc. We can do this every day if you want, Vic, but eventually you should probably answer a question about Johnny Jolly. You didn't even show any effort. It appears as if you just flipped open your dictionary to the w's and picked three words. That was a backhanded compliment, and don't use where you are from as an excuse. Writers should know their audience; you're not covering the Steelers anymore. They should probably also know what words mean and the connotation of them. Whatever, this column has gone so far downhill that you are answering questions from Jaguars fans. I don't hate you; I just think you can do a better job.

OK, enigmatic it is.

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