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Draft-and-develop is about replacement


Steve from Carlton, MN

What is your opinion of pro vs. college versions of instant replay?

I'll start by saying this: I don't like the coach's challenge concept. I don't think coaches should bear any responsibility for officiating the game. I like the college concept of having a review official at the ready, but I think it's overused and the application of it is clumsy. Clean up the college way and use it. That's what I would say. Have a replay official at the ready and make replay review his sole responsibility. He would quickly become the most important official on the crew. That's how you use new technology and still maintain the human element.

Kirk from Sneads Ferry, NC

I know you have mentioned conditioning being a factor pertaining to big guys, but do you think we will see an overall rise in early-season injuries due to the lack of conditioning workouts? Not speaking about injuries from the GB side, but from the NFL as a whole.

Yes, I think we're going to see an increase in reported injuries because coaches are going to be very sensitive to every little strain and sprain. You don't wanna lose a player for an extended period of time due to a hamstring pull or calf strain. Not knowing what the player's level of conditioning is will, in my opinion, cause coaches to shut that player down until he is fully recovered.

Peter from Jasper, GA

Vic, love the column and read every chance I get. Please provide your thoughts towards Packers free agents over the next few days. A lot of people have been talking about Cullen Jenkins. Tell us your thoughts on who we'll push to keep and others we may be looking at.

Cullen Jenkins is gonna get a lot of money in free agency. I think we all know that and have accepted that. The Packers prepared for this day by drafting Jenkins' likely replacement, Mike Neal, a year ago. As I say, it's a game of replacement. You can't keep everybody. You have to be willing to let players go and prepared to replace them. That's the way it works in the salary cap system and it appears we are heading back toward a cap system. We don't know for sure who the Packers' free agents will be and we won't know that until a new CBA is in place, but we do know Jenkins will be an unrestricted free agent in any system. Should the CBA the owners approved on Thursday be ratified by the players, then the Packers' free agents would be who we think they are: Brandon Jackson, John Kuhn, James Jones, Daryn Colledge, Mason Crosby, etc. Out of their group of unrestricted free agents, I don't know who the Packers would target to keep and that's not information teams share. Just remember, this is a team with a draft-and-develop philosophy. It's not afraid to let guys go and have to replace them because Ted Thompson is vigilant about preparing for that occurrence. Keep your core players; that's what's most important. The players outside the core, you have to be willing and ready to replace.

Chuck from Janesville, WI

So I was overjoyed when the Packers won the Super Bowl, but I seem to think that what this team accomplished this year has been overlooked by the whole league because of this lockout mess. Do you agree?

No, I don't agree at all. I don't know what the root of this paranoia is, but I can't think of a franchise in sports that gets more national respect and love than the Packers do.

Adam from Dorchester, IA

Who do you see the Packers going after in free agency?

Again, that's not information teams share and, frankly, I haven't seen any kind of credible report connecting the Packers to a potential free-agent target. The only thing I might add is that it wouldn't surprise me if the Packers have interest in a run-stuffing defensive lineman, which is essentially what all 3-4 linemen are. Run-stuffers are affordable and I think the way the Steelers ran the ball in the Super Bowl is a little bit of a red flag.

Roy from Jacksonville Beach, FL

One of the things that stood out to me in the proposed CBA is the proposal of teams being able to borrow cap money from next year. I think that only allows teams to further mismanage the salary cap. Is there any real benefit of being able to borrow cap money?

Teams have always been able to do that. All they had to do was convert salary into signing bonus, which spread what was in one year out over several years. There's nothing wrong with doing that to help level out your caps, but if you do too much of it, and we've seen teams that have done that, you're going to mortgage your future and plunge yourself into a massive rebuilding project. Sound familiar? When do you convert salary to signing bonus in a restructure? When you have a whole bunch of contracts coming online at the same time. It happens. Some drafts produce more players on your roster than others and those players can all come up for new contracts at the same time, and that can cause a logjam in a couple of cap years. That's when you need to buy some room.

Dale from Raytown, MO

I love your column and read it faithfully. You have mentioned that high-revenue teams pass on their player costs to low-revenue teams. How exactly does that happen?

The cap is determined by revenue. The league's total revenue is divided by 32 and that's each team's cap number. The more revenue generated, the higher the cap number. When new stadiums in Dallas and New York were opened, up went revenue and that means the cap number will increase sharply, too, and that means the Cowboys, Giants and Jets will have passed on their player costs to every other team in the league by driving up their cap number. Revenue-sharing is the NFL's formula for dealing with that problem. Teams at the bottom of the revenue rankings will get a cut of revenue from the teams at the top of the revenue rankings. How much that cut is will depend on criterion the low-revenue teams must meet. Ticket sales has been the main criteria in the past. Revenue-sharing, however, returns a fraction of what teams were forced to spend.

Mike from Rockford, IL

What is the general feeling about this season? Are the Packers still the best in the NFL?

When the new season begins, there is no best, only the pursuit of being the best. It's time to put last year away. When training camp begins, the next season has begun and the Packers don't dare allow themselves to think they are "still the best in the NFL." Their fans can think that way, but Mike McCarthy won't allow his team to think that way. He will build a wall between his team and last season. There is no carryover. This is a new team in a new season that will present all new challenges and problems.

William from Jacksonville, FL

What teams do you think will show the right kind of discipline in the coming free-agent free-for-all? Which teams do you think will swing for the fences?

The reckless teams will swing for the fences. We know they are; they never seem to change. The smart teams will be patient. They'll resist temptation. They'll have a target or two, but they will have put a value on those targets and they will not pay more than the value they've assigned to those players. We know who those teams are. They're the smart ones. They're the ones that are seemingly always in the playoffs. They don't shoot up or down; they're steady-as-it-goes teams. Their fans will complain because those teams' discipline isn't much fun, but their fans won't complain in January when those teams are back in the postseason and their futures appear to be in good shape because those teams didn't spend $30 million on that risky UFA that took the money and ran.

Phil from Albuquerque, NM

What are your favorite weather conditions to cover/watch a game in? Why?

I like late-season, cold-weather football, with the playoffs on the line and the contenders having long since been sorted out from the pretenders. I like listening to the fans in New England sing, "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow." I like the Steelers' black jerseys on a field of white. I like a snow squall sweeping off Lake Erie and into Cleveland Browns Stadium. I like Lambeau Field's frozen breath, as though Packers fans were breathing in unison. I hate domes.

Gavin from Carbondale, PA

Why doesn't Greg Jennings get the credit he deserves? I have him as the third-best receiver in the NFL. Who are your top five receivers in the league today?

He was 18th in the league in receptions last season. That's why. We're in a stats-crazy period in NFL history. Young fans, and media, too, live according to stats, especially when it involves wide receivers. Want an important stat? Yards per reception is an important stat. It provides an indication about a player's big-play potential and Jennings has one of the best YPR averages in the game. That, in my opinion, should shoot him up the rankings, but it doesn't. Why? Because receptions is the big stat in fantasy football. I like Jennings. I like dependable, big-play receivers and that's exactly what he is. My top two receivers would be Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson. After that, there are a lot of candidates; Jennings is one of them.

Larry from Missoula, MT

Why did the Raiders abstain from voting on the new CBA agreement?

They always do. Al Davis has always been a contrarian. It's the Raiders' way. It's their identity. They swim in different waters.

Paul from Waukesha, WI

Given the lack of OTAs, can you see most of the starters getting more playing time in the preseason games or doesn't it matter?

I don't see that happening. It's just not worth the risk of injury. It is what it is. The first month of the regular season will likely be played with something less than precision.

Luke from Jacksonville, FL

Regarding the new CBA, are any of its provisions any more or less favorable to small-market teams than the previous CBA?

According to the CBA that was approved by the owners on Thursday, the 20 percent reduction in costs in the "local team revenue" bucket is considerably more favorable to all teams, especially small-market teams that don't have the local revenue streams the big boys have. Ticket revenue represents 80 percent or more of a lot of small-market teams' local revenue. They don't have the big corporate sponsorship deals and local broadcast rights fees that the big-market teams have. Ticket revenue is also the most expensive local revenue to drive and service, so having to share 60 percent of it with the players under the previous agreement was especially harsh for small-market teams. That figure having been reduced to 40 percent is a huge benefit to small-market teams. The problem, however, is that the cap might hit $200 million per team in a few years, and that's going to be a very hard number for small-market teams to reach. If I was the owner of a small-market, low-revenue team, I would be very concerned about having to spend to the cap floor. I would be manic about driving local revenue.

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