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I'm looking for low-risk, high-reward free agents

Addition by subtraction doesn't win friends


Todd from Spokane, WA

Vic, any chance the Rams go back to their classic colors, now that they're back in L.A.?

I would.

Caleb from Eau Claire, WI

Vic, is there a particular combine drill or test that really moves the needle for you when assessing a big guy's potential?

The bench press is telling of a prospect's strength, and the results can be interpreted in different ways. If a dominant player doesn't do well in the bench press, I would interpret that to mean he has room to grow into an even more dominant player.

Jason from Valparaiso, IN

What is the best part of covering the Packers?

It's covering the big games, such as the overtime playoff game in Arizona. You remember those kinds of games forever. The Packers have played big game after big game in the past five seasons. They've given me an opportunity to write about dramatic events. I needed that.

Stephen from Roswell, GA

So, your answer to my question about comp picks sort of felt like because that's the way it is. So allow me to rephrase: What is the rationale behind comp picks? Why do they exist?

The owners want to encourage teams to commit to the development of young players. Compensation achieves that. Owing draft-pick compensation for signing a free agent is too harsh; it would discourage teams from signing free agents, as it did prior to the creation of unrestricted free agency. Walter Payton, for example, was a free agent at the peak of his career and in the run-the-ball era, and he never got a sniff. Why? Because the compensation the signing team would've had to pay would've been too harsh. In the current system, signing an unrestricted free agent won't require the signing team to compensate the player's original team, but the original team is compensated by the league for losing the player. It's a way of promoting draft-and-develop, which is the lifeblood of the league.

Steve from Ely, MN

Vic, give me your Faulkner, Steinbeck and Hemingway synopses of our great Packers franchise.

Faulkner: The ball was thrown across the field, where the veteran receiver caught it and began his trek toward the end zone by running up the sideline, and then he cut to his right, and then to his left, and then to his right again, he and the ball coming to rest in the shadow of the goal line, and the end of a season-long journey for the valiant visitors, who returned home with heads held high and committed to better days ahead. Steinbeck: When the ball touched Richard Rodgers' hands, it was all over. Hemingway: The mighty coach bellowed from along his frozen sideline, and history smiled. Then run it and let's get the hell out of here, he said. They did!

Anthony from Rockford, IL

Vic, a recent study suggests when people read from an electronic device compared to when they read from paper/books, their brains process the information differently. Reading from paper was stored into long-term memory more effectively, and reading on an electronic device caused participants' eyes to dart around much more frequently. Any thoughts on this?

There's something about touching the fabric on which the word is written that allows the word to touch you.

Kyle from Toronto, Ontario

It seems like Jacksonville has a young, dynamic offense and a significant amount of cap space to pay them a few years down the road, yet, every article I read says they need to make a splash in free agency. Why is there so much free agency hype when the Jaguars could build through the draft? Is it the time of year or are most NFL reporters just short-sighted?

It's because the Jaguars have $32 million in cap room and they're going to have to spend a lot of that money just to get to the cap floor. Having that much cap room is not a good thing. It can cause overspending, and that could include re-upping your own players too far into the future, and then facing an avalanche of dead money a few years down the road. I prefer flat caps.

Steve from Jacksonville, FL

Whose was the first jersey you ever owned, and if you had to wear a jersey tomorrow, whose would it be and why?

When I was a kid, I stenciled the number 22 on the sleeves of a yellow sweatshirt. It was my Bobby Layne jersey. I loved the way his nose bled. It's the only jersey I've ever owned. If I owned a jersey today, it would be Bobby Layne's. I'd like to be young again.

Corey from Whitehall, PA

Mike McCarthy said we might surprise a lot of people in free agency. He's known to follow through with his bold statements, so what kind of surprise can we expect? I'm thinking multiple low-risk, high-reward pickups similar to Peppers.

I'm all for it. I'll let you know when I find one.

Christopher from Columbia, MO

Everyone says this draft is historically deep on the defensive line. Could you go over the differences between a three- and five-technique linemen again, and what is expected of each?

I want to make this simple: A three-technique defensive tackle lines up in the gap between the guard and tackle and attempts to penetrate into the backfield and disrupt the play. A five-technique defensive end lines up on the tackle's outside shoulder and, in most cases, attempts to rush the passer. Go to the comments section for the long version of this answer.

Sean-Luc from Oceanside, CA

Do teams prioritize free agents within their division? I would think free agents within a team's division would make the transition more easily.

When Tom Coughlin was the coach of the expansion Jaguars, he targeted teams within the division. He signed Leon Searcy, Deon Figures and Carnell Lake from the Steelers, Keenan McCardell from the Browns, and Gary Walker and Eddie Robinson from the Oilers. Coughlin's philosophy was addition by subtraction. It makes sense, but you aren't making any friends within the division. Maybe that's why Jeff Fisher liked to take shots at the Jaguars.

Emmett from Monahans, TX

Vic, I saw a four-round mock draft and it had the Packers drafting your guy, DT Javon Hargrave, with the team's first comp pick. After seeing him at the combine, I would be very surprised if he is still there at that pick. Would you agree?

I'm not sure I agree. This is a very deep crop of defensive tackles. Hargrave doesn't have a prototypical big-guy body. He's short and is said to have short arms and small hands. His level of competition will hurt him, too. When you consider all of that, he's a mid-rounder. When you put on the tape, you see first round.

Josh from Saint Cloud, MN

Vic, who's a quarterback from a bygone era you think would thrive in today's pass-happy game?

Jim Hart would be a star.

Merriman from San Diego, CA

Here's the Patriots' real list for you: Rodney Harrison, Junior Seau, Brian Waters, Andre Carter, Adalius Thomas, Aqib Talib, Darrelle Revis, Corey Dillon, Wes Welker, Mike Vrabel. All except Welker and Vrabel were playing at a high level before coming to New England. Here's the Packers' list: Charles Woodson, Jeff Saturday, Julius Peppers, Ryan Pickett. You need to draft and develop and get 1-2 studs in free agency. Can't fill all the holes with only the draft.

Welker, Dillon and Talib were acquired in trades.

Brendan from Topeka, KS

ESPN reports Martellus Bennett is looking for a trade. Would it be smart for the Packers to entertain the idea of trading for him, or would you prefer to get a TE from the draft?

He's a heckuva player, but I'm cowardly when it comes to trading within the division. I'd hate to trade a pick the Bears might use to select the next Walter Payton. Imagine what it would be like living with that embarrassment year after year, game after game. No thanks.

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