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Inbox: There's plenty to like

An already complicated puzzle becomes more complex

QB Aaron Rodgers

Matt from Waunakee, WI

So you're saying Matt from Waunakee could actually be Aaron from Chico?

I'm not betting on it.

Mike from St. Louis Park, MN

Mike, I always enjoy comparing your style to Hod's and vice versa. There are some nuances that are explicitly each of yours that I enjoy reading in II. On that note, do you, like Wes, play fantasy football? Why or why not?

I played fantasy football for a few years in the '90s but haven't since. It's been a long time and I don't miss it. I didn't like the way it was changing how I watched and enjoyed the game.

Dale from Prescott, WI

Mike, how do ya feel about the DH in National League this year and how will it affect guys like Braun and Yelich?

I doubt it'll affect Yelich much, but it could extend Braun's career.

Chuck from Gold Canyon, AZ

Kudos Spoff to your response to Tom. Providing we have a season, I would like to think that Gutey and Ball would like to close up negotiations with Clark. With all our draft picks except Deguara signed, what is our approximate cap space remaining and what is the current cap hit for Clark on his fifth-year deal?

The estimates I've seen indicate the Packers have roughly $11 million in cap space. Clark's fifth-year option is for $7.7 million. I don't think the current cap situation is an issue with extending Clark. The Packers could actually lower his cap number for this year, depending on the structure. But bigger picture, I think the challenge is structuring a deal that will still allow some cap flexibility for the other pending free agents next year at the same time the cap numbers on last year's free agents (the Smiths, Adrian Amos, Billy Turner) will be rising toward the back end of their deals. Throw on top of that the possibility of the cap decreasing in the coming years (or at least not increasing as much as usual), depending on how the owners and players negotiate accounting for this year's revenue drop, and an already complicated puzzle becomes even more complex.

Geoff from Omaha, NE

Is the Chris Jones contract good, bad, or irrelevant for Kenny Clark and the Packers?

It doesn't make it any easier for the Packers to re-sign Clark, which as noted above isn't easy anyway. But given where the market for elite defensive tackles sits, Jones' new deal seemed to fall in a reasonable spot. His APY is third at the position behind Aaron Donald and DeForest Buckner, and ahead of Fletcher Cox. It's big money, yes, but to be expected for a 26-year-old, franchise-tagged player.

Tim from Los Angeles, CA

Reading the response about the Browns' and Ravens' histories got me thinking about other teams that moved. Obviously, the Raiders and Rams have kept their history from city to city, but does anyone claim ownership to the Oilers? Do the Titans honor players like Earl Campbell and Warren Moon, or would the Texans take on their history?

The Houston Oilers/Tennessee Oilers/Tennessee Titans are considered one franchise in the history books. The Houston Texans were an expansion club that started from scratch.

Jacob from Mukwonago, WI

Do you think 10 years from now there would be a possibility of Washington Redskins throwback jerseys? Or will the logo and mascot just be shunned from the league?

The franchise isn't retiring the name and logo in order to celebrate it for posterity's sake later on. That would be missing the point. More like whiffing on it.

Michael from Alameda, CA

In reference to Matthias of San Antonio's Eddie Mathews question yesterday, Mathews is the answer to this MLB trivia question: "Who was the only major league player that played for the same franchise in three different cities?"

One year apiece in Boston and Atlanta sandwiching 13 years in Milwaukee. Pretty cool. Timing is everything.

Levi from St. Paul, MN

That feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when something bad is about to happen, well, I'm getting that feeling in reference to NFL football being played. But I don't know if it isn't for the best. When do we put money in front of people's lives? I know we must slowly and responsibly open the country, but are professional sports being played worth someone possibly losing their life? And I'm a sports nut. Is my train of thought wrong? Can it be done responsibly? What are your thoughts?

I've been wrestling with those questions since March. To include a submission from Julian from Gastonia, NC, it's also troubling to think about high-BMI individuals being among the highest risk for severity of COVID-19. Football players are in great cardiovascular shape, but that doesn't change the fact many are walking around carrying a lot more weight than your average man. There's also so little known about the long-term effects of contracting this virus, no matter how quickly or easily someone recovers from an initial infection. But football is inherently risky regardless, and the economics are an inescapable factor. There are no easy answers in my mind.

Hannes from Milwaukee, WI

With the typical NFL career being much shorter compared to other sports, I doubt opt-out is a good concept at all. Unless the player has a long-term contract with plenty of guarantees left on it, he would face a very tough decision about retaining his value versus long-term health risk. Doesn't that seem unfair to players on contract years or those who are on the roster bubble? Besides that, the NFL's product could take another substantial hit from a season without its biggest stars I assume.

Those also are all valid questions. The vast majority of players on NFL rosters are not in a financial or career position to opt out for a year and assume they have a spot in 2021. There will be pressure to play more so than in other sports. Competition in the NFL is unforgiving.

Chris from Rochester, NY

Your "All righty then" response to the first question of yesterday's Inbox got me thinking. If you could use .gif files to respond to II submissions, which one do you think would be your most-used?

Any and all involving Cosmo Kramer.

Robert from Salem, WI

Based on changes to the team relative to last year's team, what area or facet of the game do feel is most poised to exceed last year's team? And which faces the biggest challenge to meet last year's play?

This is an admittedly broad answer, but I think the potential progress of the entire offense in Year 2 of LaFleur's scheme is intriguing. The unit now has a three-headed backfield, promising youth at tight end, and potential for considerable growth at receiver (plus Devin Funchess in the mix), with Aaron Rodgers having greater command of the overall system. As long as the offensive line maintains its collective high level sans Bulaga, there's plenty to like. On the flip side, the performance of the pass rush will be the most difficult to repeat. The stats said five games of four or more sacks. The eye test said quarterbacks were constantly harassed. Both are high bars to match while simultaneously fixing the run defense.

Derek from Sheboygan, WI

Are the Packers going to start full training camp on July 28 as originally scheduled?

TBD. The owners and players still have a lot of negotiating to do.

Harold from Chippewa Falls, WI

I don't know a lot about football mechanics or NFL-level skills. What was it about Allen Lazard's game last year that allowed him to shine so brightly down that stretch? Rodgers, like all top-flight NFL quarterbacks, seems to get the most upset when receivers aren't assignment-sure. Maybe Allen Lazard was where Rodgers expected him to be?

That was certainly part of it. Rodgers' level of trust determines where the ball goes. But Lazard has another big step to take – establishing himself as a weekly threat and consistent producer. After his first career 100-yard game (at New York), he had four catches for 33 yards over the next two games combined. After coming up huge in Week 17 at Detroit, he got shut out in his first career playoff game. He doesn't have it all figured out, but that's not a knock on a young player with his career path. There's plenty more out there for him.

Jeff from Littlefork, MN

I've always viewed II as a "next man up" game. I never hold a juicy question for Spoff; in fact, I rarely ever pay attention to who will be responding when I post. An answer the other day included, "I agree with Wes's sentiment," but I feel like there are times I've seen disagreements between the II scribes. How often does that happen? Do you ever read the II and wish you would have gotten the question instead of your colleague?

Disagreements are allowed in the Inbox. Jealousy is not.

Margeaux from Tallahassee, FL

I wonder if the league would consider a six-game season consisting of home-and-home games with divisional foes. Travel would be greatly reduced while player urgency and fan interest would be very high. Divisional winners would play each other with those winners playing each other for the right to be the conference representative in the Super Bowl. Ties would have to be worked out, but it sure would be an interesting short season. Any thoughts?

It would be the most worthwhile shortened season you could have. That's why I posted the idea in yesterday's column when it was presented. It wouldn't work for every division, but in the NFC North all travel could be day of game. A tiebreaker mechanism would be needed, for sure. But again, the NFL's ambitions are to play the full slate. On another note, I missed the big coronation last week, so a belated congrats. Well-deserved.

Dale from New Holstein, WI

Humanity that is an II shirt that I would buy.

We're going to end up with a whole II clothing line soon.

Nate from Pueblo, CO

I think the idea of the RedHods is hilarious. Just replace the s with a z at the end. RedHodz.

Yes, that's it. Merchandise soon available in the nation's capital, and candy at the movie theater counter. Happy Wednesday.