Tod from Rapid City, SD
Vic, what effect will the spearing rule have on running backs? Are we going to see more Eric Dickerson type runners because they can't lower their pad height as much?
A lot of coaches are asking that question. For all of the years I've known football, coaches have instructed their running backs to initiate contact. They've told their backs to deliver the blow, not receive it. A back can only do that by dropping his pads. How many times in this column have you heard me refer to backs that play behind their pads? So how do you drop your pads on a defender without dropping your head, and what happens if the defender drops his head after you drop yours, causing his head to collide with yours? Who's the guilty party? Is it a matter of who lowers his head first? Again, I think we're asking too much of officials and I can't help but shake my head at this latest game-safety proposal, but this is the era of football we're in and it's not going to change any time soon. It's all about player safety and changing the culture of the game I have known and covered for nearly all of my life. I don't know how this is going to turn out, but I think I know what the early results will be next season if this rule proposal is adopted: more frustration.
Jeremy from Greenwood, IN
I found a list of the top 50 free agents of the 2010 and 2011 classes. I also noticed the eventual Super Bowl champion for each year did not sign any of them before that season. I haven't checked for this past year but I can't remember Baltimore making any big signings last year.
The Ravens were built through the draft. They've been outstanding in all facets of personnel management and they've blended all of the venues for acquiring talent. I think the Ravens are a good model for using free agency and trades to build a championship roster. For example, Anquan Boldin came in a trade. What the Ravens do best, however, is draft. They move in the order to fit themselves to the players they target, which they did most effectively to draft Joe Flacco.
Ben from Milwaukee, WI
Could you talk a little bit about the relationship between the scouts and the GM in regards to the team's board? The GM has the final say but is their board constructed completely on how a group of scouts grade different players? How do they account for differences between scouts?
A typical personnel department will have scouts for every area of the country. They are known as "area scouts" and they are the experts in their regions, especially when it comes to the out-of-the-way players that don't get as much attention in the scouting process. On the staff are cross-checkers. These are scouts who dig in on targeted players. The opinions of the area scout and the cross-checkers are combined with the GM's work on those players to form the team's opinion of that player as to where he fits on the team's board. Opinions will vary. The cross-checker might have a different opinion than the area scout does. The GM makes the final call.
Doug from Alma Center, WI
I understand Ted Thompson's philosophy on free agency and agree it has worked quite well over the past several years, but someone please tell me the down side of signing Elvis Dumervil.
The downside is you'll likely have to compete with other teams to sign him. That's not the case when you draft a player. To sign a free agent, you make a contract offer to his agent, who immediately calls other interested teams to use that offer to drive up their offers. As I've written, it's a nasty business. How do you know one of your competitors isn't expressing interest in a player solely for the purpose of driving up the cost on you? Isn't that what the Patriots are considering doing to the Steelers with Emmanuel Sanders? I've expressed my opinion over and over and I don't think I'll ever convince fans that free agency will hurt you more often than it'll help you. There seems to be a segment of the fan population that invites that kind of danger. They want the excitement of it and they're willing to see the team suffer a collapse for the small percentage of success free agency might bring to the team. I am not one of those people but I think we've hit a wall in this debate.
Dave from Oshkosh, WI
I think the weather in Green Bay may sometimes also play a part in free agency. If you were Steven Jackson and Green Bay and Atlanta gave you similar offers, where would you rather play? Lambeau history is for fans, dollar-hungry players I don't believe care much about traditions.
They care nothing about tradition. Trust me, the rich tradition of Packers football never entered the conversation between Jackson and his agent. Players want to achieve in free agency the greatest financial reward and security possible. It starts with that. For example, if it's between the Packers and a team from a state with no income tax, the Packers will be at a disadvantage. Then you get into things such as how the player will be featured. Lifestyle, which includes weather, is a down-the-line consideration.
Richard from Farmington Hills, MI
I don't understand why Thompson did not re-sign Crabtree. By all accounts, he is a core special teams player and an excellent blocker. Thompson emphasizes keeping his own players. Two years for $1.6 million seems like a pretty good value for such a proven player. Can you shed some light on this?
Obviously, it was a price higher than what the Packers decided they would pay. The thing I like most about Ted Thompson, and this goes for some other GMs in this league, is that he challenges himself to replace players. He doesn't scare easily. He makes value decisions and he won't be forced out of them. I have no doubt Thompson accepted the challenge to replace Tom Crabtree when Thompson decided not to tender Crabtree.
Travis from Dickinson, ND
The Patriots are short on draft picks this year. They used picks to acquire Aqib Talib, Albert Haynesworth and Chad Johnson, all players who were considered steals by pundits at the time and who Packers fans desperately wanted.
Now the Patriots are skittish about giving up one of their few remaining draft picks to sign Emmanuel Sanders, a player who would likely provide more impact than any of the other three. Sometimes you can be too aggressive. Patience is almost always a better strategy.
Lucas from Menasha, WI
How much do teams consider allowing free agents to sign with other teams knowing they will be less likely to draft the same position? For example, Atlanta will not be drafting Lacy because it has signed Jackson.
Bingo! All of a sudden, a player that might not have been available to you is available to you because a team with the same need you have filled its need in free agency. What if that player that has fallen to you becomes your feature back for the next five years? Patience is a virtue.
Daniel from Los Angeles, CA
Vic, I'm sure you'll have a bunch of panicking fans today, but couldn't you argue the Packers effectively got the Vikings to bid the price of Jennings up to a level that will handicap their cap space to improve the rest of their team? And the Packers will no doubt get a better compensatory draft pick in 2014 as a result. Not such a bad deal when you've got three proven, younger wideouts already on your roster.
What the Vikings did is known as "addition by subtraction." In other words, they got better by adding a player that was subtracted from the roster of a division foe. What happens if it turns into "subtraction by addition?"
James from Tomahawk, WI
Vic, what do you think about Johnathan Franklin and Mike Gillislee?
Franklin is a feature back prospect; Gillislee is a third-down back.
Vijay from Racine, WI
Are NFL teams required to spend all the money in the cap? Isn't that the way this thing works?
Teams are required to spend between a minimum and a maximum. The Packers will spend to within an emergency-fund amount of the cap. In other words, they'll use all of the room available to them this year. What they won't do is beginning spending future years' cap room on this year. The fans that support the aggressive use of free agency want the team to mortgage its future. I don't understand that thinking.
T.K. from West Bend, WI
Which is easier to achieve, building a great run-blocking offensive line or finding a great running back?
The difficult part of building a great run-blocking offensive line is finding players that can also pass block. In today's game, pass blocking is a priority. I think it's probably easier to find a great back than it is to build a great run-blocking line.
Chris from Middletown, CT
I realize the Percy Harvin deal was a trade, but I feel like it's effectively the same thing as a free-agent signing (ends vs. means).
It is in no way comparable to a free-agent signing because Harvin was a double hit for the Seahawks. He cost a lot of money and he cost a lot of draft picks, too.
Rod from Ironwood, MI
Just about every year we, the fans, suffer the loss of a fan favorite like Greg Jennings. We know little of what they actually go through during the time a rumor starts to when they announce they're gone. Can you use an example of a player's emotions and what is most important to them? I don't really like any bad mouthing because we simply don't understand that side of the game.
Jennings knew what he had to do, and I'm sure it caused him a degree of anxiety when he understood that his career with the Packers was ending. By the time free agency began, he had already moved on emotionally. Today's players understand movement is part of the business.
Gary from Washington, DC
Cap schmap. Why should we care? Players play and managers manage and the teams don't matter. Proof? Fantasy football leagues. Might as well number them 1-32, play all the games in Los Angeles with white or black uniforms and every year choose sides like we used to do on the playground. The players would play and the managers would manage and the fans would be asking why should we care? Well, it gives you a job, for one. Bring back the '60s.
You've hit the wall, Gary, and I understand your frustration. I liked it better the old way, too, but life requires that we accept change.
Mark from Milwaukee, WI
After more than 26,000 votes, Packers fans are split 50/50 on whether to spend big in free agency.
How can you win? Either way, 50 percent of the people are going to hate me.