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Let's play a free agency game; Tebow, too


Matt from Green Bay, WI

You mentioned that incentives are divided into likely to be earned and not likely to be earned. Let's say a team is tight against the cap and enough players satisfy their NLTBE incentives, could this put a team over the cap limit? If so, what kind of punishment does this bring the team?

When NLTBE incentives are met, they count against the next year's cap. If a team loads up on NLTBE incentives, which would be a way of moving money into the next year, it could run into a problem the following year. This would be an example of reckless cap management and responsible managers wouldn't do something like this. If it did happen, it could cause a team to re-structure contracts and push even more money deeper into the future, and now you're in the death spiral. What happens when it gets so bad that you've lost control of your cap and you can't get under? The league comes in and begins voiding contracts, in chronological reverse order, until you're under the cap. What happens if voiding contracts only makes the situation worse because the amortization accelerates into the current year and, ultimately, you can't get under the cap? Nobody knows because it's never happened. It's believed, however, that back in 2006 a certain team was in that exact situation, and got lucky when the league agreed to a new CBA that allowed more restructuring.

Jason from Austin, TX

When reading articles about what NFL teams are doing, most of the information is coming from an inside source from the team. I was wondering, why would someone from within the team leak information to the media?

You're the GM of a team and you have a player you'd like to trade. If you leak information – the reporter agrees to protect your anonymity – that you might be willing to part with that player, you'll be able to gauge the interest in that player based on what teams call you to inquire about his availability. In other words, you're using the media to deliver a message. In this case, you're using the message to bait a hook. Coaches have long used the media to send messages to their players. A coach leaks to a reporter that a young player is pushing hard for playing time. All of a sudden, the older player the young player is pushing for playing time begins playing better. Have I allowed myself to be used? Absolutely. Why would I do that? Because it's understood that there's a trust factor involved. If you're going to use me to carry a message, then I'm going to want something in return. It's also understood that the message I'm carrying is the truth. That trust must not be broken. It's how the business works.

Brian from Winterset, IA

Why don't the Packers scouts look at CFL All-Stars to fill roster voids?

They do. The pro personnel department of every team is responsible for the scouting of every player in professional football and for those that have gone through the draft and are on the "street."

Kody from Louisville, KY

I know you have said most receivers are a dime a dozen but that Calvin Johnson is one of the truly great receivers. Who are the others you consider to be special?

Larry Fitzgerald immediately comes to mind. I think Andre Johnson is really special and only needs a postseason platform to hammer home that point.

Matt from Indianapolis, IN

When a GM wants to move back in a draft, does he call other teams that are in the position he wants to move back to or does he have to wait for some clubs to call him and make an offer?

Teams call each other in the days leading up to the draft; a team is likely to call every team in the league the day before the draft, so to speak, just to touch base and have a friendly conversation that might cause that team, when it's on the clock, to say to itself, "Hey, so and so called and he might be willing to trade." Teams are very aggressive in trying to fit themselves to the picks they've targeted. They work the phones all week and all through the draft. All teams want to stay as close as possible to their value lines. Even the need-drafting teams want to stay close to their value lines because nobody wants to overpay for a guy. There are what I refer to as "companion teams." I'm talking about teams that often trade with each other to help each other fit themselves to their picks. They usually have friends in each other's personnel departments.

Sean from Grand Prairie, TX

I'm a little confused as to how the big-market teams are passing their player costs off to the small-market teams? I thought each team was responsible for its own player salaries?

When the new Giants and Cowboys stadiums opened, the increase in revenue they generated caused the salary cap to increase equally across the board. That's a burden the small-market teams were forced to share equally with every other team in the league, even though the small-market teams don't possess the same potential for generating that kind of revenue. In an abstract way, you could say the Giants and Cowboys got the money, the small-market teams got the bill. This is why we have revenue-sharing for small-market/low-revenue teams, but I don't see how it'll be able to keep pace with the revenue the big-market teams will continue to increase.

Cody from Windsor, Ontario

Hey, Vic, a lot of teams had some players restructure their contracts or released players with big cap hits. Why do you think the Packers didn't do this with some of their players to free up some cap space?

Because they don't want to steal from the future to pay for the present. If more of us thought that way, we wouldn't have so many people with credit card debt.

Nick from De Pere, WI

In a lot of your forums you have been saying the game is changing to a passing offense. I agree. However, what is your take on Arian Foster? I do believe the Texans offense would dwindle without him and he shows that the running game can still exist in today's league.

The Texans use Foster as a complement to their passing attack. They run delays and draws. They influence-block and run cutbacks, trying to get him out into space. They make defenses play run as they're playing pass, which is the opposite of the old days when offense tried to make defense play pass as it was playing run. Houston doesn't employ a power running game; it's a space, finesse running game. There's nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't help the passing game as much as the passing game helps the running game. The Ravens and 49ers pound the ball the old-fashioned way. They make you play run and that allows them to sell play-action and throw downfield. In my tortured and outdated way of thinking, if you're not running the ball with power, you're not running the ball. In my mind, the running game is all about imposing your will. It's about defeating your opponent's spirit.

Holger from Guayaquil, Ecuador

How should you grade a BAP draft team or GM? I think it has to be by the number of players drafted that become stars or at least starters on your team. How long do you wait to measure that?

You measure a BAP draft according to quality and depth. If it produces stars at the top and depth in the back, then that's as good as can be expected. Is that going to happen every year? No way. Some years will produce a star player and not much depth, or vice versa. It's the cumulative effect of years of drafting that is the true measure of a BAP drafter. BAP drafters build good rosters. They can look back over 5-6 years of drafting and see a haul of talent. In contrast, need drafting is judged yearly on its success or failure in selecting a player that addressed a need and upgraded that position.

Ryan from Whitewater, WI

Do you see the running back position phasing out of the NFL?

I don't. I see running backs becoming more important, but I see the face of the position changing. I think running backs are going to continue to look more like wide receivers and less like brahma bulls.

Howard from Homestead, FL

As a reader who followed you when you were covering the Jaguars, I expected that Green Bay fans would not fret over BAP, draft and develop, etc. Are you surprised by the level of anxiety in some of your questions?

All fans are the same. They wanna win and they wanna win now. This is our culture. The days of hiring a coach and announcing a rebuilding project, and then patiently watching as that coach assembles the pieces of what will become a championship football team are over. As I've said, the winningest coach in Super Bowl history began his career 1-13, 5-9, 6-8. Had he coached today, he wouldn't have made it to year three. The fan fever for free agency is the classic example of the wanna-win-and-wanna-win-now mentality.

Josh from Harrisburg, PA

Which team's name do you find the least fitting for a football team?

I guess it has to be the Saints, right? I mean, why would you want a bunch of saints playing on your team? Dolphins don't especially scare me, either. I think of Flipper smiling and nodding his head.

Ryan from Whitewater, WI

Conventional wisdom would tell you that signing experienced players in free agency would have a greater immediate impact on a football team than rookies. However, many expensive free agents turn into busts. Are newly signed free agents no longer motivated after earning their big paycheck? Or is their age a bigger factor?

Let's try to look at this logically. A team has spent the past several years observing and evaluating a player. The team has evaluated every one of his performances in practices and in games. They know everything about this guy: how he interacts with his teammates, how he conducts himself in the community, etc. Most of all, they know his body; they know where the bruises are. So, with all of that knowledge, they've decided they don't want him. Why would you want him?

Dirk from Minden, Germany

Since the first couple of days of free agency are over and most big names have signed somewhere, is it time for the Packers to get more involved with free agency or would you suggest waiting another couple of days for the price tags to get lower?

Once the first week of free agency is over, what remains of the free agency crop becomes a lot more affordable. If you see a guy you believe patches a need, give him a call, but I think you also need to ask yourself a question: Can I get this guy in the draft? If you can, then why not wait a little longer? Dirk, my opinion on free agency remains the same: If you see a guy you really like, and if you truly believe in his talents and believe his former team misevaluated him and that he can help your team, then go for him. There are plenty of examples of hits in free agency; it's just that they are far outnumbered by misses. So, are you feeling lucky?

Gary from Grass Lake, MI

How much cap room do the Packers have left now with the departure of Wells and Flynn?

They weren't on the Packers' 2012 cap, for the obvious reason that they didn't have contracts, therefore, there's no cap savings. Everything stays the same.

Jon from Anaheim, CA

Has there ever been a veteran starting quarterback that transitioned to a backup role, only to be promoted back to starter later in his career? Jeff Garcia comes to mind as a possible answer.

Earl Morrall immediately comes to mind. He replaced Unitas when Unitas was injured and Morrall became the NFL MVP. He faded back into a backup role and then resurfaced in Miami, where he replaced Griese when Griese got injured in the Dolphins' undefeated season in 1972. Jim Plunkett is another one. He lost his job in New England to Steve Grogan and then became a starter in Oakland late in his career and won two Super Bowls as the Raiders' quarterback. I imagine there are a lot of such examples.

Seth from Decorah, IA

What do you think about Tim Tebow's situation? Do you see him as a starting quarterback ever again?

For a team that likes him, it makes sense to trade for him because it appears you can get him for a late-round pick and a portion of his amortization will stay in Denver. But you have to like him and you have to know how you would use him. I think the possibility exists a team will trade for him to be their starter, and I also think the possibility exists a team will trade for him with a "Slash" role in mind. We'll see.

Randy from Trophy Club, TX

Vic, I think the game has left you behind. You remind me of my dad (87), who yearns for the old days of no free agency; the draft-and-develop mode was all we had. The game has changed, free agency is a fact of life. Embrace the new rules and use them to better your team. You don't have to overpay but if you don't improve your team via free agency, you're missing the boat. There's too many draft busts and underachievers to rely solely on the draft. Why not add a proven NFL performer as an upgrade vs. relying on an unproven rookie? All the Packers are is a good pass rush away from the Super Bowl again.

Send me the names of the free agents you would've signed. I'll write down the names, get their cap numbers and next season we'll take a look at them and see how you did. OK?

Mike from Danville, KY

Vic, can you ever not agree with any of the moves the Packers make or do you just have to tow the company line? It seems every move they make, it's in Ted we trust with you.

Gimme your names.

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