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Panthers' success built on No. 1 overall pick

Restructuring contracts involves major risk


Richard from Madera, CA

What is your favorite play from the Wing-T offense?

My favorite play was the wingback counters, which were executed by a full-spin fake and hand-off by the quarterback to the wingback, who took an inside hand-off as he ran directly into the face of the line's pursuit of the halfback. The play had to be executed with speed, precision and courage; there could be no hesitation. As my high school coach was fond of saying, "If we split it, it's Katie bar the door." The play couldn't be run against today's penetrate-and-disrupt defensive schemes.

Andrew from New York, NY

Vic, for this draft, do we focus on continuing to build a top-five defense or should this draft be about equipping Aaron Rodgers with the weapons he needs?

The early rounds of recent drafts have been heavy on defense. It's probably time to turn attention to offense, provided the order allows it.

Jonas from Tromso, Norway

I would very much like you to check out the Saints' and Broncos' salary caps. That sounds very interesting.

I promised I would examine the Broncos' cap. Here's what I found: They have the 24th most cap room for 2016. Von Miller is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. I would expect him to be franchised, and that would be extremely costly and would eat hard into that cap room. Brock Osweiler is also a UFA. The decision on him is huge and goes directly to the Broncos' immediate and long-term future. Peyton Manning – $21.5 million cap, $19 million cash, no acceleration – does he retire or do you release him to create room? DeMarcus Ware is an older player with an $11.7 million cap and $10 million cash. What do the Broncos do there? Do they restructure high-priced players such as Demaryius Thomas, Aqib Talib and Chris Harris to make room for Miller, Osweiler and Ware? It's a challenging cap. I wouldn't want to have to make those decisions.

Matt from Stockport, UK

Vic, love your work. There's a general consensus, which you seem supportive of, that the loss of Jordy Nelson was the fundamental cause of the offensive issues we saw this season. Does that not logically lead to an unreasonable expectation that just by returning next season Jordy will fix all the issues on his own? I think that is too much to expect.

I agree. Next year's team will be a new team with new challenges. If you focus on fixing what was wrong, you'll neglect what will be wrong. When you are steadfastly committed to drafting the best available player, you fix what will be wrong.

Corbin from Adams, MA

Being a 22-year-old football history fanatic, I have watched the replay of Super Bowl I multiple times. The game had such beauty in the line play, the simplicity in the announcing and the lack of penalties. My question is what is your favorite part of the game from each decade? I would like to watch old games looking for what you point out.

The '70s is defined by violence. I didn't like it, but it's how I remember it. The '80s gave us the emergence of the big-stats quarterbacks. The '90s is defined by running backs. I'll remember the first decade of this century as belonging to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, and their impact on rules changes. I'm seeing a return to defense in this decade.

Courtney from Butte, MT

This is tough to explain because I see both sides. I will leave it at this: Draft-and-develop means keep your own. So I view signing your own free agents as a technicality. It doesn't make your team better. Losing them makes your team worse. You sign other free agents to make your team better.

I don't agree that signing your own free agents doesn't make you better. You can't keep everybody, but by identifying the right players to retain, and by adding to them in the draft, a team gets better. Identifying talent is the key, and I think it's a lot easier to get your own players right than it is to get other teams' players right.

Kyle from Eden Prairie, MN

What does Tony think of the TE crop down at the Senior Bowl? Jerel Adams from South Carolina seems to have the athleticism Packers are looking for, but it didn't translate into production in college.

Tony said Adams is a great athlete whose production wasn't the equal of his talent. Was he the victim of a program that struggled this past year? Adams has the kind of talent that'll make a coach believe he can get more out of him. He'll jump up at the combine.

Chris from Minneapolis, MN

New Orleans is a perfect example why you cannot spend big in free agency. They sign Jairus Byrd and Brandon Browner to big contracts. Byrd gets injured year one, and Browner was one of the most penalized defensive players this year. Trading away Jimmy Graham benefits their salary cap the next three years. Does signing those big free agents end up benefitting the team? Most likely not.

Did trading make the Eagles and Rams better? What was the gain in exchanging LeSean McCoy for DeMarco Murray? You're trading an older, more affordable contract for a new, more expensive one. Mario Williams played well but what was his real impact on the Bills? Would the Bills do it again? I could go on and on. Steve Smith was a nice signing by the Ravens, but it didn't fix the problem at wide receiver long-term, and now the Ravens have to address it again. Jimmy Graham was expected to put the Seahawks over the top, but he didn't. When I look at the hits and misses in free agency, and in trading for players, I see far more misses than hits.

Joshua from Burns Harbor, IN

Am I the only one who thinks it's ridiculous the Packers are being called underachievers for only winning one Super Bowl so far in the Rodgers era? We would all love a Patriots-style dynasty but those types of runs are extremely rare. Why do you think people can't enjoy and appreciate the success they are having for what it is?

If a poll was taken, asking Patriots fans if they'd trade a Super Bowl title for a win over the Broncos last Sunday, my guess is the majority answer would be yes. Fans live in the present. We all want to eat and not get fat, but sometimes we have to diet to atone for our excess.

Jacob from Green Bay, WI

The number one problem with free agency comes down to this: If the player was good and the money was right, that player wouldn't be a free agent.

I think that's true in most cases. The challenge is finding the players that represent mistakes by their former teams. Those players are becoming more difficult to find. Teams are becoming much better at retaining the good ones.

Tom from Mount Horeb, WI

How many real playmakers on each side of the ball does it take to succeed in this league?

If you want to be a complete team, you need five: quarterback, running back, receiver, pass rusher, pass defender. Those are the playmaker positions.

Ginger from Superior, WI

Vic, how will the Packers ever get over the hump if they are relegated to selecting less than star talent in the draft based on successful seasons? Shouldn't Ted understand they need to tank a couple of years to have a chance at elite talent?

No team would ever tank to move up in the draft, and therein is the conundrum and the frustration. How do you get to where the talent is and still try your best to win? It's the true charm of the NFL. Cam Newton is a No. 1 overall pick. The Panthers' success this season is not the result of a sustained run of success.

Alan from Mount Auburn, IL

Vic, perhaps an overview of the salary cap rules is needed. Among other things, I do not understand how up-front payments affect future years' salary caps.

You restructure a player who's set to make $10 million in salary. You convert his salary, which is declared in full in the year it's paid, to signing bonus and add years to the contract. That allows his salary to be divided evenly over the remaining years of the contract, which creates room this year and moves amounts that are disproportionate to the player's worth onto future caps. Do it with too many of your players and you'll begin hearing the faint sound of a train whistle.

Josh from Wauconda, IL

We need to release players and look to free agency to be the championship team we know we can be. Why not Alshon Jeffery? He would help the receiving corps and take pressure off Jordy Nelson next year. So why not look to improve our team through free agency?

There's only one way to fully appreciate what I believe is the answer to your question, and that's to restructure everybody, sign everybody and blow the doors off your future caps. Go ahead, do it. Just win now, baby. It'll give you the best offseason of your life. Maybe you'll even win it all. Eventually, however, you'll step into your future, and it'll be a dark and cold place. There will be no big games. Sunday will be a day of hurt. Then you'll understand. I hope it never happens to this franchise.

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