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The basics you need to know about the salary cap

Prediction: Jameis Winston will go No. 1


B.T. from Ripon, WI

Vic, when Tony Pauline says someone has to "work on their game," what does he mean?

He means they have to improve their technique.

Rich from Granger, UT

Thanks for the write up on McCarthy. We needed that, or at least I needed it. It was good to hear Mike have a positive attitude about last year's team and this year's team and a desire to get all the free agents re-signed, including Guion. What kind of success do you expect the Packers to have getting their free agents back?

They were very good at it last year. It matters to them. They want to keep their guys because they believe development in the Packers way is the best way to shape a roster. They like their own players better than other teams' players. It's not just a philosophy for shaping a roster, it's a philosophy for creating a bond between team and player.

Don from Green Bay, WI

Vic, you say fans "want to believe their team is only a player away." Is it realistic to believe the Packers are, in fact, only one player away?

It's a dangerous mindset for a team to have because it can cause a team to chase that player unnecessarily. It can cause a team to overspend in free agency. It can cause a team to waste draft picks by picking the same guy several times. I've seen it happen.

Michael from Wauwatosa, WI

Vic, how does a coaching staff evaluate if an inside linebacker can play outside or an outside linebacker can play inside?

Inside linebackers need to be able to hold their ground against big blockers; outside linebackers need to be able to play in space.

Susan from Saratoga, CA

Vic, what does Mike mean when he says Scott (Tolzien) is "an ascending" player? Will he be back?

He means Tolzien's game is improving. I like to say an ascending player's arrow is pointing up. Tolzien has upside and Coach McCarthy spoke yesterday, during his meeting with Packers beat reporters, about wanting to re-sign Tolzien. Coach McCarthy has put a lot of personal work into Tolzien's development. Coach McCarthy believes in Tolzien and doesn't want to lose him.

Brad from Granger, IA

Vic, in my opinion, the switch was flipped the moment Morgan Burnett took a knee at the direction of Julius Peppers. They essentially said we have this game won and we don't have to try any longer. Why else would you take a knee? By the time the Packers realized they were wrong, the Seahawks had life and the Packers couldn't turn the switch back on. Regrettably, the switch was flipped by two playoff captains that made a monumental mental error.

It was a turning point.

Ty from Whitefish, MT

Vic, even though the season is officially over, it has to be hard to be at the combine and not be excited about football next season. What's the mood like at the combine? Does the excitement of the young up and comers rub off on you as well?

The mood is that a new season is upon us and we need to acquaint ourselves with the next wave of players. You can feel change in the air. I've always felt the combine demands a new commitment.

Ray from Clark, NJ

Vic, do you think Coach McCarthy's decision to relinquish play calling was completely his own? Ted Thompson said "most of that was his own thinking. We had conversations." What did he mean?

Giving up the play-calling duties was absolutely 100 percent Coach McCarthy's decision. Thinking otherwise is ridiculous. I have no doubt Coach McCarthy went to Thompson to discuss the idea.

C.J. from Edinboro, PA

Vic, how much do you enjoy covering the combine?

I've always enjoyed it because it feels like a big reunion of people I've known for a long time. There's no place I can go without seeing someone I know. At this point in my career, I can't help but ask myself if I might be seeing this person for the last time, so I spend a little more time, reminisce a little more, treasure every second of the reunion.

David from Athens, AL

Vic, where do you see Jameis Winston going in the draft? How big of a risk do you think his off-field antics are?

I think his off-field problems are a huge concern, but I also think he'll be drafted No. 1 overall because raw talent at the quarterback position usually wins. Winston will meet with the media today. It's the media event of the combine.

Nathan from Dubuque, IA

"Fans always want to believe their team is one player away." I agree with you, Vic, but I think we were there, not a player away. We had it and let it slip away. We just need to keep doing what we're doing, let guys go we can't afford, keep the cap healthy, keep plugging in new talent and year after year we will be in the playoffs with an opportunity to win it all.

I completely agree.

Mark from Warrensburg, MO

I put some thought and effort into this, Vic. They're likely not the fan consensus, but these are my picks for Green Bay's draft. 1. Eddie Goldman, DT 2. Daryl Williams, OT 3. Henry Anderson, DE 4. Za'Darius Smith, OLB 5. Javorius Allen, RB 6. Jalston Fowler, FB 7. Nick Boyle, TE.

It bothers me that you know all of those names.

Jeffrey from Newport, KY

Vic, you've said that in order to truly be a hardcore fan, you have to understand the salary cap. I consider myself a hardcore fan, so please explain the salary cap to me.

Each team's cap is the league's total football revenue divided by 32. Salary and roster bonus are declared in full in the year they're paid; signing bonus is divided evenly over the life of the contract. Conscientious cap managers tend to keep their caps flat, meaning they average a player's cap liability evenly over the life of his contract. Being creative is risky; I compare it trying to time the stock market. The most common means for cap creativity it to convert a portion of a player's salary to signing bonus to create room on the current year's cap by pushing that money onto future years' caps. It's a formula for creating dead money. There's a lot more involved to managing a cap, but that'll give you a start.

Adam from Miami, FL

Even if a player gets a red dot, I'm sure he's still slotted on a team's value board. That way he is still incorporated into the team's draft strategy and overall valuation of talent available. Do you think that's the case?

I've known it to be both ways. I've known players to be taken completely off a team's board so there's no temptation to consider selecting him.

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