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What does the Sam Shields tender mean?

Free agency continues with talk of running back


Trevor from Atascadero, CA

Vic, I'm not going to give you a hard time about Mt. Rushmore, but I was curious what you think of old No. 4? You didn't mention him in your explanation. Maybe it's because of my age, but that's who I grew up with and he's my favorite football player of all time. Just curious of your take on him?

"Old No. 4" was a great player. He was one of the most durable players in NFL history and I love that most about him. I wish I had covered him because he's the kind of player who allows for the kind of romantic football prose I enjoy. If you're looking for me to say something negative about him, I'm going to disappoint you.

Lonny from Aberdeen, SD

Vic, there's talk now that left tackle Eric Fisher may be the first overall pick in the draft. Looks like you hit that nail directly on the head with your observations from the Senior Bowl.

He's a who dat? kind of player. I didn't recognize the helmet he was wearing, but it didn't take any kind of football genius to be able to identify the talent he was displaying. It only took one look for me to ask Tony Pauline, "Who dat?" My next question was, "Where does he fit in the draft?" Pauline said he fit near the middle of the first round. I said, "Not anymore."

Sean from San Diego, CA

The Lions seem to have an awful lot of unrestricted free agents on the market. Do the Lions have a problem?

Maybe they're getting rid of their problems.

Michael from Austin, MN

What do the Packers do in response to the Seahawks obtaining Percy Harvin and the 49ers obtaining Anquan Boldin?

I don't get this question. Randall Cobb is a better Percy Harvin and James Jones is every bit the big, burly receiver Boldin is; Jones and Boldin are nearly identical in size. Boldin caught 65 passes for 921 yards and four touchdowns last season; Jones caught 64 for 784 and 14 touchdowns. I think everybody needs to calm down. The 49ers and Seahawks aren't running away from anybody. We know what the Packers need. They need big guys, not more receivers.

Adam from Muskego, WI

If someone was looking to trade up to the 26th pick in the draft, what if anything would make you go back?

You trade back when you've targeted a player you believe you can pick at a lower spot in the order. By doing that, you get your guy and at the pick where he belongs, and you recoup the full value of the pick you had. I'm describing what the Packers did when they drafted Jordy Nelson.

Aaron from Seattle, WA

The Seahawks have drafted very well over the past few years and, as a result, most of their best players are still on their rookie contracts. Is this what makes the Percy Harvin trade workable from Seattle's standpoint? Sure seems like they're swinging for the fences in 2013.

In the old days, when there were more rounds of the draft, it was said that to have an extended run of success you needed to string three or four blockbuster drafts together. The theory was that you had to get good all at one time or the front end would start getting old by the time the back end filled the remaining needs. In those days, free agency didn't really exist. What I think the Seahawks are trying to do is fill their remaining needs so they might have an extended run of success. Free agency offers that kind of potential for filling needs, but it also carries with it salary cap consequences that didn't exist in the old days. Remember this, most teams can push big cap hits far enough into the future that the current coach might be thinking, "I won't be here when the bill comes due." I think that's a prevailing thought for a lot of teams that make splashy free-agent acquisitions.

Dan from Plymouth, MN

Vic, do you think the Packers need to address our linebackers? The 3-4 defense is built around linebackers.

If you run a 3-4, you must always address your linebacker positions. They are the heart and soul of a 3-4 defense and you need a lot of them, especially in this age of specialization. One of the nice things about the 3-4 is that it translates well to special teams, because linebackers provide the best size, speed, strength profile for special teams play.

Steve from Neenah, WI

Do you think bringing Reggie White here in 1993 was a turning point for the Packers success over the last two decades? Seems like it became easier to recruit and retain top players since then. Or has it been more related to the quarterback position?

Reggie White changed the culture. He was a franchise-changing player and, yes, I think he introduced a mindset that still exists within the Packers. That's one of the reasons I think he's a Mt. Rushmore type of player.

Brett from Madison, WI

Looking over the top Packers free agents in history, it seems most of them are defensive players. Do you think it's easier to hit a home run on free-agent defensive players than it is on offensive players?

You'll go broke trying to hit home runs on offense. If you're going to use free agency to help build your team, it's best to find your defensive players in free agency and your offensive players in the draft.

Camden from Elora, Ontario

What does it mean by the Packers placing a second-round tender on Sam Shields?

It means the Packers believe second-round compensation will protect Shields from receiving a contract offer from another team.

Dario from Novi Marof, Croatia

Vic, do you think the Packers knew exactly what they were getting when they drafted Aaron Rodgers in 2005 (a guy that will one day be the best quarterback in NFL)? Also, if he became a starter immediately in 2005, what do you think the difference would be since then for the Packers? Or would everything remain the same, but just three years earlier?

I think they believed they were getting a potential era quarterback who was being passed over by teams because of a shoulder injury. Rodgers was also a year removed from an ACL. I think having sat the bench for three years allowed Rodgers' shoulder to fully heal. Christian Ponder came to the Vikings with a similar situation, but Ponder was thrown into the fire his rookie year. I think a lot of people have either forgotten or didn't know that Ponder played his final season at Florida State with a significant arm injury. The farther he gets from that injury, the better he'll become.

Albert from Tucson, AZ

I've seen reports that link Steven Jackson and Peyton Hillis as possible free agency pickups. Both of them are your style of runner. Do you go with the guy who has experience and may have a few years left, or the guy who is younger and had one good season and then faded?

I like Shonn Greene, too. Mostly, I like guys who do two things: 1.) fit the profile of a young, ascending player; 2.) can be signed at the right price. If you can't satisfy both, you better at least satisfy one.

John from Belle Plaine, MN

Vic, I'm surprised at the result of the point/counterpoint poll with you and Mike talking about free agency spending. Do people just not read your column or do you get that much hate mail that you're wrong about draft and develop?

Fear is what drives free agency. Fear causes teams to make risky acquisitions and fear causes fans to support those risky acquisitions. The fear is that by not being active in free agency, you'll allow the competition to get better while you stay the same. So, how many teams actually upgrade themselves in free agency? I think the answer to that question is not many and not significantly for those that can claim an upgrade. Nevertheless, fear is a powerful emotion.

Tim from Gratton, MD

Do you think as I do that the Dolphins made a big mistake and overpaid for free agent Mike Wallace from the Steelers?

Of course they overpaid. There are no bargains in the first week of free agency; that's the nature of free agency and if you're going to participate in it, you must be willing to overpay. What I find interesting is that Joe Philbin had a choice between Wallace and Greg Jennings, a player with whom Philbin is very familiar, and Philbin chose Wallace. Wallace doesn't have Jennings' hands, route-running ability, steady personality or consistency of performance, but nothing beats young speed. That's the message.

Earl from Powhatan, VA

Do you believe the window of opportunity for another Packers Super Bowl is closing faster than some in the Packers' key leadership positions may think?

The window, in my opinion, is still opening. I think the Super Bowl XLV win distorted our perspective of this team. I think it caused a lot of fans to think that was the peak. In my opinion, that was a team that got hot late in the year and possibly stole one before its time. This team is still on the way up and I expect its window to remain open, and open wider, for several more years.

Justin from Orlando, FL

In the spirit of free agency, do you remember what you thought about the Packers signing Charles Woodson originally? He wasn't exactly a star and not everyone agreed with it.

I didn't give it much thought back then because Woodson wasn't a splashy signing. The Packers signed him much later in the free agency signing period than the first-hours splash they made with Reggie White. People lump Woodson into the same category with White and it's just not so. Truth be known, Woodson was a bargain signing. He's exactly what you're trying to find in free agency, which is to say a good player who won't damage the cap.

Jarod from Menomonie, WI

Sixty million over five years with $30 million guaranteed for Mike Wallace? What are the Dolphins thinking? I have a hard time believing a field stretcher is worth that price.

For a field-stretching, speed receiver, his impact goes well beyond his stats. Wallace is a player the Dolphins believe will pay dividends on the investment the Dolphins made in Ryan Tannehill. That's why the Dolphins signed Wallace. They wanted a player that would open the field for Tannehill and make him a better quarterback. Wallace will do that. He has rare speed. He's the kind of receiver that can take the top off the coverage.

Carl from Port Washington, WI

What is Evan Dietrich-Smith's RFA situation?

He was tendered at original draft pick compensation. Since Dietrich-Smith was an undrafted free agent, another team may sign him without providing the Packers with compensation. Remember, the Packers retain right of first refusal.

Joe from Minneapolis, MN

I've been reading all the discussion about the cap with interest. Just when I think I have an understanding of its significance in today's game I read the following by Tom Powers in the St. Paul paper: "Here's my theory on the salary cap: It doesn't exist. I'll bet a cap expert from any NFL team can sit down with a set of figures and prove to us that his organization is $20 million below the cap. Then he could flip over the page and, using the same figures, prove to us that his organization is $20 million over the cap." How much truth is there to his theory?

There's a lot of truth to that. You can move money out to create room in the present or move money forward to eat up room now and make room for later. As long as money can be pushed into the future, teams can find more cap room, but there comes a day when that ends. When a team hits the wall on restructuring contracts, it's usually accompanied by the inescapable fact that cutting a player will only worsen the situation because his remaining bonus accelerates into the present. When that day arrives, the salary cap becomes a very real thing. You ignored the train's whistle and now you can't get off the tracks. Also, that money that's being pushed out isn't just cap money, it's real money, and cash over cap can become a serious fiscal burden for a lot of teams. The notion that the cap doesn't exist is silly.

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