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Who are some names at ILB?

Three towns, a lot of stories


Greg from Perkasie, PA

Vic, would it be plausible for a team to sign one of their free agents and then trade him during the draft to move up in the draft order?

Yeah, but if that's not part of the deal when you signed the guy, you will have ruined your image as a deal-in-good-faith organization. You don't want to send that kind of message to your players.

Tristan from Winston Salem, NC

What has been the most important life lesson you've learned from each team you've covered?

Each team has personality traits that make them unique. For example, the Steelers aren't big on retiring numbers, the Jaguars are desperate for numbers to retire, and the Packers just retired their sixth number. The life lessons I've learned have been mostly the result of the cultures that house those teams. I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, so its culture is ingrained in me. Jacksonville was a very different place for me. It was kinder, gentler. I remember fans giving the Jaguars a standing ovation as the team left the field following a narrow loss to the Bears in the Jaguars' inaugural season. I really liked that. I also remember feeling guilty playing golf in the winter; I really liked that, too. Green Bay is Jacksonville's polar opposite. The Jaguars had no tradition when I arrived there; the Packers are steeped in it. Jacksonville is hot and humid; you don't play golf in the winter in Green Bay. The climate is different, the people, food and landscape are different. Viva la difference! From it, I have learned. I feel enriched by it. I have more stories to tell. I'm very lucky to have been able to live in three very different places.

WR James Jones caught 50 balls for 890 yards and 8 TDs in his return to the Packers in 2015. Photos by Shawn Hubbard, Jim Biever, and Matt Becker,

Ben from Brisbane, Australia

WR, TE and ILB seem to be positions of need for the Packers. Do any other positions need desperate attention?

Not desperate attention, but Tony Pauline says this is an outstanding year for offensive tackles, and I don't think it would hurt the Packers to grab a big-guy pass blocker. Depth at offensive tackle is of critical importance to all teams.

Noah from Brisbane, Australia

Vic, the Packers have the easiest schedule in the league next season based off this season's results, which means we are already well in the race for the No. 1 seed. I'm sure the coaches are aware of this. Could this schedule affect the way Ted Thompson drafts, such as taking a player who might not be the key in the future but is the key this season?

Congratulations! That is without a doubt the most creative way of making a case for the win-now approach I have ever seen. How would you answer this question: If I was the kind of man that could guarantee a Super Bowl title, would you agree to miss the playoffs for the five years after the 2016 season if I guaranteed a Super Bowl win in '16?

Sam from Richfield, MN

Have you read about the new Major League Football, Vic? Do you think it has a chance to survive as a developmental league?

Injury liability will make it difficult for the league to survive.

Joel from Omaha, NE

Vic, when people suggest free agency, you always say name one. I am usually on your side, but I thought of one: Bruce Irvin. Seattle is unlikely to keep him, especially with the Curry signing in Philly, raising the bar for defensive end signings. Irvin would be a good add for Green Bay, and we could take the cap hit. Thoughts?

He would be a swing for the fence; no doubt about it. I can't speak for the Packers, but that's a swing I'm not inclined to take. I like bargain-type free-agent signings, which are difficult to find. There are no bargains in the first week of free agency. Should Irvin make it into free agency, he would likely be a first-week guy.

Weston from Lake Geneva, WI

When does a team's draft board start to really take shape?

They've already taken shape. They'll be updated through the combine and pro-days season, but by and large teams could draft right now.

David from Denison, IA

Vic, with the draft coming, I think ILB should be No. 1. What are your thoughts and potential ILB names we should be looking at in our draft spot?

I asked Tony your question and I was surprised by his answer. He thinks there's a chance Reggie Ragland of Alabama might be available where the Packers are scheduled to pick in the first round. That shocked me. He said Josh Perry of Ohio State fits about where the Packers pick in round two, and Beniquez Brown of Mississippi State where the Packers are to pick in round three.

Carlos from Bogotá, Colombia

Do you think the defense lacks big guys up front?

I wouldn't shy away from a defensive lineman in the draft. If a big guy I like fell to me, I'd gladly and quickly grab him.

Packers CB Casey Hayward saw action in all 16 games in 2015 and registered 7 passes defensed. Photos by Shawn Hubbard, Jim Biever, Matt Becker,

Brian from Maple Grove, MN

Vic, I was shocked last year when the Packers passed on ILB Erik Kendricks and selected Randall No. 1 instead. Given Kendricks started 11 games and was very productive leading the Vikings in tackles, did the Packers screw up not selecting an impact player in a position of great need in the first round when they probably could have still selected Randall in the second?

Damarious Randall would've been quickly gone if the Packers hadn't taken him in round one. The Ravens loved him and were considering trading up for him. The Packers' one-two punch of Randall and Rollins addressed a screaming need with two players that give the Packers depth and maneuverability at arguably the most important position on defense.

Patrick from Byron, IL

Lynn Swann came out and said Calvin Johnson should not be in the Hall of Fame. Looking at Swann's career stats, I don't think he has any room to talk about who should be in and out of the Hall of Fame. What are your thoughts?

When I was in Jacksonville, I did a Kyle Brady Lynn Swann watch: With 20 more receptions, Brady will tie Swann; that kind of thing. It was all in fun and Brady, one of the most glib and entertaining players I've ever covered, loved it. The point is this: Don't measure a player solely by his stats. Swann was feared. The Raiders feared him so much they targeted him to knock him out of the game. Two weeks after they gave Swann one of the most fearful-looking concussions in NFL history, Swann was the MVP of Super Bowl X. He starred in three of them. You can't watch a Super Bowl highlights film without seeing Swann leaping to catch a pass. Swann belongs in the Hall of Fame because it's the Hall of Famous, not the Hall of Stats.

Aaron from Cebu City, WI

The Steelers appear to think they are going to win the Super Bowl this year and are willing to mortgage their future. An article on NFL Nation on called "Why the Steelers keep giving players signing bonuses they already have" makes it seem they are way more aggressive at pushing money out than other teams. I thought they have always been pretty responsible cap managers. What gives?

Since the Steelers lost to the Packers in Super Bowl XLV, they've restructured contracts to keep players and maintain their pursuit of the Super Bowl. I suspect it's a Ben Roethlisberger window thing. This past season, they won their first playoff game since 2010.

Jimmy from Naugatuck, CT

Vic, when a player is traded in the middle of his contract, how does that impact the cap hit of his signing bonus?

In most cases, it would accelerate. It's one of the reasons we don't see a lot of player trades.

Thomas from Knox, IN

Vic, the Packers are not known for making big moves in free agency, but do you see anyone who might be a Ted Thompson pick up? A Vic Ketchman type of guy?

I did a bargain free agents kind of story a few years ago. Letroy Guion is one of the guys in that story. After the tags go out and we know what the market is, I'll throw out some names.

Jon from Bristow, VA

How does a team end up with dead cap money?

It happens when you restructure a player's contract beyond the player's longevity, or he sustains an injury that ends his career with the team. That player is on your cap but off your roster, and that's a really, really bad thing. All aboard!

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