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Will the Packers spend in free agency?


Jennifer from Milwaukee, WI

What is all the hype about Matt Flynn? All this fuss over one game? How many games does he have under his belt? How many starts? Does he get better with every outing? Did he beat the other team or did they play so bad that he looked good? Was he a one-time wonder or will he consistently play like this no matter who the other team is? I have not heard anyone asking these questions.

They are the questions for which a team will have to pay a lot of money for Flynn to answer. He's a quarterback; that's the reason for all of the fuss. Every team needs to have "The Man," and there is a limited supply of them. The Redskins have traded away their future on a guy who's never played a down in the NFL; on a quarterback, ostensibly, from a conference that has produced a litany of quarterback busts. Why? Because the Redskins don't have "The Man" and they're desperate to find him. The team that signs Flynn will be a team desperate to find "The Man." The Bills traded away a high first-round pick and gave $25 million to Rob Johnson based on one game. At least Flynn has two games under his belt.

Gregory from Richland Center, WI

Vic, as an alternative to getting rid of intentional grounding, or in combination with it, why not allow the quarterback to be sacked if he is touched by a defender inside the pocket?

That's flag football, that's what I'm afraid is coming and that's what I want to see avoided because that kind of rule would turn a lot of average quarterbacks into great quarterbacks. There must at least be an element of risk and fear of being hit associated with attempting to stand in the pocket and complete a forward pass.

Cameron from Amboy, WA

Do you see the Packers picking up a running back in the first or second round of the draft?

If you're asking me if I think the Packers have need at running back, my answer is yes. I don't know how their board is stacked, so I don't know where need and value might meet. From what Tony Pauline told me, the running back crop is thin in the high rounds and deep in the middle to late rounds.

Leonardo from Las Vegas, NV

What (if anything) could Randy Moss do in one season with a playoff contender for you to consider him a candidate for the Hall of Fame?

He's a candidate; there's no doubting that. What I think his resume lacks is a defining postseason moment. I like players that have played in a lot of postseason games to have enjoyed a defining postseason moment.

Nathan from Shakopee, MN

Vic, I keep hearing the term "free agency era," and it makes me wonder what it was like before free agency. Could you please explain how the league worked back then and, also, when a person's contract ended, what would happen?

Prior to unrestricted free agency, players did not enjoy the kind of movement they have today. At the height of his career, Walter Payton was a free agent and there wasn't as much as a ripple of interest in Payton. Why? Because signing Payton would've demanded that the team signing him compensate the Bears. When a player's contract expired, he really had no choice but to negotiate a new one with the same team. If we were in that era today, Matt Flynn wouldn't be going anywhere without the Packers trading him. If this was, say, 1978, the Packers would re-sign Flynn and then likely trade Flynn when the Packers were sure Graham Harrell or another quarterback was ready to be Aaron Rodgers' backup. Scott Wells would likely re-sign with the Packers, as would all of the Packers players headed into free agency today. It was a system tilted toward the team's advantage. The only time players left a team is when the team didn't want them or the team got compensation for them. It was a fun game to cover because you often got to follow a player through his whole career. The Super Bowl XIV Steelers team I covered was made up of an entire roster of players that had never played for any team other than the Steelers. That's the difference between then and now, Nathan.

Gabriel from Appleton, WI

How about O.J. Simpson in the "Naked Gun" movies?

How could we ever forget Nordberg and his wife Wilma?

Jim from Fond du Lac, WI

A friend and I have had this debate and I want your opinion: Where to start building your team? Do you start with the quarterback or the offensive line? For me, I start with a solid left tackle.

So, if you have a chance to pick Johnny Unitas, you pick Anthony Munoz instead because it doesn't matter who the quarterback is, he won't be any good if he doesn't have good pass-protection. What if you never have another chance to draft a good quarterback and Munoz spends his whole career blocking for stiffs? Get "The Man," Jim.

Nathan from Littlefield, TX

I was wondering if you could make me understand the Dallas/Washington situation. The NFL recently took away $10 million and $36 million, respectively, from them. Why did they do this?

They tried to circumvent the cap by negotiating contracts that would dump an extraordinary amount of money into the uncapped year, 2010. The NFL had warned teams against doing this, as it would create a competitive imbalance. The league then put teeth into that warning by including a reallocation clause in the new CBA, hence, their caps have been decreased.

Andrew from Eau Claire, WI

The Packers have not been much on free agency for the past few years. What makes everyone think this year is going to be different?

I don't expect a spending spree, but the center position is obviously at issue and there are a couple of other positions of need where there appear to be reasonably priced prospects.

Ryan from Fredericton, NB

Who do you think will sign Matt Flynn?

I expect Miami and Cleveland to be interested.

Doug from Burlington, WI

Would you tag Scott Wells with the franchise?

That had to be done by the March 5 deadline. What we need to remember about Wells is the Packers would certainly be able to negotiate a new deal with Wells that would be under the franchise tag tender for a center, because you have to franchise a center at the same salary that you would a top-five left tackle.

Tony from Lancaster, PA

I have a difference of opinion on the "train" that hit the Colts. It feels to me that if a personnel department is good at keeping an influx of young talent, and is not afraid to let players go, so they are not overpaying for anyone, then rebuilding years shouldn't happen. It doesn't seem like teams like the Packers, Patriots, Steelers, etc. have those rebuilding years. Am I wrong about this?

They experience transitions years, which is what even the best franchises go through when they're making the move from one quarterback to the next. The Packers had their next quarterback on their roster for three years before they plugged him in, but they still couldn't avoid a transition year in 2008. What the Colts are experiencing is not uncommon when you're coming out of one era and heading into another. The length of that transition will be determined by the quarterback or quarterbacks that attempt to replace the franchise quarterback that has departed. What if Aaron Rodgers had been picked ahead of the Packers?

Jonathan from Lubbock, TX

Nike announced that it will release the new uniforms on April 3. I'm sure each franchise has a say in their uniforms. Would the Packers really go for much of a change if any?

I wouldn't worry about that.

Scott from Livingston, NJ

When do you think the NFL was in its prime? People always talk about the game today being too soft and pass-oriented, and earlier being too rough and defense-oriented. What year or time period do you think the game was in the best place?

In terms of popularity, this is the NFL's prime. In terms of the game itself, I liked it better in the years prior to 2004, which is to say the years prior to the "major point of emphasis" on the chuck rule and, of course, the explosion of pass-friendly rules that have changed the game. I miss the great running backs. I miss the days of a great back being a targeted player and then slowly wearing down the opponent and taking over the game. I miss that physical confrontation.

Shannon from North Little Rock, AR

What exactly did the Colts do a few years back to slow down the "train"?

I don't know the specifics of their cap, but the way to push money out is to back-load contracts by use of signing bonus. Signing bonus is guaranteed money that is divided evenly on a team's salary cap over the life of that contract. When you convert salary to signing bonus – you can do that up to the minimum wage – you take a portion of the player's salary that year and push it into future years. The more often you restructure a player's contract by that conversion method, the more amortization you push toward the back end of that player's contract. When you have a player with a contract as big as Peyton Manning's was, he routinely becomes a source of restructuring because that's where you can get the most relief by pushing money out. The "train" hits you when the player is no longer on your roster but his remaining amortization is. The release of Manning brought $16 million of "dead money" onto the Colts' cap.

Peter from Toledo, OH

Vic, what would you think about changing the down yardage from 10 to 15 to mitigate some of the effects of increased passing and yardage?

That must never happen. One of the great things about baseball is that its measurements, 90 feet between bases and 60 feet, 6 inches from the pitcher's mound to home plate, have endured the test of time. The same can be said about football's 100-yard field and 10 yards between first downs. You don't change those, you change everything else to maintain those distances, because it's by those distances that you will measure all of the players that have played the game. Golf can't maintain its distances because the evolution of equipment won't permit it, so golf measures the generations by continuing to go back to the same courses that past generations played: St. Andrews, Augusta, Oakmont, etc. There has to be a baseline. For football, 100 yards and 10 yards provide that baseline.

Sue from Watertown, WI

Vic, I don't get it. The draft hasn't happened. The Colts haven't taken anyone yet. What happens if they don't take Luck but RGIII? Is Andrew Luck worth three first-round picks and a second? Shouldn't this have been a draft-day trade?

In making that trade, the Redskins are saying they'll take either guy.

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