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You don't trade 'The Man'


Duane from Newnan, GA

You have said before that you appreciate the interaction you have with your readers. Has there ever been a topic on which you changed your opinion on the subject due to comments and feedback from your readers?

Yes, it's happened a few times. I can't remember exactly what the topics were, but I distinctly remember having been persuaded to change my opinion. The biggest opinion switch of my football-watching life – the readers didn't cause it, the league did – is my shift from run the ball/stop the run to pass the ball/stop the pass. I don't consider myself to be a rigid person. I will change my opinion when I believe it needs to be changed, but I will be steadfast in those opinions I believe strongly. I believe most strongly that football is a young man's game and the draft is the lifeblood of a franchise.

Tanner from Spokane, WA

I see Packers mock drafts from fans everywhere on the Internet. I know it's not your job, but why haven't you made one? I mean, you have seen these guys in action at the combine and have even met some of them.

A mock draft is usually nothing more than an attempt to identify each team's major need and the player closest to the author's value line that addresses that need. A true mock draft should be the result of inside information on what each team is thinking, and I don't have that kind of information. That's why I don't do it. If readers want to ask what I perceive to be a team's needs and what players appear to fit at the pick, I'll do it.

Sal from Philadelphia, PA

What is meant by a player's grade? I hear that a player has a first-round grade or a second-round grade. Is this in comparison to the other players in his draft class?

Teams have their own processes for evaluating players and processes for ranking them. If a team considers a prospect with a grade, say, from 6.0-7.0 to be worthy of a first-round pick, then that player is considered to carry a first-round grade. I've known GMs that moved out of the first round because by the time they were to pick near the bottom of the first round they didn't have a player on their board that carried a first-round grade. When a team acts in that kind of a disciplined manner, it's a team that is vigilant about being true to its value line. It's all about a team's philosophy for drafting, its process of evaluation and its commitment to both.

Franklin from La Crosse, WI

I understand the scouting department has a grading system and value for each player in the upcoming draft, but do they also have a grading system for upcoming free agents?

Pro personnel departments usually grade and stack the upcoming free agent crop in December, as the season begins to wind down. At that point, they have a lot of current tape on each player and play-time and medical information to accompany the performance evaluation. As players re-sign with their teams, they're taken off the board. As the tags are passed out, asterisks are added to the players' names. That's why I said back in February that we need to wait until just before the start of free agency to comment on free agency. The board that was arranged in December bears little resemblance to today's board.

Lynn from Los Alamos, NM

If you were to get the chance to recommend your "spike the ball to avoid a sack" idea to the league, where would you suggest the ball be placed in scrimmage after the play?

I would treat is as an incomplete pass. The whole idea is to provide a mechanism for reducing contact and injury to the quarterback. Change the culture means shift the thinking from the game to player safety. The Packers averaged six yards lost per sack last season. What's the big deal? The way the ball is being moved these days, six yards is nothing. The loss of down is far more penalizing than the lost yardage.

Simon from Mountain View, CA

I've been pondering on this franchise tag thing and it seems to me we should just eliminate the position designations entirely. Instead of averaging the top five at the position, just average the top 22 contracts in the league. If the guy is really a franchise player, you should have to pay him like one of the most expensive players in the league.

It brings a smile to my face when I read something like this. This is a proud moment for this column. I love it when the reader brings depth of thought to the column, as you just have, Simon. Be more than fans. Be connoisseurs of professional football.

Richard from Lake Havasu City, AZ

After the NFL draft is finished and teams can then begin to sign undrafted college free agents, how many free agents is a team allowed to sign?

The offseason roster is capped at 80. Until you begin signing your draft class, you can load up on undrafted and street free agents. As you sign guys, you have to release guys.

Andy from Johnson, WI

It seems like I'm hearing about contracts being restructured more this year than in years past. Do you think there is a particular reason?

There are two main reasons teams are doing a lot of restructuring: 1.) The cap has stayed kind of flat from last season to this season, so teams haven't acquired a lot of extra room to accommodate the increasing amortization of their rosters. 2.) The cap is expected to increase dramatically in a few years due to new television contracts, so by restructuring contracts teams are pushing money out to where they believe there'll be room on the cap to house it. I'm not a fan of pushing money out, but this is a unique situation because we're coming out of a period when we had an uncapped year and which produced a new CBA. This is an adjustment period. Teams restructuring contracts, however, better be sure the players they're restructuring are core players that'll continue to be core players when they run into the pushed-out money, and they better know that these are players to whom you can pay their salaries in advance and still get a full, motivated effort.

Mike from Wausau, WI

So what happens to all these teams depending on all this money they are pushing out if the TV contracts aren't quite what they are predicting?

They'll get hit by a "train."

Parks from Port Orange, FL

Many years ago you said, "I hear the train a comin'." Then, somehow that train was derailed, a town was spared and many considered you a fool. Now, it appears the train has finally arrived in Indianapolis, just as you said it would.

In this case, "train" is a metaphor for the salary cap and mortgaging a team's future by pushing money out. As long as the cap system didn't go away, and there was a chance it might go away, it was inevitable. If you're going to play on the tracks – metaphor for pushing money out – then you better run when you hear the whistle. The Colts had no choice but to stay on the tracks. They had one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the game and they had to get everything they could out of his career by surrounding him with the best players they could and maximizing Peyton Manning's opportunities to win a Super Bowl. That's what they did and it was the smart thing to do. It was, however, inevitable that the "train" would run over them, and now it has. Manning's gone, a lot of the other ones are gone, too, and what's left is a team facing $38 million in "dead money," with a rookie quarterback and a lot of new faces around him. The "train" has arrived.

Ryan from Menomonie, WI

Vic, you keep referring to letting the quarterback spike the ball to avoid a sack. What would the wording be? How far away can the defender be before you penalize them for hitting the quarterback after the spike? Do you spot the ball at the place of the spike or does it go back to the original line of scrimmage?

Ryan, I was speaking conceptually. I'll leave the logistics to someone else. What I'm trying to say is: Count on it or something similar to it; it's going to happen. You can't expect the most physically vulnerable player, who also happens to be the highest-paid and most important player, to stand on a spot and have big, mean, fast men run at him and injury not result. Every season brings new quarterback protections. You can't hit him high, you can't hit him low. What's next? That's easy: You can't hit him.

Matt from Castleton, NY

Do the Packers have a viable candidate in place should Scott Wells decide to play elsewhere? Or would we need to delve into free agency or the draft to get a good replacement at center?

Trust me, the Packers have a plan in mind for the center position. I don't know what that plan is, but I think we're going to find out soon.

Jason from Talent, OR

With such an explosive offense already, could you see the Packers going all defense in the draft?

As long as they're able to adhere to their value line, yeah, I could see the Packers loading up on picks for their defense. I expect that to happen, which means I expect them to move up or back, as they did last year, because it's not likely a team that can hold true to its value line in each round and address need, too, without fitting itself to the pick. All teams have players they consider to be targets. Holding true to your value line usually requires moving to where those players fit.

Eluoosky from Hanover, NH

When the NFL banned stickum, it seems players just put stickum on gloves. What do you think of a rule that designates how sticky a glove can be?

I would be in favor of it because the gloves players wear today make Lester Hayes' hands look like wax paper. Today's gloves reduce the negative effects of a small-hands quarterback playing in cold weather. I don't like that. I want to know who the true championship players are, not who has the stickiest gloves.

Nick from Water Mill, NY

What in the wide world of sports were the Redskins thinking?

Obviously, they believe Robert Griffin III will be an enormous star and the face of the Redskins franchise, which hasn't had a face-of-the-franchise player in a long time. Did they consider the pressure they are putting on Griffin? That would be my concern. My interest in the trade is more for what it's going to do for the Rams. I've known their new GM, Les Snead, for nearly 20 years. He is, without a doubt, the luckiest man in football today. If I was Les, I'd just be coming in from my two-day, out-on-the-town celebration. Three ones? Are you kidding me? Oh, by the way, those ones figure to be pretty high, too. Those extra ones should allow Snead to stimulate more trading that will bring the Rams a Patriots-like haul of future picks that will also allow Snead to rebuild the team. It's all about the quarterback now. Do they have "The Man"? If they do, look out.

Mark from Vung Tau, Vietnam

So you're the GM of the Redskins and Ted Thompson comes to you with the idea, "I'll give you Aaron Rodgers for three first-round picks …"

Stop right there. That would never happen. You don't offer Rodgers for three ones, four ones, five ones, a hundred ones. The Redskins made the trade they expect to use to draft Robert Griffin III because the Redskins want "The Man." Rodgers is "The Man," and when you have him and he's in his prime, you don't trade him for anything.

Dan from Bowling Green, OH

After I read you mentioning Jim Brown and his role in "The Dirty Dozen," it got me thinking: What football player did the best acting in a movie?

How about Alex Karras in "Blazing Saddles?" How about Mike Henry in "Tarzan?" You don't know about him, do you?

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