Trevor from Memphis, TN
How does Eric Fisher’s ability compare to the top tackle from last year’s draft, Matt Kalil? Will Fisher command as high a pick?
Everybody wants the next Tony Boselli, and I think it helped Kalil that he was from USC; it gave him that Boselli-like mystique. Having seen Kalil play twice this past season, I can tell you the Vikings got the real deal. He’s a forget-about-him left tackle. That means worry about everybody else because you won’t have to worry about him. Fisher reminds me more of Boselli than Kalil does because Fisher has that basketball player look to him. There’s no fat on him. He’s big in a genuine way and he has the feet of a guy whose body isn’t too big for them. One more thing: Boselli came out of USC as a great pass blocker but an average run blocker; the same is true of Fisher. He’s a great pass blocker with big upside in the run game.
Andy from Green Bay, WI
Vic, why is free agency before the draft? Would it not make more sense to hold the draft first so teams can pick the best available player on their board, and then use free agency to fill the remaining voids? Has the NFL ever considered changing these two around?
You’re right; it would make too much sense.
Jim from Wautoma, WI
Are there any Patrick Willis type of big, fast linebackers in this draft?
If you’re talking inside linebackers, which Willis is, there are two top prospects: Alec Ogletree of Georgia and Kevin Minter of LSU, but I don’t know that either one of them can be compared to Willis. The class falls off hard, but if you’re looking for a thumper on the inside, you might want to take a look at Vince Williams of Florida State. Manti Te’o was a top prospect, but his game fell off down the stretch, from the Pitt game through the national title game, and the whole make-believe-girlfriend thing is likely to make Te’o either a footnote in this draft class or a tremendous steal for some lucky team. If the latter happens, that team should send the girl roses.
Mike from Martin, TN
How do they pick the cheerleader representatives for the Pro Bowl?
It’s probably based on the quality of their cheering.
Ted from DeForest, WI
How does it affect a player’s cap number when they renegotiate their contract (for less money in the current year)? How is the number different than if they were released?
Other than the player taking a pay cut, the most common method of lowering a player’s cap number by restructuring the contract is by converting salary to signing bonus. Salary has to be declared in full in the year it’s paid. Signing bonus is divided evenly over the life of the contract. So, if you restructure the contract so that you give the player next year’s salary now in the form of signing bonus, then that amount is divided evenly over the life of the contract, meaning the player’s salary is effectively moved into other years. It’s a means for mortgaging your future, but most teams that do that kind of conversion have a plan that dovetails with older players’ contracts expiring. When you do it with an older player, however, what you’re moving out into future years is likely to become dead money, and that’s the siren song of a team heading for major cap problems. I covered a team that got itself into such a cap mess that it had to convert salary to signing bonus with every player on the roster just to get under the cap for that year. We saw it coming two years in advance. We knew the team was a dead man walking. If you want to know your team’s future, look at its cap.
Scott from Ramsey, MN
The NFL did a good thing on Sunday night, allowing Jeff Saturday to snap the ball to Peyton Manning one more time. What a touching moment. The only other one that comes immediately to mind was Magic Johnson’s one-on-ones vs. Michael Jordan and Isaiah Thomas in the 1992 All-Star game. Do you recall any others?
I remember Tim McCarver saying he caught Steve Carlton so many times that when they die, they should be buried 60 feet, six inches apart. That would be cool.
Mike from Scott AFB, IL
Going after free agents like Jared Allen will help the team more than the draft, won’t it? If the Packers’ ways are so good, then why is it we win a Super Bowl every 20 years?
When did the Vikings last win one?
Randall from Minneapolis, MN
I’m afraid you will have a lot of disagreement on your assessment of the Packers’ inability to defend the read option. What tape are you watching? Outside linebackers were biting on every attempted hand-off by Kaepernick. It was a one-on-none matchup for the 49ers blockers. It was all about scheme, and nothing to do with the physical interaction. Just watch the tape and tell readers how an OLB is supposed to tackle a QB around the end when he is chasing a RB in the middle of the field that doesn’t have the ball?
Oh, it’s part of the scheme for linebackers to bite on the fake and chase the man that doesn’t have the ball. I didn’t know that. You’re right; that’s a bad scheme.
Nick from Houghton, MI
Don Banks at SI.com has the Packers taking Montee Ball in the first round. I like Ball, but using a first-round pick on him seems like a reach to me. What do you think?
Don might know something we don’t. Everything I’m hearing has Ball projected as a third-round pick. He gained a lot of yards at Wisconsin. If he lights it up at the combine, he’ll surely rise. I think what Don might be suggesting is that Ball is a perfect fit for a zone-blocking scheme. He’s right. Ball would be a perfect fit in the Packers’ zone-blocking scheme.
Billy from Brookfield, WI
Al Harris is now a Chiefs defensive assistant in the secondary.
Yeah, but at least he has a Super Bowl ring.
Ben from Mobile, AL
Did you see any late bloomers at offensive or defensive line?
I don’t know how to project a guy to become a late-bloomer, but I saw a guard from my alma mater, Brian Winters from Kent State, who I think is going to be underdrafted and make some team very happy. Why underdrafted? Because Winters is a pulling guard, and there aren’t a lot of teams that pull and trap a lot anymore. I saw him get out in front of the ball at the Senior Bowl. I think some team that likes to pull and trap will target Winters.
Charles from Statham, GA
The Packers are in their offseason. What kind of contact can the players have with the coaches? Is limited interaction to begin at the time of your exit interview or is there a league date?
On a team with a returning coach, April 15 is the earliest date you can start the offseason conditioning program. Prior to that, players and coaches are permitted only to have casual conversation. They’re not permitted to talk about football. They have to go to “Ask Vic” to do that.
Jamie from Ashland, OR
Kenjon Barner is coming out of Oregon with lots of speed and is used to being in a high-tempo, spread offense. I know you favor a between-the-tackles runner, but don’t you think he would be a good fit in Green Bay?
Barner will likely be a specialty back in the NFL. He’ll be a change-of-pace guy for whom a team will have a specific role. Andre Ellington is that kind of back. So is Mike Gillislee. The “woods” are full of those kinds of backs. Who’s going to carry the ball on the running downs? The guy that does that is a feature back and the Packers need one. I could be wrong, but I don’t think Barner is that kind of back and, based on your description of him, I don’t think you think he’s that kind of back, either.
Todd from Chapel Hill, NC
Have you seen Giovani Bernard play? Unreal player in college. Will his skills transfer to the NFL and would he fit the Packers?
Here’s where yesterday’s question about injury concerns enters the picture. Bernard was oft-injured at North Carolina. He has feature-back potential, if he can stay healthy. Yes, he would fit.
Thomas from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
I disagree that finesse is tricking your opponent. Instead, I argue it is out-skilling and out-smarting them. Muhammad Ali was a finesse boxer that used his skill and finesse to outbox his opponent. No one would argue that Ali had the power of a Foreman, Frazier, Shavers or Norton, but most would agree he used finesse to beat them.
You got Ali all wrong. Take a look at the Sonny Liston fights. Ali, especially when he was Cassius Clay, had a right hand from hell. He also had the feet of Fred Astaire. I have a feeling your recollection of Ali begins with rope-a-dope. That was an old fighter hanging on. When he was young, he was the greatest combination of power and finesse boxing had ever seen. I saw a running back last season with the feet of Fred Astaire and a “right hand from hell,” but he’s not available.
Sebastian from San Jose, Costa Rica
I was reading about the rumors of a trade involving Darrelle Revis, and apparently the Packers are among the list of teams interested in acquiring him. What are your thoughts on this?
I could be wrong about this, but my opinion is that you’ve been had by a website that knows the Packers have a huge fan base and that any rumors of a trade involving the Packers and a star player of the magnitude of Revis would result in a lot of unique visits and page views. What do you think would happen if the headline on today’s column was: “Flying saucers land at Lambeau Field”? First of all, teams can’t trade until March 12. That’s pretty far out for teams to be talking about a trade now. Secondly, and this is the big one, if you trade for Revis, you’d likely only be getting him for one year. That’s all that’s left on his contract, and for a guy coming off an ACL, that one year could turn out to be his comeback year. His contract provides for a $6 million salary, and it prohibits him from being franchised. So why trade away draft picks for a one-year player coming off an ACL who you can’t franchise and will likely lose in free agency? As I said, I could be wrong about this, but that’s the way I see it.
Dennis from Sacramento, CA
How much, if any, is Jeff Saturday’s retirement going to add to the salary cap?
He signed a two-year deal. He’ll only count $825,000 in dead money. The contract was obviously structured in a cap-conscious way.
Chris from Corona, CA
Will the Packers be receiving a compensatory pick for Matt Flynn?
The NFL system for awarding compensatory picks rests mostly on the performance of the player that was lost in free agency. Had Flynn played at a Pro-Bowl level this past season, the Packers would receive major compensatory pick consideration. Due to the emergence of Russell Wilson, Flynn didn’t have a chance to play, but I still think his contract with the Seahawks is rich enough that it’s going to get the Packers compensatory pick consideration. The formula for awarding compensatory picks is somewhat arbitrary, but it’s believed that it includes a contract threshold, and I have to believe Flynn has crossed it.
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