Josh from Jacksonville, FL
I’ve noticed that Seattle, San Francisco and Denver have been busy. I think their GMs see their team is peaking with the core of younger players they have drafted and developed. They feel they are one or two players away from winning a championship. Then I see the Dolphins spend $95 million on two players with a team that is still trying to find its identity. The win-now mentality pushes teams to break the bank for these free agents and fans get excited, but the vast majority of the time the player doesn’t perform up to his contract. I think this approach is a major difference, in what I call, the contenders and the spenders.
I don’t see that the 49ers have done anything dramatic. They got Anquan Boldin in a trade; the 49ers have plenty of draft picks to trade away and still have a solid draft class. Boldin isn’t going to put that team over the top. All that team needs is a little seasoning for its young quarterback. Seattle has made a couple of dramatic acquisitions. Percy Harvin and Cliff Avril will make the Seahawks better, but at what cost to the Seahawks’ future? I like the Avril signing better than the Harvin trade because I never like giving away first-round draft picks, especially for a wide receiver; I was aghast that the Seahawks did that for Deion Branch. Because the Seahawks were able to find their quarterback in the third round of the draft, they have the cap room to make a big-money acquisition in free agency, which is what Avril is. Russell Wilson is providing the Seahawks with cap room, at least until the Seahawks have to re-up Wilson. That’s what you can do when you are able to “devalue” the quarterback position. Denver is desperation’s darlings, all because of what they did at quarterback a year ago. What happens if Peyton Manning hits the wall in his career? Miami believes it’s ready to turn the corner; that’s the message I get from their aggressiveness in free agency. Again, I would ask, at what cost? Every team that’s aggressive in free agency can build a case to support what it’s doing. A year from now, can they build a case to support what it did? Most can’t.
Rodney from Sacramento, CA
Now that the Packers have let most of the good free agents sign with other teams and the 49ers have twice as many draft picks, is it realistic to assume the Packers have decided it’s time to rebuild?
Are you serious?
Eric from Milwaukee, WI
I’ve been a Packers fan since I was eight and I am really starting to get frustrated with the way Ted Thomson and Mike McCarthy go about improving the team.
I truly hate this time of the year. It’s as though a culture of crazed fans come out of a cornfield; when free agency is over, they go back into the cornfield. It’s as though there’s a free agency fantasy league in that cornfield, and the team that spends the most money wins the championship.
Rick from Evergreen, CO
Vic, I almost always agree with your philosophy on how the Packers do business. Given our shared opinion on cap control, I am curious to see what happens to the Broncos in a few years. They’re spending money on a lot of name castoffs. Is this a perfect example of win now, in your opinion?
Yes, it is, but that’s a decision they made last year when they acquired Manning. It’s difficult to fault what they’re doing. Why sign Manning if you’re not going to commit all of your resources to as many one-and-dones as possible?
Nick from Rockford, IL
You always talk about being able to move contracts into future years by converting salary to signing bonus. What happens if a team does that for many big contracts in a year and the following year they cannot afford to pay 53 players? I know this is a bit extreme, but if a scenario did happen where a team had all of its cap tied up in guaranteed contracts and those contracts were so large they would be over the cap, how would the league handle it?
If the team didn’t begin doing what was necessary, the league would step in and begin voiding contracts in the reverse order in which they were signed, until the team got under the cap. It’s never happened because teams know when it’s time to cut and gut.
Matthew from Baraboo, WI
With the Seahawks getting Percy Harvin and Cliff Avril, would you say they would be the favorites to win the Super Bowl?
They are clearly winning the offseason, and that’ll make the Seahawks a hot pick heading into next season. They’ll be wearing a very large target.
Brent from Cedar Grove, WI
It appears the Packers are the favorite to land Steven Jackson, if he will agree to the right price. Do you think that frees up Thompson to look more into the linemen issues in the draft instead of finding a feature back?
If you do that, you might find yourself having to address running back again next year. Signing a veteran running back, especially one that’s been in the league for nine years, wouldn’t give me a feeling of being fixed at the position. If a back from the top of my board fell to me, I’d pick him without any reservation.
Tony from Saint Paul, MN
If the Packers sign Steven Jackson, do you think that will quell some fans’ desire for a big-name free agent?
Yes, I do. There was great relief in my inbox last year when the Packers signed Jeff Saturday.
Peter from Ames, IA
Vic, I have to tell you that these Steven Jackson rumors and now the possible return of Jennings have me very worried. Where will the money come from to sign Clay Matthews and Aaron Rodgers when this is all over?
Never worry about that. The Packers will always make sure they commit cap room to retain their core players.
Bob from Saint Charles, IL
Vic, the Chicago writers and Bear fans are pretty giddy about getting Bushrod signed as their new left tackle, but it seems to me that if there are two positions at which teams will always keep their guy, it is quarterback and left tackle. So New Orleans must not have thought Bushrod was the guy. Correct assumption?
Somebody is wrong, either the Saints or Bears. The Saints had a chance to evaluate the player every day at practice. They know his strengths and his weaknesses. I don’t like the notion of assuming everyone else in the league is stupid.
Gregg from Kenosha, WI
Cobb is better than Harvin? Are you kidding? I noticed you didn’t use any statistics to prove your point. I’ll put it another way, if you were to trade Cobb right now, do you think you would get a one, a four and a seven for him?
I think if Randall Cobb had been offered to the Seahawks, they would’ve jumped at the trade. Here are each player’s stat line from 2012: Harvin--62 receptions, 677 yards receiving and three touchdowns; 22 rushing attempts, 96 yards rushing, one touchdown; 16 kickoff returns, 574 yards, one touchdown. Cobb--80 receptions, 954 yards receiving, eight touchdowns; 10 rushing attempts for 132 yards; 31 punt returns, 292 yards, one touchdown; 38 kickoff returns, 964 yards. I prefer Cobb over Harvin based on Cobb’s durability. Harvin misses too many games for my tastes.
Paul from Greeley, CO
You say cap money can be pushed out to later years but it will eventually come due. Is there a team or teams that this is affecting right now?
The Steelers and Ravens are current examples of teams that took their runs as far as they could, understand that it’s time to cut and gut and are doing so. They are each in the process of restoring health to their salary cap. Do you think it’s just a coincidence that they’re doing this at the same time? Teams strategize and plan. The good ones get it right.
Steve from Bagram, Afghanistan
Teams that are players in March are spectators in January. What drives a team to continue this practice?
The grass is always greener, until it becomes your grass. That’s when you start seeing the burned out spots and what it’s going to cost you.
Mark from Grafton, WI
Can you explain restricted free agency? I’m most confused over the tender aspect. What would stop a team from putting a first-round tender on all of their RFAs?
The salary you’d have to guarantee is what stops teams from doing that. Don’t pay more than you have to pay. That’s the mantra the salary cap demands. Read the salary cap primer I did. It’ll explain the RFA rules.
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