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Saturday, March 12, 2011
NFC North weekend mailbag

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

Here's our Vince Lombardism after another week of NFL labor uncertainty: "Success demands singleness of purpose."

Find me through the mailbag, Facebook or Twitter.

Onward....

Kevin of St. Paul noted that Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams has given up his legal challenge to a four-game suspension originally levied in 2008 for violating the NFL's policy on banned substances. How will that decision impact the 2011 season?

Kevin Seifert: The easy answer would be that Williams will be suspended for the next four games the NFL plays, whether or not any games are canceled by a work stoppage. But this case has been so unprecedented from the start that you wonder if it could ultimately be wrapped into the eventual collective bargaining agreement.

The NFL would have to be careful here, because shortening Williams' suspension could serve as a tacit confirmation that not all was kosher in the original proceedings. Vikings nose tackle Pat Williams, who is not expected to re-sign with the team, hasn't yet dropped his legal case and thus will be affected by whatever the NFL decides with Kevin Williams.

If Kevin Williams is required to serve all four games, he would stand to lose $1.42 million of his $6 million base salary in 2011. It's worth noting that Williams would have lost far less money in 2009 ($23,429) or 2010 ($53,505) because his contract called for significantly lower base salaries in those seasons.

It's also worth noting that the Vikings could open the 2011 season with three new starters on their defensive line. Pat Williams is expected to sign elsewhere, Kevin Williams could be suspended and Ray Edwards is expected to move on as a free agent. Only right end Jared Allen would return from a group that has been among the NFL's best in recent seasons.


Via Twitter, @JohnWayne506th expressed disappointment that I didn't mention Detroit Lions place-kicker Jason Hanson among aging NFL kickers who are still, uh, kicking at a high level: "He is old and still good."

Kevin Seifert: No doubt about it, although I actually decided against including Hanson in that list because I'm not sure he'll be the Lions' kicker in 2011. Dave Rayner made 13 of 16 field goals after Hanson's knee injury last season, including two from 50 or more yards. There is no reason to believe Hanson can't continue his career, but if you're going to replace an aging kicker, it makes sense to do it with someone you've already battled-tested in your own uniform.


Many of you resorted to counting the paragraphs of the Ryan Longwell-Brad Maynard post to find blogger bias. In the comments section, hanse838 wrote: Started off as a story which included a team not named the Vikings, didn't last however. Where's the analysis on Maynard?

Kevin Seifert: Ah, we've returned to familiar territory once again. It's true. There were more words written about Longwell because I think that allowing him to depart is less defensible than parting ways with Maynard.

I can't come up with any on-field reason to believe Longwell is headed for a significant performance dropoff. Maynard has been reliable at his craft in recent seasons, but as I pointed out, his net average did drop last season and ranked 30th among NFL punters last season.

So there would be some statistical backing for the Bears if they decide to move on. What I wish I had emphasized in the post is that a moderately distilled Brad Maynard might still be more reliable and a better bet than an untested group of candidates the Bears might feel compelled to choose from.

I don't get the Longwell situation at all. As for Maynard, I can see why the Bears would consider their options. I'm just suggesting it might be hard to find a better one.


Andy of Fort Collins, Colo., writes: I like all of your work, but am just wondering what your obsession with the word "moot" is? You seem to be one of the only writers I read using the word and it shows up often in your work. Don't get me wrong, I think its a great word and I like when you use it, I'm just wondering if there is a reason for its frequent use.

Kevin Seifert: I just Googled "Kevin Seifert" and "ESPN" and "moot." There were only 3,610 hits. That's nothing. Try Googling "Kevin Seifert" and "ESPN" and "Favre." It's ridiculous.

Seriously, "moot" is a great, direct and definitive word. But like any other writing construct, it loses effectiveness if it's used too much. Point taken.


Ken of Chanhassen, Minn., noted our post on the future of Green Bay Packers receiver James Jones and writes: You forgot to note one thing about the Packers receivers. They will be better with Jermichael Finley even if James Jones leaves. he will most often be the 4th guy in their 4 wideout sets even though he is a tight end.

Kevin Seifert: Duly noted. You might say he would render Jones' departure moot!

In all honesty, I can think of many more reasons to let Jones leave than to sign him. The two biggest reasons for keeping him are to maintain the ability:
  1. To put four speedy wide receivers on the field in four-receiver sets
  2. Depth in the event of injury.

But you're right. Finley can certainly make up for Jones in those situations and provide a size-based matchup problem that wouldn't exist if Jones were on the field.

You might feel more comfortable going into the season with Jones on the front end, but I bet by the end of the season that Finley, Jordy Nelson and whatever young receiver the Packers acquire for depth will have grabbed firm control of the situation.


Via Facebook, Andrew asks: What is the likelihood of the Packers letting Mason Crosby's contract expire without resigning him before the draft and using a late rounder to pick up someone such as Nebraska's Alex Henery?

Kevin Seifert: I don't think the chances are high.

It's true that Crosby's 78.1 percent conversion rate since his career began in 2007 ranks No. 19 among NFL kickers over that span. Statistically speaking, that means Crosby hasn't been in the upper half of NFL kickers during his tenure.

But my sense is the Packers grade on a curve given the relative difficulty of kicking at Lambeau Field in the winter weather. I could be way off on this, but I think coach Mike McCarthy trusts him and doesn't necessarily believe that the proverbial grass will be greener on the other side. Dropping a college kicker into the NFC North is a risky move.