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Saturday, September 19, 2009
Weekend mailbag

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert

I did my best, dug through the mailbag minefield and found some questions worth discussing this weekend. Maybe I need to come up with separate links: One for questions and comments for further discussion, another for, uh, general criticism.

As always, you can reach me here, through our blistering Facebook page or through our Twitter feed. Sorry, I’m not able to respond to smoke signals.

On with it:

James of Lansing, Mich., writes: My question concerns free agency and the collective bargaining agreement. By now, we all know that an uncapped year next year would increase the minimum years of experience from 4 to 6 to file for free agency, so my question pertains to 2011. Would those players then regain their free agency eligibility after their 5th year or would they have to wait another year? Won't that create a monster class of free agents as players with 4 and 5 years of accrued experience become first time free agents at the same time, plus some potential salary cap casualties thanks to its reappearance?

Kevin Seifert: Those players would have to wait until their sixth season to become free agents. The only way that could change, as I understand it, is if we have an uncapped year in 2010 and then a labor agreement for 2011 that somehow restores the original system.

We’ll be discussing this much more as the offseason approaches, but the new rule could impact a number of prominent NFC North players, including Green Bay safety Nick Collins and Detroit linebacker Ernie Sims. Players that could be free agents in 2011 include Chicago safety Kevin Payne and Minnesota linebacker Chad Greenway.

As far as creating a monster class of free agents, I don’t know if that will be the case. First, I think the longer release period will compel at least some players to accept their current team’s best offer for an extension rather than waiting for unrestricted free agency. Second, NFL teams will have the ability to protect more players in an uncapped system, which would allow for multiple franchise and/or transition tags.

Finally, I’m just not convinced there is going to be the spending spree/bonanza that an uncapped year would otherwise seem to indicate. I’m sure there will be some deals that get structured differently. But if anything, owners will be more motivated than ever to control spending. One team official I spoke with recently suggested that, on the whole, salaries will remain static in an uncapped season.

After recent cap increases, there aren’t many teams that are prevented from making better offers by cap rules. Their decisions are almost always a matter of cashflow and compensation analysis. That process will be unchanged in an uncapped year, leading the official I spoke with to believe that the vast majority of players will get similar compensation to what they would have received under the old system. And for every individual instance of a player cashing in through an uncapped bidding war, there will be other examples of players who are restricted in the new system.


Ken of Fishers, Ind., writes: Since the Vikings weaseled out of the Williams Wall getting suspended because of the Minnesota law, how come the NFL doesn't wise up and just suspend them for the first four AWAY games? It shouldn't be any different than the different tax laws that each state has. The players’ taxes are based on which state they are playing in. I think the same should hold true for this circumstance. The NFL needs to make them sit for the first four road games to show the rest of the league that trying to use their specific state to get special privileges isn't the right thing to do.

Kevin Seifert: It’s an interesting question, Ken, and one that I’ve gotten from a number of people. You make a key point: Yes, the players pay income tax not only in their “home” state but also to the states where they play road games. That’s much different from, say, a salesman who works for a Minnesota company but travels across the country all week. Intuitively, it implies NFL players are employees in the road states for that day.

I actually threw that question out on Twitter and got an interesting response from @VikingHope, who noted: “It would be an admission of different standards for different states though [and cold] hurt their appeal in the long run.”

I agree. Suspending Kevin Williams and Pat Williams when they play in Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis and Pittsburgh might work against the NFL in the big picture. The league is arguing that the laws of individual states shouldn’t apply to a collectively bargained agreement between companies across the country. Suspending the players for road games would be a tacit acknowledgement that, in fact, individual state laws do apply.


Greg of Chicago quotes me and writes: “They won’t give any architectural awards to this structure, which was renovated lickety-split in 2002." This is incorrect. Soldier Field has won 17 awards. Check the link: http://govpro.com/parks_recreation/gov_imp_31475.

Kevin Seifert: Greg is referring to Thursday’s ranking of the four NFC North stadiums. I followed his link, and indeed, found evidence of 17 awards. I’m no expert, but from what I could tell, none of them had to do with the architecture/appearance of the structure.

Most of them were related to the engineering feat of fitting the new stadium inside the original fašade and the speed with which the project was completed. That’s different than giving it an architectural award for its aesthetics. The end result, in my opinion, is a highly functional stadium that doesn’t exactly evoke the Taj Mahal.


Shawn of Princeton notes this is “kind of premature” but wonders if the Vikings are at the bottom of the division at quarterback based strictly on the long-term. Shawn wonders if the Vikings will have to make an aggressive quarterback move this offseason.

Kevin Seifert: Er, yeah, a bit premature here in Week 2. But I understand what you’re getting at it, and presume it will be a topic of regular discussion for the next few months. What will the Vikings do post-Favre?

I don’t know, and I don’t think the Vikings know, either. Will Favre want or be able to play in 2010? We won’t know for sure until next summer, I would imagine. (Assuming none of us believe what he says this winter.) Tarvaris Jackson’s contract is set to expire after this season, although an uncapped year would leave him a restricted free agent. And it didn’t appear that coach Brad Childress was enamored enough with either Sage Rosenfels or John David Booty this summer to consider them likely candidates to start in the future.

So yes, unless Favre returns, the (very) early guess is that the Vikings’ 2010 starter is not currently on their roster.


Collin of Charleston, Ill., notes one omission from our Questionable Call feature: The Bears should have been called for an illegal formation penalty on the same play.

Kevin Seifert: The main thrust of the discussion was whether Green Bay cornerback Al Harris made illegal contact with Bears receiver Devin Hester; NFL rules state contact must come within five yards.

But you’re right, Collin, the replay shows the Bears didn’t have enough receivers on the line of scrimmage. At worst, there should have been offsetting penalties. Had the play been called completely right, the Bears would have been pushed back five yards. (Or the Packers would have declined and forced a punt.)

I didn’t want to complicate the post by adding this layer, but in retrospect it left an incomplete summary of the play.


Evan of Philadelphia writes: Can you comment on Mike McCarthy's decision to go for two late in the game against Chicago?

Kevin Seifert: I got more than a few questions about this, but I’m not sure I get the controversy. There isn’t too much of a difference either way, in my opinion.

A two-point conversion left the Bears trailing 21-15, needing a touchdown and an extra point to win. However miniscule the possibility, a mistake on the conversion would have left the game tied at 21.

If the Packers had kicked an extra point, they would have been ahead 20-15. A touchdown alone would have given the Bears the lead.

Had they missed on the two-point conversion, the Packers would have been ahead 19-15. The Bears would still have needed a touchdown to win it.

The only way the 2-point conversion comes back to bite the Packers is if they had missed it, and the Bears came back to score a touchdown and kick an extra point. That would have given them a 22-19 lead, meaning the Packers would have needed a field goal just to tie -- rather than win -- at the end. But with only 1:11 remaining at the time of the Packers’ final touchdown, there wasn’t enough time to realistically consider that scenario.