Beginning next week, "Ask Vic" will publish on Monday and Thursday through the offseason.
Braden from Milwaukee, WI
I hear a lot of Packers fans saying cut Rodgers or trade him, without understanding the ramifications. I want to be able to intelligently and accurately argue these points. Can you go over the specifics of Rodgers' contract and how that would affect the team's salary cap?
First of all, because 2020 would be the last year of the current CBA, there'd be no June 1 rule. That means traded or cut Aaron Rodgers' dead money would have to fall completely onto the '20 cap. Traded, Rodgers would be a $45.9 million hit on the Packers' '20 cap. Cut, he'd be a $51.1 million hit. If that isn't enough to convince fans Rodgers is going nowhere, consider the fact the Packers just guaranteed $14.26 million in a conversion restructuring in December. That's money the Packers wouldn't have had to pay to trade or cut Rodgers had they not converted that money to signing bonus. Clearly, the team has no intentions of moving Rodgers. Given the degree to which they are committed to Rodgers contractually, I have to believe they are going to be aggressive in surrounding him with talent.
Jeff from Republic, MO
LaFleur called out the team. What's next? How does he implement change?
I think Coach LaFleur is ready to make it his team. I sensed his irritation during the game on Sunday. For the first time this season, he didn't look like "Young Sheldon."
Ben from Hilo, HI
What's your general feeling when thinking about how this year's playoffs have unfolded?
The best teams are in the Super Bowl.
Kyle from Phoenix, AZ
I sense you have great respect for Rodgers’ football ability, but your tone carries an edge when you write about him otherwise. Why is this? Am I misreading you?
He's the best quarterback I ever covered. He does things that amaze me and I think he's a clutch, big-game, crunch-time player. There's nothing about the way he plays I dislike. I think he's a strong leader; he's tough, courageous and his dedication is total. I don't like the big deal he made about calling audibles. I think he was over the top on that one. It also bothers me that one man can hold a team hostage, but that's the nature of the quarterback position due to its importance and grip on the team's salary cap.
Jake from Farmington, MN
What is your opinion on Blake Martinez? I know he gets a lot of tackles, but they always seem to be 4-5 yards downfield.
He's not a thumper. I see him as a weakside inside linebacker, which means he's more of a No. 2 inside guy. If he had a thumper (Kirkland, Farrior, etc.) next to him, he could be used more to chase the ball and play in space, and that would likely lead to making plays that would make him a fan favorite. He'll get a big contract in free agency -- they all do -- which leads me to believe the Packers have already decided to let him walk.
Brian from Waukesha, WI
Packers Coach Matt LaFleur said he "didn’t think we played with the same effort as what I had seen earlier in the season.” What do you make of this?
I think he put on the tape and what he saw disgusted him. I went back and watched some of Mostert's runs. It was as though the Packers defenders were on skates. Nobody was holding their ground. On one play, P. Smith tried to run around a block, dived at Mostert and never got a hand on him. I had trouble finding Z. Smith on a touchdown run. The defensive linemen were being moved around the field like the players in that vibrating football game I once threw against the wall when I was a kid; everybody was moving in different directions. Some guy named Goodson might've been the Packers' best run-defender. I didn't even know he was on the team.
Jason from Austin, TX
Would GM Vic of the Bengals draft a QB or trade it for more picks?
Seldom does fate bless a team as it's blessing the Bengals. They will suffer the seven plagues if they don't draft Joe Burrow.
Justin from Canton, NC
Vic, I think the Smiths can be shown what happened and taught to do better against the run; they have the athleticism to do it. I think they got too caught up in the sack this year and maybe what happened will bring them back down to earth. I'd rather them stop the run than have new sack celebrations each week.
I agree. In the old days, the bags would be sitting in the middle of the field on the first day of full-pads practice at training camp. The players would immediately know why: It's Oklahoma time. My high school coach called it Viet Cong training.
Tim from Fernandina Beach, FL
Do you pay Ngakoue big bucks, given that he's a liability in the run game?
I'd negotiate with him. If I couldn't do a deal, I'd let him walk.
Kevin from Stillwater, MN
Most seem quite impressed by what Brian Gutekunst has done. I'm not so sure. He seems like he might have missed on a top 12 pick, and he signed two players who can't or won't play the run (as you said). That doesn't say success to me. Is it as simple as the Packers had a great year, so he's done well?
Gutekunst is the right guy for the job. He's an outstanding evaluator of talent and he has the courage to be aggressive in his acquisitions. It's too early to judge the Gary pick, but I will offer a criticism on signing the Smith Bros.: I think he should've just signed one of them. You can cover up a pass-rusher who's weak against the run by shading the strong safety toward his side of the field, but you can't cover up both sides. Gutekunst had to see it on the tape when he was considering signing them. I saw it early in the season and we discussed it in this column. I think the Packers got shopping fever. They went into free agency with a lot of money and it burned a hole in their pocket.
Ben from DePere, WI
What do I look for to tell if an edge rusher can stop the run?
You look for the same thing in any front-seven defender: Can he absorb a block and hold his ground? The old linebacker on a running back drill is a staple at the Senior Bowl. Scouts want to know if a back can absorb the charge of a pass-rushing linebacker. If he can't, he's probably not an every-down back. Apply that same logic to an edge rusher.
Joe from Bloomington, IN
When Rodgers became the starter, he had a handful of quality receivers. This year it was down to one. How to build a stable of serviceable receivers?
You draft them. Dime a dozen. Give Gutekunst some time. He had a roster to rebuild. Hey, the receivers weren't the problem against the 49ers. They played pretty well. Packers fans have to get off their obsession with wide receivers. The Packers need tough guys. They got enough pretty boys. They need some grunts.
Justin from Riverview, FL
Maybe the train hasn't left the station, but it's certainly fueling to leave. In that case, should the Packers mortgage their future draft picks to move up in the draft? If you're going to get hit by a train, it better be worth it. Or is the draft too important to treat in such a shortsighted manner?
I don't wanna die healthy. You know what I mean? When they hand me over to the funeral director, I want him to look down and say, "Which end is the head?" I wanna use it all. If the Packers are going to go "All in for Aaron," then they should go all the way in, everything. You know what I mean?
Adam from Wausau, WI
The Packers drafted 21, 18 and 12 in the last two drafts. Do all three of those players have to be stars over the next three seasons for the Packers to close the talent gap?
It would certainly help. As I said, give Gary some time. Alexander is the one who's concerning me right now. He had a sensational rookie season, but not so much this past season.
John from Minnesota
I'm curious how you achieve balance between your love of human confrontation and your apparent soft spot for the little guy (or gal). I detect a sensitivity about you, but also a fierceness. How do you come to balance in life? How do you avoid becoming an extremist one way or the other?
There's no cheering in the press box. Try it. You might like it.
George from Virginia
Wounded Knee was bad, but you shouldn't lambast white Americans due to their worst moment. How about inventing cars or electricity? Your generation's hatred for its own nation has left us young folk on our own to pick up the pieces and teach ourselves to respect our forefathers and the great feats they accomplished. Speaking of which, do you really think Khan's Arabic ancestors were innocent angels? Or the native Indians, do you think they never raped or killed other tribes? I didn't want to say anything because I love your football thoughts, but it really rubbed me the wrong way. You wouldn't have framed any other race as terrible, which I find cowardly.
Will from Julian, CA
Vic, if you were the GM of a QB-needy team, which of the available big-name QBs would you consider worth signing? Consider Brady, Rivers, Manning, Foles, Mariota and all available.
Mariota interests me. I think he's salvageable. I'd also be interested in Andy Dalton. Mike Brown isn't going to pay his $17.5 million salary to sit the bench. I like Dalton and I have a feeling you could acquire him for a bargain pick. Of course, you'd first have to reach a new contract with him.
Mike from McFarland, WI
If you board the train, you eventually have to pay, but is it possible to make that payment in one year? Could the Packers mortgage the future and then the year after Rodgers retires, pay off dead cap money and field a losing team of rookies, only to start new and fresh with a clean cap the next year?
I call it a "cut and gut," and I think the Packers might be headed there.
Curt from York, PA
It’s a passing league, so the Packers signed two high-priced pass-rushers, drafted a bunch of defensive backs, and now we get clobbered twice by a running team. Are 49ers-type teams going to become a thing since most defenses today are built to try and stop the pass, or is this just a here-today, gone-next-season thing?
Yes, it's a passing league. The Chiefs are No. 26 against the run and they're in the Super Bowl. What the Packers did against the 49ers is off the charts. When your opponent can throw the ball a mere eight times and score 37 points, you can't expect to win in any era. In all of the years I've covered the NFL, that's the worst performance against the run I've ever seen. It looks even worse when you look at the tape of the game. The Packers had to know the 49ers were going to run the ball. Did they back down?