Each year, NFL teams have numerous issues and concerns prior to the end of the regular season and look forward to free agency to solve their needs. This NFL offseason (or lack thereof) is no different. However, the lack of a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) means normal football offseason transactions are terminated until a new agreement is in place. Quarterbacks, offensive linemen, skilled offensive players, and linebackers are constantly at the top of franchises’ wish lists and normally, teams would add experienced vets to their roster because of their proven records. Unfortunately, the 32 teams do not have the luxury to court, trade or sign free agents for now. If the NFL lockout continues through April 28 and 30 when the league’s draft takes place, will certain teams be forced to select players in key positions that they originally mandated to be filled via free agent acquisitions?
Other than the Cleveland Browns, the Dallas Cowboys and the Cincinnati Bengals (depending on the outcome of the soap opera there and whether or not they grant their thought-to-be franchise quarterback Carson Palmer’s wish to be traded), eight out of the top ten drafters needs or want a quarterback. For the heck of it, throw in the Minnesota Vikings who host the 12th overall pick. Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Kevin Kolb and Washington Redskins’ signal caller Donovan McNabb are two of the hottest field generals rumored to be on the trading block. The Arizona Cardinals, the San Francisco 49ers, the Vikings and, perhaps the Tennessee Titans, are squads that are just a quarterback away of making an immediate impact in the 2011 season. By the time a new CBA is established, movement within the top ten draft selections may have happened already. The 49ers might have made a play for Kolb or McNabb by then.
Since the new CBA is not in place, teams cannot trade players. However, draft picks can be traded in this year’s draft, but only for other draft picks. Selections in the 2011 NFL Draft cannot be changed for players nor can drafted players be exchanged for other players. With this in mind, i.e., no free agency and no player trades to be made, it means that the only possible way for teams to make additions, right now, is by way of this year’s draft. Bummer.
The inability to trade for a prize quarterback has affected the draft already in a major way for some squads. McNabb is probably the Brett Favre of this purgatory of an offseason for the NFL. The Cardinals and 49ers could use the 34-year old signal caller of the Redskins, but the Vikings have been the likely destination for McNabb since the end of the regular season. In all probability, if the business of the NFL was normal and the Eagles were willing to part ways with Kolb, the Cardinals and the 49ers would have been in the hunt for him, and perhaps McNabb. This would have eliminated the talk of having two or three quarterbacks selected with the first twelve picks.
The choice between a rookie quarterback and a solid veteran starter in the NFL is a no brainer and, were there a CBA in effect right now, the draft boards would have a different outlook. If the scenarios of McNabb and Kolb being traded before the draft were possible, both teams probably would have been able to gain at least two more draft picks this year (which would be huge for the Cardinals and Redskins because they have only six picks). Then, quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker would not be mentioned as top ten picks because their services would not be needed.
The 2011 NFL Draft is a great time and place for teams to build or restructure their defenses due to the heavy talent in the class on this side of the ball. According to several mock drafts, the first two rounds (64 selections) project an average of 35 defensive players being picked on day one of this three-day event.
Most of the draft will not be affected by the lack of a CBA because teams can change picks within this year’s selections. However, early on (as in the first and second rounds), the course for some teams’ development will change or be delayed because certain picks that are now expected to be made, would not have been in the original discussions.