This coming April, there will be an NFL draft. And that’s as far as it goes for certain in the NFL after the Super Bowl. The CBA is getting closer to the center of the sports world. Only die-hard baseball fans will tell you that “America’s Game” still resides on the diamond, although a lock-out could surely change that. When the NFL concludes it’s NFL season with the Super Bowl, they will go into territory that they have not visited since the mid-80’s. The possibility of life without football.
Some say that the season will get a late start. It will have an abbreviated season. Some believe that the NFL and the NFLPA won’t get an agreement until August at the earliest and some say early September. There will be no off-season conditioning programs, no mini-camps or training camps, nothing. Players can’t won’t go to the training facilities to voluntarily workout and new schemes and systems won’t be able be implemented.
In other words, come next season, the only teams that will make an impact will be those that are under secure coaching regimes with players that are under contract and ingrained in that teams systems. The Packers, Saints, Patriots, Jets, Colts, are a few that come to mind. Teams like the Dolphins, too much change in the wrong year spells doom.
There will be no free agency and there will be no player movement at all. Everything freezes and aside from 7 rounds of draft picks, nothing will change.
Consider that the start of free agency is set to begin on March 3rd. On that date, players that are set to become free agents suddenly find themselves with nowhere to go. Teams can’t sign a free agent with no CBA. Guys like Ronnie Brown and Paul Soliai can’t even negotiate with other teams. There is speculation that all of those players will be held at the same pay level with the same benefits and remain under the 2010/2011 contracts that they had. Meaning they will remain the property of their respective teams for one more year.
Also consider draft day trades in April. Names like Kyle Orton and Vince Young are being talked about endlessly right now, but without a CBA, those teams can’t trade those players. Not for draft picks, not for other players, not for monetary value. Nothing. They can’t go anywhere. So the teams may simply release them and while that may happen, the reality is that once they are released, they are free agents, and teams will not be allowed to sign free agents.
This also holds true for undrafted rookies. The Sunday following draft weekend usually is a feeding frenzy for undrafted free agents. This year, there won’t be any. Without a CBA in place, these ex-college players will be sitting at home watching the ESPN tickers like the rest of us. Waiting for an announcement and hoping that they won’t be forgotten once there is a deal in place.
So at least we have the draft. Or do we? Sure there will be a draft, but don’t expect any team to negotiate a contract with the players they draft. There is no reason to sign them because they can’t participate. They can’t pick up a playbook, visit the facilities, nothing. They can’t even have a one on one with the coach and in reality, it’s unlikely that they will have any team press conferences to announce their arrivals because they will be part of the NFL. That area is a little gray. Are they under the NFL umbrella when they are drafted or when they are signed? Will have to research that one.
In any case, what we are seeing is a bleak off-season. Owners want more and the players want it the same. Owners want the player to do this, and the players want the owners to do that.
Regardless of whether they agree, disagree, lock-out, play, whatever, guess who will pay the higher costs of operation? Yep. We will.
And yet we don’t have a say in anything that goes on with these negotiations. It’s too bad we couldn’t start our own “fan union”. Perhaps maybe we wouldn’t have to worry so much about “life without football”.
All this talk of new coaches and free agent players…may not mean anything at all.