Will Lockout Hurt Free Agency?


By the time that the NFL and NFLPA get their acts together, teams will be on the verge of starting training camps.  A flurry of signings is expected once the market opens up with what will likely be fourth and fifth year veterans making up the bulk of that pool.  Traditionally, as you know, free agency would have been over long before the draft and this month would simply be a countdown to the start of camps.

Ah, but the lockout changed all that.

While the lockout is likely to have little effect on player movement the real question will become how the new additions to teams will integrate into a new system in a short period of time and be successful?  It’s one thing to sign a player, hand him a playbook, meet with the coaches, get into the weight room, and wait a few weeks for a mini-camp as opposed to signing a player, handing him a playbook, and telling him to get on the practice field.  Which is precisely what is about to happen.

It’s safe to assume that some positions will be easier to integrate into systems than others.  It’s also safe to assume that longer termed veterans will find it easier to acclimate to a new program than a younger player who hasn’t been around as long to fully appreciate how teams conduct training camps.  At the same time, you could argue that a 5 year veteran of one team may find it difficult moving from one system to another in a short period of time.

A bigger question would be how the lack of off-season and sudden flurry of player movement will effect the quality of play.

Of all the positions on the field, the QB may be the hardest to acclimate.  Consider that there is more than simply learning a new playbook or signals.  Audibles and checks.  There is also the timing issue with the receivers, runners, and center exchange.  Off-season practice has always benefited the timing between the offense and the QB so that once training camp opens, it’s more of a fine tuning.

Some will point out that there are exceptions.  Take Chad Pennington for example who joined Miami during camp.  While Pennington did a great job in his first season with Miami, he was familiar with the system to a degree but more importantly, he was not a “timing” QB but instead was a possession QB who relied heavily on the check down throws and the short intermediate throws as well.  I’m not taking anything from him at all, but I don’t see a QB on the market this year who would find the same success under the current situation.

If QB is the hardest to acclimate, then RB and Oline would be the easiest.  Luckily for the Dolphins, they need to find both in the shortened free agency.  Runners are runners and very rarely is a scheme or system greatly different from another team.  The language is different and there lies the learning curve but the plays are basically the same.  Dives, sweeps, pulls, etc…  For the Dolphins, signing a player like DeAngelo Williams or a Darren Sproles would not hurt the makeup of the team.  No more than signing a top or mid-tier free agent guard.  The assignments are more about language than timing.  It’s why you see teams trying to trade for these types of positions prior to the yearly trade deadline.

That same thing can be said about LB’s as well.  LB’s are plug and play type players.  They may be asked to play a little differently between one system and another but they are universally interchangeable if they stay within the same system.  Say a 4-3 vs. a 3-4 and so on.  DE’s are in a similar boat as well, as is most of the defensive units.

The real challenge however will be for those teams who will go out and sign a lot of free agents.  Integrating more than usual new faces in a short time will eventually hurt the continuity of the team.  What I mean by that is if the Dolphins sign a QB, RB, OG, TE, and add a WR as well to the offense.  It’s safe to say that the team will have to cut 5 players off their offensive roster at a minimum to accommodate the additions.  Especially if those additions are expected to be starters.

Teams who add more players will take longer to get their final rosters on the “same page” than teams who opt to sign key free agents to supplement holes or depth players who will contribute on special teams.

For the Dolphins, they have a lot of holes, but it’s where the holes are located that might benefit them if they choose to spend once the market opens.  The Dolphins don’t need to add a WR or as much as you won’t want to hear it, a starting QB.  They need depth at the position and someone who will challenge Henne as the season moves forward.  But they don’t need to make unnecessary trades for guys like Carson Palmer or Kyle Orton.  Instead, they can go the one or two year route and sign a player like Vince Young or maybe a Marc Bulger who will compete and be a viable back-up.

For the Dolphins, their offense could be ahead of the curve with the Henne led workouts and defensively nothing has changed since last year.  They need to fill a couple of spots but nothing glaring.  It will for sure be an interesting week that will include visits and signings that may very well be reported by the hour.  An entire month of free agent activity smashed into just over 7 days.

When it finally begins.

Tags: Brian Daboll Chad Henne Chad Pennington Jake Long Miami Dolphins NFL NFL Free Agency

  • mike

    Good article, Brian. Free agency has definitely been hurt already. I think, in some cases, the player will be hurt most by not getting time to shop himself around for the best deal. Then again, some teams may hurt themselves by jumping for a player and offering/giving up to much just to get them signed and in camp. I hope the Dolphins aren’t one of those teams. I would not mind if they went after Harvey Dahl for the OL but I am right with you on not giving up anything for a QB. I believe, at this point, Marc Bulger would be the perfect fit and right choice. I think our backfield is fine with Thomas, Hilliard, and Sheets. They could resign Ricky cheap and bring in undrafted rookie RB Chad Spann: (1:04 into video)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kU2b7G2Oocg

    His yards after contact is more than impressive and he only has 6 fumbles in well over 500 carries. No baggage on him and has won all kinds of awards.

    I just don’t see where they need to hit free agency all that hard but need to hit the undrafted rookie market real hard.

    Bring in:
    QB Scott Tolzien
    QB Zack Eskridge
    QB Ben Chappell (has a gun but erratic)
    RB Chad Spann
    RB Brandon Saine
    RB Darren Evans
    WR Darvin Adams
    WR Kris Adams
    TE Weslye Saunders
    TE Charlie Gantt
    C Ryan Bartholomew
    C Ryan Pugh
    G Zack Hurd
    T Kyle Hix
    S DeAndre McDaniel
    S Joe Lefeged
    ILB Mario Harvey
    OLB Mario Addison
    DE/OLB Keith Darbut
    NT Ian Williams

    I have no QB favs but believe Chad Spann is a must get. Others that stand out to me are troubled TE Saunders, ILB Harvey, and OLB’s Addison and Darbut.

    ILB Harvey is only 5’11″ but is over 250 lbs and runs a 4.46 40. Great at blitzing from ILB position (9.5 sacks)

    OLB Kieth Darbut is a small college guy (Baldwin-Wallace) but a freak. He had 10.5 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles. He also caught a 40-yard touchdown pass on offense. Darbut 6-4, 229 lbs. participated at the Akron Pro Day and ran 40 times of 4.38 and 4.40 with a 1.42 ten-yard split that would’ve bested all pass rushers at the Combine. He also recorded a 10-foot-6 broad jump and 38-inch vertical, benching 225 pounds 26 times.

    His DC revealed to PFT that Darbut ran a 4.32 forty during a recent private workout for the Colts. WOW!

    I also saw where he had a workout with the Dolphins on March 24th.

  • Ranadicus

    ‘fins need depth at NT, rush OLB, OT and maybe a LG depending on how Garner looks. For RB depth I don’t want a near 30 year old, Sproles or a near 30 year old and often injured Williams. Kevin Smith is a guy who averages 10+ yards per catch and at 215 can run it up the middle too (and he’s only 24).