In 2011, the NFL Scouting Combine was a bittersweet event.
While there was certainly excitement about the NFL Draft, there was also the depressing understanding that the only NFL exposure we were going to get after the combine was the Draft itself, followed by lots of pictures of DeMaurice Smith and Roger Goodell surrounded by a dozen lockout lawyers at a time.
But that's all in the past now. Now, the natural order is restored. The Combine is happening now, and a couple of weeks later free agency will begin. On March 13 at 4 pm, our questions will start being answered, one-by-one.
Not July or August, days before the start of a training camp none of us were sure would even happen. Free agency starts in March, and will for the better part of the next decade.
So now that I'm done beaming over how nice it is to have a normal offseason period (and not having the Draft be the highlight of the season), it's a good time to point out another major difference between this year and last year.
This year, the Detroit Lions are more concerned with keeping their own good players (because they have those now) than bringing in fresh blood to wipe out the memories of past failures.
What we've learned is that the Lions' front office can tell good football players from bad ones. That makes them worlds better than the previous front office. What they have to do now is take that to the next level and prove they can identify the players they do and don't need with price tags attached.
That's the difference between a good front office and a front office that puts a Super Bowl champion together.
That, and these things, hopefully. Because these are the strategies the Lions will likely hold to when the market opens on March 13.