Things are still up in the air, and there is no guarantee that owners and players will reach an agreement, but the news that U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson has gotten both parties back into mediation gives us a glimmer of hope that a deal can quickly get done.
And hammering out a new deal before the upcoming draft is certainly in the best interest of the teams. No team is excited about the prospect of having to focus on the draft first and then free agency second, since teams usually fill their biggest needs with free agents and then look to add depth with the draft.
If a deal is done before the draft, a mad scramble to fill roster spots will likely ensue. Teams will also have more flexibility in the draft, since they will be able to include active players in any trades involving draft picks.
Here are the biggest roster moves that can unfold with a new CBA.
Some teams want to move quarterbacks, some quarterbacks want to be desperately moved and some teams are desperately in need of a quarterback. Let the bidding begin!
Carson Palmer is not a happy camper in Cincinnati. Kevin Kolb could be on the market as well. Donovan McNabb and Kyle Orton will likely be sent packing by their respective teams. Vince Young could be competing for a back-up role on some squad not named the Tennessee Titans. A lot of quality quarterbacks can be dealt, and there are more than a few teams that would love to fill the most important position on their team.
How would San Francisco look if it had Kolb throwing the ball, Vernon Davis catching it and Frank Gore running it? Would an incredibly talented team like the Vikings make it deep into the playoffs with Kyle Orton leading the way?
Adding a solid quarterback to a solid team can change everything. Also, teams that make these trades would then be able to focus on adding depth at other spots, meaning that we could have a new alignment of AFC and NFC “powers” before the draft.
Once Minnesota nabs Kyle Orton, does it then look to add Terrell Owens to the mix? There wouldn’t be a lot of time to make big moves, but there could certainly be a lot of changes.
There may be a trade or two (or more) during the upcoming draft, but there would be even more trades on draft day if teams can also include active players.
Sure, there will be some movement of quarterbacks, but there could also be blockbuster deals that include a variety of players and positions. A team like the Denver Broncos, for instance, would have more bargaining power if it could trade one if its wide receivers, say for instance, Jabar Gaffney, plus the second overall pick in exchange for multiple picks from the other team. Or, conversely, Denver may be more inclined to receive veteran players in return for a pick; after all, a team with so many holes would not want to rely so heavily on the draft.
There are teams who don’t have the roster or talent to compete in the CFL, much less the NFL. Getting a deal done soon will help these teams immensely.
Back to my beloved Broncos. This team has a lot of open roster spots to fill. The Carolina Panthers are another team that needs to rebuild. There are also teams like Cincinnati, who are teetering on the edge.
Should the Bengals lose Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson, they would essentially be starting over. They have a good group of young wide receivers, but would have a huge question mark at quarterback.
When you think of the Bengals, you normally think great passing offense—even if Carson Palmer has fallen off recently—but what would be the new team identity? Truly, a team like Bengals is just as close to getting back on track as it is to falling off completely. The Vikings are in a similar boat.
For the Broncos, Panthers, Bengals, 49ers and Vikings—and a host of other teams—being able to add free agents before the draft would make a huge difference.
If a deal gets done next week, teams would have only a handful of days to get all their ducks in a row. The best free agents would have their choice of destination. Some teams would only be interested in a role player or two, but many teams would be looking at a mad scramble to sign, trade and release. Let's see if it happens.