Judge Susan Robert Nelson threw the NFL a curve ball yesterday.
She issued a ruling in the Brady vs. NFL case in favor of the players, but that was expected by both sides and just about anyone following the case. What was not expected, though, was that she did not issue a stay of her ruling.
To explain, while most assumed based of some of her comments that the ruling would be for the players, it was also assumed that she would issue alongside her ruling a stay that would keep the lockout in place until the NFL could appeal. In Judge Nelson’s 89 page document, nowhere was any mention of such a stay.
So what does that mean for the practical purposes of the NFL and its players? No one knows. Some players are showing up to work today by order of their team reps, but the NFL has told teams that the players are to have no contact with coaches or be allowed to work out at team facilities.
There is also no official word on whether NFL teams will be allowed to make transactions. The Players Association, which is now a trade association rather than a union, insists that transactions can and should take place. The NFL is operating under a different assumption, and transactions will not be made until they are told to.
This will be sorted out in either Judge Nelson’s court—as the NFL has filed an expedited appeal for a stay—or in the 8th district court in St. Louis, where the owners' appeal to the ruling will eventually be heard. Expect a ton of wrangling and social posturing in the next few days, however, as everyone tries to sort this out.
What does all of this mean for the Houston Texans?
Here we are, two days away from the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, and this wrench gets thrown into the supposedly "smoothly running machine" that is the Texans' draft board. How will this change that, if at all?
The Texans may be more willing to trade up and get an impact player.
A week ago, Peter King stated that the Texans loved LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson and he sensed a trade up was going to happen. Chronicle writer John McClain has been beating that drum for months, but with Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller as the target.
I have no idea if there is merit to the notion that the Texans will trade up, or if McClain and King are just hypothesizing. If there was a thought in the mind of Gary Kubiak, Rick Smith and Wade Phillips that trading up would be a good course of action, their conviction may have grown stronger.
Previously, it was unknown when free agency would occur, therefore it was deemed wise for a team with as many holes to fill as the Texans to use as many picks as they could to fill those holes. Conventional wisdom in this circumstance would say that trading down would be much more logical than up.
With free agency possibly days away now, however, the Texans' brain trust might be more apt to value an impact player that can immediately step in and help turn around the defense in year one. The reason for the renewed confidence is that they know free agency might be on the horizon, and feel comfortable they can plug holes that way.
The fact that the NFL would eventually have free agency was never in doubt, but the timing of this ruling to lift the lockout means that even though the order was backwards, the draft and free agency could be completed by the end of May. This means the team could be in place for the most part before the start of the summer.
Both Peterson and Miller are impact players that can immediately affect the defense for the positive next year.
Peterson may not be a lock down corner from the beginning, but he certainly can start in the Texans' beleaguered secondary, and fill a void the Texans have had in the return game for several seasons. Miller needs to refine some of his pass rush moves, but his speed can immediately make him a threat to opposing quarterbacks in the NFL.
I would favor Miller over Peterson simply because as a pass rusher he can affect every play, but Peterson is also great in press coverage—something that Wade Phillips will ask the Texans corners to engage in frequently as he dials up pressure. Either player has a good chance of having elite careers in the NFL.
Getting one of these players could be considered the closest thing to signing a free agent. While their success is far from certain, so are free agents from other teams as the Texans have unfortunately found. Getting one of these two talents might be worth losing a second round pick that is written off as cost just as free agency spending would be.
While Rick Smith does not have a reputation for trading up, he has previously given up picks for a player that was required by the coaching staff for success on the field. Two second round picks were dealt for quarterback Matt Schaub. The front office might see it acceptable to deal one second rounder for the impact equivalent to the quarterback on defense.
I have previously stated that I would be in favor of the Texans trading down, as there is an abundance of talent at positions of need for the Texans in the second and third round. Having said that though, if the Texans are truly committed to spending in free agency this year, trading up for one of these two would be acceptable.
Arguments over whether the Texans can afford spending draft picks go hand in hand in free agency. Spending during this period is the only way that trading up will work. The revelation that this period might be close might only bolster the idea that this course of action is feasible and necessary.
Those are my thoughts, but feel free to let me know what you think in the comments or on twitter (@JakeBRB). It’s two days away from the draft, let’s get some Texans discussion going.