With the new rookie wage scale in place, teams won't have to shell out as much money if they decide to make aggressive efforts to trade up in the draft. If a team finds themselves near the bottom-half of draft rounds but has the ammunition to barter for a special player, why not do it?
If the Indianapolis Colts have taught us anything in the 2011 NFL season, it's that a premier quarterback can mask just about any problems within the franchise. This is fantastic news for quarterback-desperate teams at the bottom of the NFL barrel, especially with an upcoming draft that has no shortage of great signal-calling prospects.
The talent doesn't end under center, however. There are several special players that need professional homes, and loaded teams are preparing to make their move to get them. The Atlanta Falcons showed us last April that if the right prospect comes along, teams will trade anything to get him.
Expect no shortage of deals once April rolls around this year. Let's talk about a few possible scenarios.
The preseason hype surrounding the Philadelphia Eagles defense is well documented. The midseason laments surrounding their weakness at linebacker are as well.
While the defense appears to be turning a new corner under much-maligned defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, there is still much to be desired around what is a stout defensive line. 2012's draft has higher-level prospects at middle linebacker than 2011's did. As many as three could be chosen in the first round, depending on other teams' needs.
If Jeffrey Lurie and company are savvy—the 2011 NFL offseason proved that they are—they should aggressively pursue a young stud like Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict, Notre Dame's Manti Te'o or Boston College's Luke Kuechly.
With 10 picks in 2012, they certainly have the capability to trade up and snag them if they desire to.
It's very possible that the Eagles will be in appropriate draft position to grab Te'o and Kuechly without trading, but Burfict could be a Top 10 pick. If the front office loves him enough, it'd be a smart move to pull the trigger and grab him.
For years, the Washington Redskins ignored the draft. Several big-name free agents paraded into D.C., collected their paycheck and underperformed while the franchise sunk deeper into mediocrity.
The talent they acquired never allowed them to hit absolute rock bottom, so they missed out on several top prospects. With the exception of Joe Gibbs 2.0 era, they were never true contenders, either.
Since Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan took over, a new leaf appears to have turned over. You wouldn't know by looking at the standings. However, this past offseason indicated the team is on the right track. The Redskins stockpiled 12 draft picks and made zero flashy splashes in free agency.
Despite these sensible transactions, there is a huge hole at the most important position. While the Redskins appear to be heading toward another Top-10 selection, it may not be high enough to obtain their franchise quarterback. They have just three wins so far, so they appear to be out of the "Suck for Luck" sweepstakes.
But if Dan Snyder decides to do something drastic—we all know he's quite capable of doing so—he could empty the bank for the No. 1 overall pick to acquire Andrew Luck.
This is highly dependent on several factors, though.
It's hard to envision a team like the 0-7 Dolphins taking anything less than their own private island in exchange for the top pick should they possess it.
If the Colts have it, Peyton Manning would have to make a hell of a case to convince Jim Irsay and company that his injured neck will be a non-factor going forward.
But amid all this is a familiar mantra in the nation's capital: If Dan Snyder wants something, he gets it.
Winning masks everything. So it's no surprise that Pittsburgh's four-game winning streak has put their offensive line concerns on the back burner.
While the unit's play has improved during this streak, it's hard to imagine that head coach Mike Tomlin would not desire any upgrades. The line's pass protection has been a major concern in recent history, but a quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger has elite ability when under duress.
Now imagine how good the passing game would be if he had more time.
Matt Kalil of USC and Jonathan Martin of Stanford should be locks for the top five, and Pittsburgh should consider moving up to take them. Though the Steelers have traditionally been conservative in trading up and down, Kalil and Martin are talented enough to warrant changing that philosophy.
A counterbalance to facing Terrell Suggs biannually may be too enticing of an opportunity to pass up, no matter the cost.
Back in 2009, the Chicago Bears dealt Kyle Orton, two first-round picks and a third-rounder to snag a disgruntled Jay Cutler from the Denver Broncos.
Isn't it about time he had a playmaker to throw to?
It's likely that a good receiver will be available by the time the Bears will be projected to draft. My guess is that they'll be in the 18-24 range of the first round, which could leave Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu and Notre Dame's Michael Floyd available.
But I don't believe this is good enough.
If the Bears' offense is ever truly going to scare teams, they need a stud to take the top off of opposing defenses, while Matt Forte gives them nightmares underneath. If they trade into the Top 10 to snag Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State or Alshon Jeffery of South Carolina, Cutler's huge arm will not go to waste.
General manager Jerry Angelo invested a lot to get Cutler. He'll need to open the wallet just a little more to make his investment really pay off.
The Atlanta Falcons traded five draft picks to the Cleveland Browns to move to the sixth-overall slot in 2011. Of those five, the Browns currently possess a first-round pick and a fourth-round pick in 2012. That gives them a total of two first round selections.
Because the Browns are (perpetually) rebuilding, having two first-round picks is extremely advantageous. But if they don't finish the 2011 season well, having that extra ammunition could pay off in spades.
Suppose a team like the Rams finishes at the bottom of the NFL standings. They won't likely pull the trigger on Andrew Luck unless they decide to ship off Sam Bradford, which is highly unlikely, speculatively speaking.
However, if the Browns have two first-rounders and the Rams can have three first round picks at the expense of moving down just a few spots, Cleveland can nab Luck and St. Louis would have the building blocks in place to build around Bradford.
It's an intriguing scenario, but because the Browns have these first-round picks, they will have plenty of freedom to wheel and deal.