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As the pens sign the final collective bargaining agreement, the 2011 NFL Lockout comes to a close — something that everyone has been waiting for and is anxious to see. But once the drama is over, the question is simple: what now? Fans have learned what to expect as the long NFL offseason draws out over a typical spring and summer, but what should fans expect of the abbreviated offseason right now? Luckily, we have your answers here.
Chiefs fans should be excited to know that training camp should begin on Thursday although that might be pushed back once official announcements are made. The Chiefs website has announced an official press conference early tomorrow morning at 8:30am CT, and it’s assumed that training camp announcements will be discussed then.
As for player movement, trades can begin tomorrow as can negotiations with unrestricted free agents — although they cannot be signed yet. Teams can also resign their own free agents, so Chiefs FA like Shaun Smith or Ron Edwards might be signed then.
Friend and former editor of SBNKC Joel Thorman recently put out a succinct list worth checking out at SB Nation’s main football page:
NFL will release the official list of 2011 free agents.
Team facilities will open for players to come in and train, condition and work with the coaching staff. This will be voluntary.
Trades can also begin on this day.
At 10:00 a.m. (ET), teams can sign their own rookies and undrafted free agents. They can negotiate with, but not sign, their own free agents -- unrestricted, restricted and exclusive rights. They can also negotiate with franchise players. They can also negotiate with, but not sign, other teams free agents -- unrestricted, restricted and franchise players.
Teams can begin to waive or cut their own players.
At 6:00 p.m. (ET), teams can extend the contracts of players under contract, sign their own unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents and franchise players. They can also sign other teams' unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents and franchise players.
While it’s what most people predicted after the initial furor died down from the players this week, both sides are reportedly ready to agree to the new collective bargaining agreement the owners have given the players to vote on. Earlier this week, 31 of 32 owners ratified their side of the deal (with Al Davis abstaining) and now the players must do the same. They’re flying in to the nation’s capital on Monday to officially vote and sign.
This will bring a reprieve for NFL fans who have been waiting for some signs of life to alleviate their fears over any lost time. The reality is that the Hall of Fame game during the first weekend in August is the only official NFL action that was cancelled during this time outside of off-season workouts and communication. For all of the fuss over the lockout, the damage was actually minimal.
The league year can officially start Wednesday, so expect a slew of announcements on the players sign in terms of when players can resign their own free agents, pursue other unrestricted free agents and teams can start to talk trades with one another. In addition, you can expect cram sessions between rookies and coaches and a frenzy of individual players trying to figure out how they fit in the new NFL — and complaining about it if they don’t like what they hear.
Either way, fans will gladly accept any slight changes if it means we’re talking about actual football again instead of more drama between the rich and richer.
If the Green Bay Packers President Mark Murphy is to be believed, the NFL owners are finished when it comes to making moves on their side. Simply put, they will negotiate no more. With some quick remarks to reporters, Murphy said the owners have “put their pens down.” Now, it’s up to the players.
Murphy will have to eat those words if the players want to play hardball. After all, many NFL players took to Twitter yesterday and today to express their frustration and confusion over the recent proposal from the owners. Whether that’s a bit of posturing on the part of the players, a bit of ignorance showing itself with some athletes or the truth that the owners have slighted them unfairly in some way, the case remains that the players are not a unified front. Thus the upcoming player vote on Friday seems a bit uncertain.
Some analysts believe the deal will pass just fine and that the players are grumbling out loud to make the owners sweat. That’s how a recent Mike Florio columns reads, at least. If it is just about hemming and hawing, then that only makes the players look worse. The owners put a deal out there, agreed on it and said, in essence, “That’s that.” If the players complain and throw a tantrum and then follow exactly what the owners put out there, this relationship looks more like a parent-child relationship than ever before.
But at this point, nearly all fans could care less about who is embarrassed in public. They just want football. And if the contract gives the players anything remotely related to fair, then the dominant opinion or feeling seems to be for them to sign the thing. That’s what everyone is banking on, including the owners. Not only will they get their deal in the end, but they’ll do so with an authority that the players lack on all sides.
When the announcement was officially made that the NFL owners had unanimously agreed to the proposed agreement they set forth to the players to solve the current labor situation and end the NFL Lockout, most fans were left scratching their head at the odd number. After all, the league as 32 teams, so why were the reports coming in that the vote was 31-0? The reason was that Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis officially abstained.
A quick perusal of blogs, sports news sites and fan comments displayed several insults against the storied owner — an icon whose team has experienced a tremendous amount of drama and success over the last few decades. It’s an easy shot to take when aiming at Al Davis, so this just seemed another odd chapter in an already eerie story. But this isn’t a surface story of Al Davis being Al Davis. In fact, it’s a genius move that just might pay off for the owners in about two weeks.
Raiders spokesman Mike Taylor spoke to Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk with the following statement from Raiders CEO Amy Trask, “We have profound philosophical differences on a number of issues — both of a football and economic nature. We have consistently expressed our views on these matters to the League. We voted in the manner we believe best for football and with the courage of our convictions.”
Think about what this does for the Raiders. Currently the players are expressing everything from cautious optimism to confusion to anger via their Twitter accounts. The enemy at this point is a group of owners trying to strongarm them into a bad deal for the next decade via a public relations war that everyone is commenting on in real time. Legions of NFL fans are watching at every turn. And the players are left looking like the bad guys.
But one owner isn’t playing. One owner abstained. That owner, at the very least, didn’t vote yes — even if he didn’t vote no. And that owner will not be seen as “one of them.” It’s that last line that makes all of the difference.
By abstaining, the Raiders are now painted with a different brush in the eyes of the players. They aren’t lumped in with the deceitful greedy owners that the players have to view the rest as. Instead, the Raiders now come across as sympathetic to the cause of the players — whether that’s the reality behind the abstention or not.
There’s no way to tell in concrete terms whether or not this will make a difference in the upcoming free agent period — that is, unless a player comes out and says, “I wanted to play for the Raiders because I hate the other owners.” That’s unlikely to happen. Yet it can’t hurt for Davis to distance himself from the vitriol sure to be spewed toward the rest of the NFL’s upper crust. In a scenario where even the commissioner is in bed with the owners, imagine just how appealing Al Davis looks when taking a step aside and saying a simple, “No comment.”
My guess is that Davis reaps something of a reward in all of this — that at the very least, the players are thankful for one owner who has an issue with the way today’s agreement went down. He’s easy to laugh at or poke fun of, but in this instance, Al Davis is the one owner who comes out looking good.
Most fans must be pleased with the perceived closeness of a deal on the table that was just agreed upon by the NFL owners after months of a lockout that has become the longest in league history. Of course, any level of negotiations and concessions on both sides becomes positive news in an off-season where no news is bad news. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the maneuvers today to approve their half of a proposed labor deal is the icing on a cake fans have been waiting to light.
Instead, several NFL players are calling foul on the owners for pulling such a move. Chris Long urges patience via his Twitter account when he writes, “we definitely owe you guys a season but we need to make sure we all get this right… thanks for yalls patience.” Vonnie Holliday tweets, “Please don’t get excited about that press conference. The owners have agreed on a deal we the players have not seen! This is not consistent.”
On an angrier note, Ryan Clark writes, “Please don’t get excited about that press conference. The owners have agreed on a deal we the players have not seen! This is not consistent.” And finally, Heath Evans uses a hashtag of #PRPlay and writes, "Here is what the “Real” fans need 2 know: The owners tried 2 slip many things n2 the CBA “they” voted on that were NEVER agreed 2!"
In short, it seems that players across the board are balking at provisions never seen before and a contract that was signed so publicly at the deadline, knowing that every NFL fan would bob their head over the player’s side like a chess match waiting for the right move — which is to sign.
The players have a few options at this point. If they want to, they should sign after a couple of days to check it out and ratify the deal as is. If the players don’t sign at this point, they must put forth a very clear, understandable explanation to fans why they are not signing it, or else they will come out the clear losers in this deal. If the players delay the offseason to the point where games are lost, then fans will ultimately side with the owners simply for the sake of putting a product on the field.
As of this point, it was a smart move by the owners to be the first ones to sign an agreement. The players had to know that the first side with pen in hand is going to be the hero of the moment. The players lose and the owners knew exactly what they were doing. Unless the owners make a concession soon or the players just suck it up, it still might be a while.
Make sure to check out more SB Nation coverage of the lockout over at our NFL headquarters.
Fans of the NFL: you have a decision to make. Because if you want to be upset about the lockout and consider missing out on the action in some sort of protest, you need to know that you’re going to have to choose sometime soon because commissioner Roger Goodell has given the league permission to reopen facilities on Saturday and reopen the year on Wednesday. The NFL Lockout is nearly over.
The players still have to vote on the agreement, but a 31-0 vote has brought together the owners to ratify, with Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis abstaining from his vote. The move is the first of two major votes needed to clear the necessary hurdles and begin the NFL offseason in earnest with free agency for both unrestricted and restricted free agents, undrafted free agents and team-resignings. Trades will ensue, players will move and teams will scramble like mad to put together their rosters. In other words, it’s everything fans have been waiting for.
The final details of the deal will come forth in the days to come and the players are set to vote by next Tuesday if they are to ratify what the owners have set forth. They also must reconstitute their players’ union by that time as well. There are still several hoops and players will give quotes that say they might not pass the deal, but the reality is that it’s all posturing at this point. The NFL is coming back and you’ll have plenty of player movement news soon enough. The question is whether or not you’re still angry enough to ignore it.
For some teams, the looming NFL free agent season is going to be difficult to piece things together. The defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers are right up against the supposed new salary cap and will have to work some magic to bring back most of the same roster who comprised last year’s surprise Super Bowl team. The Redskins, Cowboys, Colts and Vikings are all over the cap and need to figure out which veterans to cut. But other teams, like the St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs, figure to cash in on the new salary cap rules.
Both the Rams and Chiefs have well over $30 million to spend given the league’s new salary cap floor that guarantees a team will spend nearly all of a year’s given salary cap. The Chiefs were among last year’s lowest payrolls and now both young franchises will be forced to extend their own players and bring in veteran acquisitions to round out the cap. This means teams might be a bit more aggressive to bring in players they want at prices higher than normal.
Then again, with over 450 players hitting the free agent pool, including several larger names, the Chiefs and Rams don’t have to play the desperate card. The Chiefs especially are a desirable free agent locale given their upward momentum, weak division and steady roster from last year’s 10-win season. Most analysts believe the Chiefs are only a few pieces away from putting it all together and ruling atop the AFC West for some time, and those pieces might arrive in this year’s free agent crop.
ESPN currently has the Chiefs at 34.3 million under the cap and the Rams at $35.6 million under. The Bucs lead all teams with nearly $60 million to work with, but it’s also a team with more holes than most — despite last season’s surprise record at 10-6.
The season ending playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens unveiled the greatest area of need for the Kansas City Chiefs front office. Scott Pioli took his cue right from the game when he chose first round selection Jonathan Baldwin at No. 27 in the April NFL Draft — gaining an over-the-top vertical threat to pair with the Chiefs offense. But since Baldwin is a rookie without any offseason activities with the team or coaching staff, would it be worth it for the Chiefs to grab an elite wideout to go with him on the outside?
If you’ll remember the scenario, teams learned to stack the box by season’s end against the Chiefs league leading running game. Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones can only do so much when teams are bringing eight defenders against the offensive line, and that places pressure on Matt Cassel and his receivers to spread the field. But when Dwayne Bowe is doubled up, the Chiefs had no other receiver who could ease the pressure.
Enter Baldwin, who was taken from Pittsburgh for his ability to get over the top and use his elite size and athleticism to provide another top rated target for Cassel. But rookie receivers rarely live up to their long-term potential, with Bowe actually serving as one of the few examples of the last few years of a rookie wideout lending instant impact on the field. For the most part, the results are middling as they learn the ropes in the NFL level.
The Chiefs are also going to have major money to spend given the new salary cap floor. They can no longer have tens of millions of unspent cash, if the lockout agreement is as reported. Thus with money to burn and a great free agent crop of wide receivers, is it possible the Chiefs grab both a first-round talent like Baldwin and a flashy name in the same off-season? There’s no reason why not.
Several name players are available, from Santonio Holmes to Sidney Rice and Braylon Edwards to Vincent Jackson. That’s not to mention guys like Malcolm Floyd as well. There’s plenty of supply but also lots of demand, which means the Chiefs should be aggressive if they’re serious about such an acquisition. Pairing a guy like Holmes opposite of Dwayne Bowe and allowing Baldwin to learn along the way seems like an ideal scenario for the Chiefs. Bowe is also in a contract year, which means he’s likely to perform well and show the Chiefs what they would be getting over the long-term given his up and down performance of the last two seasons.
If the Chiefs were to grab a Floyd or Holmes, their offense would immediately move into the “great” category alongside other offenses like Green Bay or Houston. Those are the types of offenses that can put up points at any moment and given the Chiefs playmakers on offense, from Charles to Bowe to even Dexter McCluster, it could be the move that puts the team over the top and deep into the playoffs. It would also be the case of turning a weakness one year into a major strength in the following season.
As great as the Chiefs running game was last season — best in the NFL — there’s always room for improvement. That’s been the constant mindset of Todd Haley and Scott Pioli in their mantra to always think forward, to always get better at what you do, despite the successes that have gone before you. And if the Chiefs are serious about wanting to move forward at the running game, a certain fullback named Vonta Leach would make a wonderful addition to a backfield that’s already loaded.
The fullback for the Houston Texans is an unrestricted free agent and can call his own shots on whether or not he returns to lead Arian Foster to another rushing title. But several other teams are apparently interested and, at the end of the day, Leach’s primary concern seems to be taking advantage of this big payday he’s worked so hard to move toward. He recently told Sirius NFL host Adam Schein, “When you are the best at your position, you want to be compensated like it.”
That’s an understandable goal and one that the Chiefs have plenty of ability to help with given the tremendous amount of salary cap room. For Leach’s part, he deserves it given the results of his efforts, but plenty of suitors will be waiting to lure him to their teams in case Houston doesn’t make him their primary target. The Giants, Seahawks and Chargers are all apparently on his radar as well. Leach is primed for a nice paycheck next season and some team’s running game is going to be that much better because of it. If it’s the Chiefs, the NFL’s best rushing attack will get even better.
The closer we get to a CBA agreement is the closer the NFL gets to making another batch of undrafted rookies' dreams come true. There were seven rounds in the NFL draft last April that saw 254 players have their dreams realized when they were drafted by their respective NFL teams. But for a good number of players that dream was put on hold. They had to continue their workouts and continue holding out hope that they would have their day that they could say they are a NFL player.
Darren Evans was one of those players. The former Virginia Tech running back was told that he was a 5th-7th rounder and could possibly go undrafted in this past NFL draft. The 6'0 227lb Evans came off a 2010 season in which he rushed for 857 yards on 151 carries for a 5.7 yards per carry average. He scored 11 touchdowns while splitting carries with co-star Ryan Williams. Evans has to sit out the entire 2009 season with a torn ACL while he was coming off of a freshman season with 1254 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The Chiefs brought in Williams before the draft for a visit last spring and they could have got some information about Evans from Williams during that visit. The Chiefs have been known to get information on certain players from their former teammates. They talked with Sean Weatherspoon at Missouri about Aldon Smith before Smith was drafted 7th overall by San Francisco, they had also talked with Tony Moeaki about his friend at Iowa, Ricky Stanzi, before the Chiefs ended up selecting Stanzi in the 5th round of this past draft.
Maybe they got some good information about the low risk, high reward player in Evans that could find himself learning behind another running back that played college ball in the state of Virginia, Thomas Jones. The Chiefs need a young running back in the system that will be able to step in and share carries with Jamaal Charles sooner rather than later.
The idea of getting an UDFA running back only makes perfect sense for a Chiefs team that has built itself around the strength of its' running game over the last year and a half. The organization knows that Thomas Jones will not be around for another year after this next season and they will need to find someone that will be able to step in and contribute right away. If they wait another year to make a move to find that player they are setting themselves up for a problem if the player they go with, maybe through the draft next year, doesn't work out and have Thomas Jones not still be around.
By taking Evans you are giving the young player with a lot of upside one year to show that they don't have to draft someone next year to step in and be the guy to share carries with Charles. There was another recent undrafted running back that stood at 6'1 227 lbs, and his name was Arian Foster. Not that every running back that goes undrafted will have the same impact that Arian Foster has had for the Texans, but it has happened before.
The Chiefs don't have anything to lose by giving Evans a shot to make the team and earn the chance to prove he has a spot on this team moving forward.
Even with hundreds of players set to hit free agency and create a buzz, it's a player who hasn't put up a single statistic in the National Football League since 2008 that has so many sportswriters and NFL analysts talking the most. Plaxico Burress has served his prison time and is now available as a free agent just like any other player whose contract is up, and the big play ability that was once there have many wondering whether Burress could bring that same talent to another team on this side of prison.
The odds are certainly stacked against him. The game has changed at least somewhat since 2008 in the players and coaches he would be facing. He will be 34-years-old by the 2011 regular season. He hasn't exactly had pro level workout facilities. Yet the NFL is still as reliant on the passing game as ever, and enough teams are hurting for red zone targets at wideout that Burress should receive some interest from several teams.
Yet for those who hope Burress will be an impact WR once again, some perspective is necessary. Burress was already seemingly in decline his last season with over a half season's worth of starts yet only 4 touchdowns and 454 receiving yards to his name. For that matter, Burress has only crossed the 1,000 yard mark four times in a 9 season career. He's certainly an ideally sized target at 6-5, but the lack of playing time should keep every team realistic in its expectations for Burress.
Yet that hasn't stopped the Oakland Raiders from being mentioned alongside teams like the New York Jets as possible stops for Burress in free agency. The Raiders have definite needs on the outside for a playmaker, especially in the red zone and Burress' hands and large frame would serve that role well -- if he's up to NFL standards. Zach Miller was the Raiders leading receiver last year with 60 catches and no WR broke the 50 catch mark. Louis Murphy and Jacoby Ford led Raider wideouts in receiving yards, but neither one had more than 2 touchdowns. Simply put, the Raiders need a major target at wide receiver.
For the Raiders to put everything in a Burress type basket would be irresponsible of the front office, so expect them to bring in another veteran receiver even if Burress becomes a Raider. But at the very least, it would provide an intriguing subplot in the AFC West this season.
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