Oh, what a relief it is to be actually discussing the ramifications of the league's gears whirring back into motion. With a projected timeline all but set in stone, that looks to inevitably take place whether it occurs in the preset timetable or not, we know a great deal about the domino effect the NFL's record length work stoppage could have on teams and the game itself. There has been a great deal of discussion in the media on how this most certainly puts teams with new coaches, playbooks, and installations at a larger disadvantage than teams with systems, staff, and personnel mostly in place. What hasn't been discussed as much, is the disadvantage this places on young players coming into the league, and the potential windfall of players that could be cut--most likely prematurely--to become UDFAs in an already rich pool of mostly untapped talent. One would have to think that some franchises that have been around for awhile might have some way to tap that resource during the lockout, or at the very least, get to know a few guys a little better.
While a sense of urgency might be necessary at some stage of the game, it's probably not right away, as things look to pan out. Hit the jump to see why...
As presented in multiple projected timelines, and as Peter King discussed on NFL network, teams will be allowed a three or four day period to talk to their own players before any offering or trading can begin. Advantage: Al Davis, perhaps more than any other single owner or general manager in the league. The assembly of the world class staff should send a clear message to any players who were around last year, and if any of them were even the least bit vocal about Tom Cable's departure then, it has certainly been swept under the rug since. It now seems so long ago. This squad appears to be buying into what Hue Jackson is selling, and that could be a larger factor in this period when Al is allowed to talk to players before they hit free agency.
It has been discussed at length that the teams with set coaches, quarterbacks, and schemes will have a tremendous advantage to those with new coaches, coordinators, gunslingers, and the ramifications that brings. Many draftees and free agents will set foot on the field having never before met their respective coordinators and coaches, and many others who have yet to crack the playbooks.There will no doubt be certain players working out for positions throughout the league who will struggle with the shortened season, and solid talent will slip through the cracks of rosters, unable to find ground in new systems, or just in teams that struggle to find identity at all. We have all made excuses for Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey because a certain slob, who preferred ingesting opiates to playing football, was throwing (or not, and taking a sack) to them. How many teams will struggle to find a passing rhythm, therein causing an up and coming game-changer wideout to be open and not targeted? How many others just won't find that chemistry you don't typically get in such a short time? Now, forget about skills positions, and talk linemen: here again, how well can a kid internalize a playbook when it's brand new to him, and he's only been able to see it on pages and never on the field until two weeks before he sees action? Who has an eye for such talent, overlooked elsewhere for whatever reason? Patience, Mr. Davis, Patience. Good things will come to those who wait this time around.
Hue Jackson has mentioned a plan in place to retain the nucleus of players that comprise our Oakland Raiders. This plan no doubt already has a clear idea of who we intend to keep and who we do not. Provided we are able to come out of that period with said personnel, it is probably safe to say that so long as we are able to manipulate some cap space as mentioned in Rich Langford's brilliant post, we'll be in great shape to pursue the missing links in free agency.
This morning, a Raider fan calling the Sirius blitz asked Rich Gannon what Al Davis' typical schedule looks like this time of year. Rich replied that Al still watches a phenomenal amount of film, and still puts in a tremendous amount of time in the facility. Gannon said in his experience, it was normal for Al to remain in the building upwards of twelve hours a day, crossing T's and dotting I's in preparation for the season. He said Al liked to show up later, around 11am or noon, and worked well into the evening and twilight, often past midnight. I'm of the belief this time during the lockout might actually work to his benefit, allowing him to find the sleepers and keep a close eye on guys he'll predict will slip through the roster cracks of certain teams who can become great Raiders. I don't know about you all, but I'm excited as I can be to see what happens. Interestingly enough, the trepidation that normally accompanies my excitement is totally gone, and I can't even put my finger on exactly why. Just a gut feeling here...
So, with that, let the show begin! I'm hoping the players will be allowed into facilities before week's end, which is maybe the best news I've heard since this dreadful lockout began. If things go well enough, I believe I might just have to finalize plans to be in Oakland for the home preseason opener vs. the Arizona Cardinals on 8/11/11. Now, I'm not a big fan of preseason games for the outcomes, but I do want very much to have a look at who will earn a chance to show what their made of in preseason competition to make the team. It's highly likely Hue Jackson will want to work the skill sets of Taiwan Jones, Denarius Moore, Richard Gordon, David Ausberry, and Joseph Barksdale in to the mix, at least a little. I'd expect the same of Bresnahan and Woodson who will likely want to get DeMarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa on the field to demonstrate how they can help this team.
Historically, Al has blended patience with a propensity to throw us a wild curve-ball or two, that we often meet with complete disdain or horror, only to be surprised in the following years that he was definitely more in tune with our needs than we had imagined. The man is human, and therein prone to mistakes like all of us; however, it seems of late he has been lucid in his transactions and I'm inclined to believe we'll continue down that road.
So, will patience be the uncommon virtue to win in this mad free agency period that will ensue, possibly within a week or two? I once worked produce in a grocery store, and enjoyed the old-timers who were always quick with jokes: "you never buy your bananas too green when you get my age..."
Let's hope Al picks just the right bananas--to ripen just in time for this season and not the next--to be enjoyed right away.