I wanted to create a post regarding the upcoming draft in April and what it would mean to the draft process if no CBA was in place at that point. Now most of us are well aware that the CBA is scheduled to expire on the third of March 2011, over a full month before the NFL draft. Now, most of us are also aware that this could mean a lockout, aka, the owners would essentially be able to lock the doors to all the teams facilities and not allow the players to go to work etc, etc. However, I'm willing to bet more than a few of you aren't aware of just how the no CBA wrinkle truly affects the draft and draft process.
With no CBA means no free agency. No teams will be allowed to pursue free agents as well as statements being made by teams that no teams will resign players without a CBA as well. Normally free agency starts around the end of the first week in March. This allows the prime free agents and role players to be signed or resigned by teams well before the final draft preparations begin. In short, teams have a head start on spotting their areas of need in order to round out their team come draft day. This year, however, that obviously will not be the case. What does this mean for the New Orleans Saints....well it means there are 28 players on our 53 man roster that will be 100% up in the air come draft day not to mention the handful of players that are expected to be considered restricted free agents as well.
The oddities don't stop there. Not only will teams not be able to sign free agents in order to get a better understanding of the makeup of their team before the draft, but also the draft process itself will change. Remember the trading of Pat Swilling that nabbed us all world tackle Willie Roaf? Well forget about it. Not only can teams not sign players....they aren't allowed to trade them either. That means no pre-draft trades, but also over 50% of the trades you see on draft day also cannot happen. The only trades that will be allowed to be made will be draft picks for draft picks, not a combination of picks and players.
So...what does all this mean? Well....potentially the most boring draft in NFL history. Expect draft day trades to be incredibly rare. No longer will you probably see a team trade up (like the Jets a few years ago to nab Sanchez) for a coveted player. The reasoning is simple....with so few teams rosters set, teams will not have the luxury of targeting specific individuals or specific areas of concern, especially the New Orleans Saints and our 28 UFAs. Now more than ever if there is no collective bargaining agreement expect a standard "Best Player Available" approach by almost every team in the NFL. Literally. I'm not talking a scenario where they take the BPA if it falls in one of 3-4 positions. I'm talking the BPA period in the minds of a lot of people regardless of position. When a team has unknown holes to fill at almost every position due to free agency not being in place, teams can hardly afford to pass up a player if he is ranked higher on their board for one who would normally be a better "need fit". Also this would allow teams once the CBA is completed, to sign and trade those draft day deals to other teams in exchange for players that would be a better fit after the process has taken place (For those of you who are a little foggy on this, consider the NBA draft where it is quite common for teams to draft say two point point guards early in order to trade one to another team for say a power forward and a bench player or two).
Now, if we're all lucky and people like Richardson and Jerry Jones don't get their way, the new CBA will hopefully be in place before all this happens. However, a little something called reality seems to be squawking in my ear telling me this just won't be. Now I have faith that the CBA will indeed be in place before next season begins, however, it won't surprise me if it doesn't happen until July/August. So, don't be surprised to see the Saints draft a center in Mike Pouncey or say a Julio Jones or Stephen Paea if they slide down draft boards. As the days go by, it seems we're drawing closer and closer to one of the most intriguing, if less than action filled, draft days in the history of the NFL.