It's going to be nuts and it's going to be awesome. The new CBA sounds like it's closer and closer to becoming a reality, and in the next couple of weeks it seems pretty likely a deal will get done bringing the lockout to an end.
Sure, they'll be some waffling, threats, explosions in the media and scary signs of disaster still to come in this process, but I truly believe this is the beginning of the end. The threat of losing money is becoming too big and all parties are going to cave. Everybody else is already caving.
So here's the deal: If a new CBA is complete before or on July 21st, we're looking at free agency starting no less than a week later. The first pre-season game is August 7th and the first week of pre-season for all teams starts on August 12th. Can you imagine? There is basically no turn around whatsoever on getting players acclimated to new playbooks and new teams. Teams are going to be signing people in a frantic craze; in an attempt to fill out their roster in a limited time frame.
Again I tell you, it's going to be nuts, and there's going to be tons of NFL news pouring out after minutes. Guys like Adam Schefter are going to hate life. For us fans it's going to be an exciting time. I think there are parts of the off-season that we each enjoy, and when that's all condensed into a 2-3 week window we're going to get flooded with new info on the hour, not the day.I will say this: expect a lot free agents to re-sign with their old teams for one year deals. Don't expect myriad players changing teams and landing massive long term deals. Why? Because the time that was lost, and will be lost, will cost a lot of guys money. With the market being so uncertain after all this time off , players will prefer to test free agency next season when there's less questions.
Teams will feel more safe investing in their own players, and those same players will sign provided the deals are short term. Signing a one year deal with what they know will help stabilize their career, and you know most teams will extend their own free agents they care about over signing a new player they've had to no ability to talk with for months. The ability to properly meet with teams, research the cities, and study the "fit" for free agents is going to be on such a tight time schedule that there will be a lot of security with just coming back to the team they know with the same playbook. That bodes well for the Jonathan Goodwin's, Jermon Bushrod's, Lance Moore's, Heath Evans', Roman Harper's etc etc... of the world coming back to the Saints.
The teams with the most continuity and stability are going to have a huge advantage here, too. Teams with new head coaches, new quarterbacks or any major change in playbook are going to be seriously behind. I really believe, at least at the beginning of the season, the difference between the higher echelon teams and the lower echelon teams will be more pronounced than ever in the NFL. The NFL is famous for it's parity and how competitive it is, but this year I think it'll be different. The better teams will rise to the top and the bad ones are really going to struggle.
Teams like Carolina, for example, how are they going to survive? Brand new coach, brand new rookie quarterback that hasn't taken one look at the playbook yet. It's going to be hard for them to win games when the competition around them, namely the three other teams in the NFL South, had way more off-season stability. I wouldn't be surprised to see six teams go 4-12 or worse and see five to six teams going 13-3 or better. Hopefully the Saints can pull away from the pack early and create real separation while other teams are struggling to get on the same page.
All this said, we're going to see a lot of free agents signing places and it's going to happen really fast. Some moves are going to surprise us. I feel like in the past, when the Saints lost players, there was at least writing on the wall with the documented visits they would take. Now? Who knows. This could all happen in the blink of an eye.
I hope you've enjoyed your relative break from NFL news, if you consider the lockout period such, because it's about to ramp up like none other. Get excited!