It's Week 1 of the 2011 lockout season, and the NFL's two sides are still steaming over the absence of a new collective-bargaining agreement. As the owners and players work through the next steps — litigation, not mediation — let's check in on some of the ancillary stories that came from the labor negotiations. Then we'll dive into some more draft talk and how free agency will affect the Patriots and Jets this offseason.
1. Not that this should be much of a surprise, but I've been told the tenor of those CBA negotiations was anything but cordial during a handful of occasions, including expletive-laced personal attacks.
2. As one league source put it, "It's easier to work toward an agreement with people you like, right?"
3. I thought it was irresponsible for the players to ask the incoming rookies to skip the draft in New York City. First of all, there are usually only about 20 or so players who are even invited to the league's draft headquarters, and they don't have to accept the invitation if they don't want to attend.
4. Obviously, it's an extremely rare opportunity for these prospects, and they'll never have an opportunity to experience it again. Sure, some of them look miserable when they're taken too low — like Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in 2005 — but I'd bet there is a very small percentage who regret attending the event.
5. This also puts the incoming rookies in a tough position. If they attend the draft to appease their appetite for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, as well as the joy it brings their families who helped them get to that point in their careers, they'll have to wonder how they'll be viewed by the players who asked them to skip the event.
6. And if they skip the event, they lose out on the experience, and they'll wonder what it was all for. Will the players respect them even more a few years from now, or will this all be forgotten?
7. I do understand that the current members of the players association — technically wrong, but you know what I mean — don't want the prospects shaking NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's hand, since he's the enemy during the labor war. I just think their focus has been misplaced on this issue.
8. And this is also the latest incident in a long line of ugly public tactics that have taken over the airwaves since Friday's deadline passed and the two sides' cone of silence melted away.
9. The players were hit with a surprise Monday when they found out Judge David Doty isn't scheduled to preside over their preliminary injunction hearing April 6, but I still think the players have a strong shot to win their case. It's no longer a lock, because Doty has always been one of their great allies, but the evidence is in the players' favor.
10. The two sides can continue negotiating before the hearing and throughout the entire legal process, and I'm sure they'd be willing to do so once they cool down. That cooling-off period, it seems, will take a little while, though.
11. It still might be too early to tell how long the injunction case will last — a month tops, but that is probably a worst-case scenario — and if the players win the case, there is a very slim possibility that free agency can begin before the draft, which starts April 28.
12. It's more likely the draft will be complete before free agency, and the area that handcuffs the Patriots mostly is on the offensive line, which could have some moving parts, depending on Matt Light and Logan Mankins. I personally think the Patriots' best strategy is to move forward as though they'll never have Mankins in a uniform again. Even with the franchise tag in place, they're never going to sign him to a long-term deal.
13. Let's say the Patriots want to keep Mankins in contract limbo out of spite. Unless something changes with the franchise tag in the new CBA, Mankins is set to earn about $10 million in 2011, and with the guarantee of at least a 20 percent raise in 2012, they'll pay him at least $12 million then.
14. Mankins will face a prorated pay decrease if he keeps holding out like he did in 2010, but the Patriots would be looking at $22 million in guaranteed money if they chose to franchise him twice in a row. If they really had those intentions, it would be much more financially responsible to put that toward guaranteed money in a four- or five-year deal.
15. If the Patriots retain Light, it will have to be for a two- or three-year contract — it would be a huge hometown discount if he accepted a one-year deal to remain in New England, so I don't believe that is likely — and I have to believe they'll know during the draft whether or not they'll have Light on the roster in 2011 and beyond. Therefore, they'll be tipping their hand on that move if they draft a tackle with one of their first three picks.
16. With that, I think Villanova offensive lineman Benjamin Ijalana would be a good fit at Nos. 28 or 33. Ijalana projects as a tackle or guard, and the Patriots should love that versatility during an uncertain situation. At the very least, the 6-foot-4, 317-pounder would be a candidate to start as a rookie at right guard — assuming Dan Connolly is the left guard — and Bill Belichick could take the time to develop Ijalana as a tackle for the time when Light moves on.
17. The Jets might be in the most trouble if the draft happens before free agency, because their list of free agents includes wide receivers Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes and Brad Smith, defensive end Shaun Ellis, inside linebacker David Harris (franchised), cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie and Drew Coleman and safeties Brodney Pool, Eric Smith and James Ihedigbo. The Jets have also released nose tackle Kris Jenkins, edge rushers Jason Taylor and Vernon Gholston and right tackle Damien Woody. That's a list of 14 players who made some level of contribution in 2010.
18. Keep in mind, the Jets only made seven total draft picks in the last two years, so they don't have a lot of young depth. If they don't re-sign a good chunk of their own free agents, they'll be scrambling to fill out their roster, and their depth could definitely become an issue.
19. The draft is in six weeks, and I've got absolutely no idea who will be the No. 1 pick. Will it be the safest player (Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus), the player with the highest ceiling (LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson) or the quarterback with the most boom-bust potential (Auburn quarterback Cam Newton)? The Panthers are in a tough spot. I can guarantee one thing, though. I'm removing Da'Quan Bowers from the top spot during my seventh mock draft, which runs Thursday. Check back to find out why.
20. The NFL did a good thing with its league-wide season-ticket policy for 2011. Since the fans are making the commitment to shell out that kind of money during the work stoppage, the teams will be forced to do the same. If any games are canceled, the host team will have 30 days to repay the ticket price with 1 percent interest. That interest rate won't make any fans rich, but with tens of thousands of season-ticket holders, the teams will stand to lose a chunk of money in interest. Of course, it won't be enough to create a huge dent in the owners' wallets, but it will add up.
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