Yesterday, Judge Susan Nelson ruled to grant the NFL players’ request for an injunction to lift the lockout, which would effectively allow players to return to work. The league would have to agree on what rules they would have to go on for free agency, and ESPN reported that the rules would likely be the same as the ones used in 2010: players need six accrued year in the league to become unrestricted free agents, and there is no salary cap. That would also mean that players such as Eagles QB Kevin Kolb and the Bengals’ Carson Palmer could be traded on draft day Thursday. The NFL has requested a stay on the decision until the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals can hear their appeal on the decision. While I like the end of the lockout, I think the timing of it is horrendous from an NFL personnel standpoint.
Everything that head coaches and personnel men across the league have been preparing for – a draft without free agency- will be thrown out the window and they’ll have to throw together a new strategy for choosing players. Teams have been looking at the draft as their primary source to fill needs, needs that they may have been able to partially plug with free agents. Should players become free agents prior to the draft, do teams have to rush to try and sign certain players to give them more draft flexibility? It’s an interesting question, and an issue thrown at NFL personnel men at the 11th hour before the draft.
These issues will become much clearer (or should be anyway) later today when the NFL’s request for a stay is heard. If the stay is granted, none of this will matter right now. If it’s not, there will likely be much confusion until the dust settles and the NFL figures out how to deal with the abrupt start to free agency.