This year will yield a very new experience for the NFL. Since 1993 and the inception of "Free Agency"; as us football fans currently experience, teams have been able quench specific positional needs from a pool of players who had reached the end of their contract agreement with their current team. The timing of Free Agency has, as long as I can remember, occurred before the NFL Draft. Which would allow NFL franchises to use the Draft as more of a future need supply moreso than an immediate need if they choose to do so.
Since there is no CBA this year there can be no Free Agency. Players can't even be traded in the Draft for picks. This puts the NFL Draft and Free Agency in a position it hasn't been before. These are my thoughts and opinions and by no means the end-all-be-all of what will exactly happen. If there are flaws in my logic or if you disagree, feel free to comment or if you agree and have more to add, feel free to comment. I welcome it.
I believe that next week, the majority of teams will look towards the NFL draft from more of a needs based perspective. There are no experience vets that are new to the team that the GM recently purchased to fill a weakness. All of the weaknesses are the same as they were from the end of last year. I believe that this will benefit the Steelers who won't change their draft strategy. There will be some good players falling on draft day since teams will feel more pressure to reach for a need than they normally do, since there may not be a free agency period this year. I feel that one of the positions this will happen at the Quarterback position specifically. I have no facts or stats to go off of and I won't even pretend to. But no one knows when or if Free Agency will happen this year and there are plenty of teams that need Quarterbacks. With no other sure way of fulfilling that need they are more likely to use the draft to do so. Right now there are 2 quarterbacks that are locked in the first round but I believe there may be 3 others who will be picked in the first round. The draft normally takes unexpected turns and I think it will this year also.
Lets say a new CBA gets agreeded upon in July; which is earliest reasonable time frame, the agents will have less time to negotiate than they normally do. So there is less time to see if another team will offer and the closer it gets to their player not getting a game check, the closer that agent is to being fired. There will be extra incentives this year to get a players signed as soon as possible. With teams already filling their needs with young promising players, it will be harder for agents to persuade GM's to give their guy a big raise and not all players are willing to hold out. As far as hold out goes, that is one of the things the owners are looking to eliminate with the new CBA which would make the pressure even greater to sign as soon as possible. Also you must think about the guy coming in as a free agent will have less time to learn the play book, less time to adjust to the coach/system/other players. Instead of 6 months to learn a play book, the player would only have 1 month to learn it. This would make him less affective than normal in their first year and with older players each year is more precious as the age increases since you never know when age will catch up with them.
Since teams will have quenched their needs through the draft there will be less teams in the Free Agent market which means the outrageous contracts we're used to seeing being offered won't be so outrageous this year. Economy 101 tells you that demand drives cost. If the demand is lower then the cost will be lower, in this situation the supply is always the same, one player for one team. So theoretically it will be easier for a team like the Steelers to match whatever their Free Agent players are receiving in the market. If that is the case then most players will likely to opt to stay if they like the place where they are currently living, why up and move to a new team when the pay isn't going to be much different? If you have a job making 90k in NY would you move to CA for a job offering 95k? Not me at least.
We all know that the owners are looking to lower player's salary in the NFL with a new CBA. So why would there be a mass spending spree, like there usually is, right after the new CBA is approved? Owners in general will want to reap the fruits of their labor and experience the new found savings they fought hard for. It wouldn't make any sense, why would you fight this long drawn out battle to save a cloud of money only to start making it rain in free agency? Also with the talk of lowering the first round draft picks money that will make the new drafted players a much better value. Teams will opt to invest in the draft more than spend money on the older players.
This will make it harder for the 2nd tier players to receive a nice bump in pay in the free agent market. There will always be a market for the best players in free agency. But the second tier guys might see their pond dry up. The rookies would present a better value for the owners and possibly more promise. This in my opinion benefits the Steelers. Ike Taylor and Willie Colon are both free agents this year. Neither are the best at their position in the free agent pool. These conditions, or assumptions, will make it easier for the Steelers to sign them. Do the Steelers know this for a fact? No. But I do believe they will not change their philosophy and will draft as they always do. Which will put them in good position come free Agent time as they typically do not reach for a need in the draft. I believe there will be less movement in the draft this year and less money changing hands.