Could the 2011 calendar year be much worse for sports fans here in the Land of Pleasant Living?
Let’s lament together, shall we…
* The Ravens tease their fans by taking a commanding lead over their archrival Steelers at the half in Pittsburgh during the Divisional round of the playoffs only to experience an epic meltdown and give the game away
* Maryland Terrapins head coach Ralph Friedgen is fired and his basketball peer Gary Williams resigns
* Williams’ hoops squad not only fails to make the NCAA Tourney, they are so bad they don’t even get a NIT invite
* The Orioles after finishing strong in 2010, couldn’t plot out a much worse 2011. Their pitching from top to bottom is in shambles and their hitting with runners in scoring position wilts like a Hershey’s Kiss under a July sun on a car rooftop
* All-Star second baseman Brian Roberts hits himself in the head and sees stars, not the field for months
* Promising pitching prospects Zach Britton, Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman get knocked around so badly that they all are sent back to the minors before the All-Star break
* The town’s only escape for sports sanity (the Ravens) are locked out of work for four plus months
Suddenly turning to the left and coughing doesn’t seem as daunting!
Good news however seems to be right around the corner. By most counts the NFL Lockout should end on July 21 barring any setbacks to the league’s recent CBA negotiating progress. And when that happens, events will unfold at an unprecedented pace.
Teams will have to secure new deals with a growing list of their own free agents; they will have to recruit and sign undrafted free agents; and then of course they will look to augment their rosters with veteran free agents.
This all promises to be very interesting and riveting from an observer’s perspective and undoubtedly only the strongest and most prepared organizations will emerge with offseason “W’s”.
Here are a couple of things to keep an eye out for…
* The new CBA will have a cap floor that will force thrifty franchises like the Bengals and Bills to spend more and spend it fast. If they are slow to the free agent party, these teams will have to cough up heavy dough for players who don’t deserve it in order to meet cap floor requirements. “B-type” free agents will earn more from these teams than they deserve. This could be a banner year for less than blue chip free agents.
* If the rookie wage scale is implemented as described and top picks like Cam Newton get about half of what the 2010 first round draft class received, look for possibly even slower than normal rookie signings. Agents will try to earn their keep and come up with creative ways to impress their clients and future clients. Eventually they will succumb to the slotting system which in future years will pave the way for faster rookie signings. But not this year!
Speaking of rookies, the reduced wages will take some of the pressure off teams like the Panthers to put their rookie quarterbacks on the field prematurely. When the Rams paid Sam Bradford $50 million plus in 2010, there was little doubt that he would take the field as the starter. The economics almost dictated it.
Now you could see teams grooming young signal callers slowly like the Bengals did with former overall No. 1 pick Carson Palmer.
Mike Donnelly, Manager of New Media Communications for the NFLPA was kind enough to share this video with me yesterday (below) for the benefit of our site visitors. It provides some never before seen practice footage from the team’s informal gathering at Towson University back in May.
While the footage is good, the cry-me-a-river-it-wasn’t-our-fault commentary from a couple of the players is a bit too over-the-top for me and comes off as a “save the children” campaign.
I’m not taking sides in the labor debate, there’s plenty of self-serving blame to go around for all parties. But for me, these players – probably serving up accurate representations of the feelings of all players, are either naïve, brainwashed by their ambassador DeMaurice Smith or both.
It’s now time for you to be the judge.
Take a look…