Friday, July 22, 2011

Players Hold Key to End NFL Lockout

We're inching closer and closer to August, and the NFL lockout is starting to cut into teams projected training camps. However, the Owners have agreed to a deal that is supposed to take the NFL off of hiatus and are just waiting for the players union to sign off.

The players supposedly needed some time to look over the deal and finalize things and have yet to sign and agree to the new CBA, but most people close to those involved in talks believe this will be a done deal in due time. It's kind of weird how the tides have turned, at first, it was the players who wanted to end this thing and it was the owners who were tentative, but know it appears the have shifted the other way. Either way, this lockout is really starting to cost NFL on both sides, and I think we're just days away from the NFL opening for business and when that does happen, there should be a flurry of activity. There will probably be a 2-3 week period where teams sign free agents and make their offseason moves, rather than the 3-4 month period they're used to. There are some pretty big names out there still looking for homes, including wideouts Terrell Owens, Plaxico Burress and Sidney Rice, halfback DeAngelo Williams as well as star cover man Nhamdi Asomgua and many, many more reigning and potential pro-bowlers. I don't really expect the local teams to get involved in any of the big name free agent sweepstakes, but both the Raiders and Niners have needs to address before kickoff 2011.

One of the thin areas of the free agent/trade market when it does open up will be at the quarterback position where both the Raiders and 49ers have a need. One of the few guys who will be available and could interest both teams is veteran slinger Matt Hasselbeck. The 35 year-old QB is coming off a rough couple of years in Seattle, but in fairness to him, he's had limited protection and nobody to throw to in the last couple of years. He's also said to be as healthy now as he's been since '06-'07 and I know the 49ers have at least considered the idea of signing him. It's likely going to come down to a guy like Hasselbeck or another round of Alex Smith. I guess the 49ers could realistically bring both guys in and use rookie Colin Kaepernick as the 3rd stringer, but I don't foresee that happening. I personally think Hasselbech would be alright in San Francisco, where he'd have a better O-line and running game than he did in Seattle, and some legit targets to throw to in Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. I really don't have a preference of one over the other between Smith and Hasselbeck. Smith knows the offense and is familiar with the personnel, but Hasselbeck probably would give the team a more consistent performer and better decision maker behind center. I liked the possibility of adding Kevin Kolb before the draft, but since they got Kaepernick, it likely takes Kolb off the table. The 49ers want Kapernick to be their QB of the future and probably envision him starting as early as next fall.

The Raiders will probably decide to roll with Jason Campbell again, as he finished off the years solidly. Campbell had a 95 QB-rating with 6 TD's and an average of 230 passing yards per game over the Raiders final 5 games, leading the Raiders to a 3-2 record in the process. There's been some chatter that they may pursue Donovan McNabb, but unless they can get a young up and comer like Kolb, I'd just assume give Campbell another shot than rolling the dice on another veteran on the downside of their career's. Besides, the Raiders should focus on adding guys around Campbell, especially up front on the line and at the wide receiver spot. I don't think T.O.'s attitude would be a good fit in Oakland, but he's the type of guy Al Davis likes to go after and would actually fit nicely into their plans on the field. They're set at running back with D-Mac and Michael Bush, but that's about the only are of their team that couldn't use some extra help.

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