A team-by-team look at how a continued labor impasse and extended NFL freeze on transactions would affect the division:
A stoppage means the team will not get a jump on adding free agents who would fit defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ new 3-4 scheme and will not have as much time as they typically would to install such a system.
The positive spin from Phillips and his boss, coach Gary Kubiak, has been that it’s not a super-complicated changeover and will not take that long. Even if that’s the case, more time is better than less for a team in transition that is searching for some new personnel.
The team has good leadership under contract if players decide to gather for their own workouts.
No team may be as equipped to handle a frozen period as the Colts. Give them health and a draft class and they won’t be far from their opening day roster. They’ve pledged they’ll delve a bit more into free agency than their traditional approach, which has been not to touch free agents of significance. One area that’s an exception is that they do well with the rookie free-agent pool and will have to wait for that.
Even though two offensive assistants flipped positions and there is a new running backs coach, the offensive and defensive systems are in place. The veteran players also have a full understanding of those systems. No one will do better at arranging team activities without coaching supervision than Peyton Manning (though there are injury concerns in such a setup).
Chris Polian is taking on more power in the front office, while Bill Polian scales back a bit. A slower couple months may require the fleshing out of multiple plans but surely it will provide an atmosphere that helps this stage of the transition.
The Jaguars may benefit most because a delay hurts two of their division foes, the Texans and Titans. Jacksonville has seen very little change on Jack Del Rio’s staff and won’t have substantial player turnover.
Gene Smith wants to be a draft-first team, and it appears it’ll be a draft-first league. And when the team still has holes after the end of April, it will be ready to add at least a few veteran free agents if and when that market opens.
QB David Garrard has spoken candidly about arranging workouts, and he can score big in the leadership department if he leads a successful campaign and has guys ready when things are settled.
New head coach, two new coordinators and two new quarterbacks who are not yet on the roster. No one needs a full offseason and as much interaction with players as the Titans do, and they stand to suffer as badly as anyone in the league.
Mike Munchak and his staff will have plenty of time to chime in with GM Mike Reinfeldt’s scouts about draft prospects and to discuss how they’d like to tinker. But if the rookies are drafted and the new coaches cannot talk with players, it’s a hurry-up-and-wait scenario.
Munchak has already said that such a landscape may dictate that the team doesn’t change a lot system-wise for 2011 because there won’t be sufficient time to do so. Though they won’t call it a rebuilding process, many changes could be forced to wait until 2012.