A team-by-team look at how a continued labor impasse and extended NFL freeze on transactions would affect the division:
Chicago Bears: Earlier this month, Bears president Ted Phillips said the organization will make no economic changes -- pay reductions, layoffs or furloughs -- until a labor impasse forces the cancellation of games. That no doubt came as a relief to Bears assistant coaches, most of whom had clauses in their contracts that called for an immediate 25 percent pay reduction and the potential for a 60-day notice of termination.
On the field, the biggest challenge the Bears will face is if free agency is delayed until after the draft. At the scouting combine last month, coach Lovie Smith indicated the team was willing to make another financial commitment to the free agent market, possibly to fill multiple spots on the offensive line.
Depending on results of legal maneuvering between owners and players, the Bears might not have that luxury. Instead of knowing what offensive line positions they've filled via free agency, they'll have to jump into the draft cold. Ultimately they'll have free agency as well, but their draft strategy might have to change.
All evidence suggests that Stafford is a hard worker and a conscientious employee, and there is no reason to be concerned about any private rehabilitation process he might follow. Still, the most ideal scenario is to have key players under your own roof while working through significant injuries.
Green Bay Packers: As we discussed earlier this month, the Packers' player acquisition policy is built for a lockout. General manager Ted Thompson has rarely dipped into free agency in recent years, relying almost exclusively on the draft. On the personnel front, a transaction freeze means nothing but full steam ahead for the Packers.
On the field, however, the Packers would be sorely disappointed if they're unable to hold coach Mike McCarthy's noted "quarterback school." That part of the Packers' offseason workouts, and its intensive pass-oriented structure, has been credited for developing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and for the substantial improvement of backup Matt Flynn. This spring, there was talk that the Packers would use the school to judge the progress of No. 3 quarterback Graham Harrell in the event they receive trade offers for Flynn.
Minnesota Vikings: We've noted several times that the Vikings could be on the verge of a poorly-timed tri-fecta.
They are installing a new offensive scheme under recently-hired coordinator Bill Musgrave. They almost certainly will open the 2011 season with a new starting quarterback. And if an impasse consumes the entire offseason, and presumably ends in time for training camp, the Vikings will find themselves far behind the proverbial eight-ball.
Just as important is the impact on their fledgling stadium efforts. Minnesota state leaders have not yet introduced a bill in their 2011 legislative session, but past plans have counted on a sizable NFL contribution -- up to $150 million -- from the now-defunct G-3 stadium fund. That money won't be available until after a new collective bargaining agreement is reached, if at all.
The Minnesota state legislature typically adjourns in the third week of May. If there is no CBA by then, it's hard to imagine the Vikings pushing a stadium bill through this session. Their lease at the Metrodome expires in February 2012.