In a way, I was right.
Last week did provide us the final dark weekend of the NFL offseason. I realize we don't yet have labor peace and the lockout is still on. But players will soon vote on the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), possibly this weekend. And even if the delay continues, U2 is playing a certain NFC North city Saturday night. Ah yes, it will be a beautiful day. See you there.
Shoots up through the stony ground
There's no room
No space to rent in this town
You're out of luck
And the reason that you had to care
The traffic is stuck
And you're not moving anywhere
You thought you'd found a friend
To take you out of this place
Someone you could lend a hand
In return for grace
It's a beautiful day
Sky falls, you feel like
It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away
I've gotten a surprising number of missives similar to this one from John of Bremerton, Wash.: Though I grew up in Wisconsin and am a Packers fan, I am now losing my interest in the NFL as a whole. In an economy as bad as it has ever been in my 54-year life, players and owners to me are just an illustration of greed. Throw in the agents, lawyers, used car salesman, Wall Street hedge fund guys, politicians -- GREED RULES and I am checking out. They all could care less about the fan. Well this fan no longer cares about any of them. I have enjoyed your column but will no longer be following the NFL.
Kevin Seifert: My general sense throughout this dispute has been that fans would easily move past it provided no regular season games were canceled. After all, it's the games that count -- for everyone. To me, only the most hard-core fans would feel lasting effects of a delay in free agency or the cancellation of minicamps and organized team activities.
But as John points out, there is another segment of fans who are simply turned off by owners and employees of a successful industry brawling over how to divide a $9 billion pie, even if they do it during the offseason. Some of you also find it repugnant that the NFL draws a percentage of its revenues from taxpayer-funded stadiums and believe that fact should mitigate the extent of their capitalism.
I know financial people will note that NFL business growth has slowed in recent years, a classic warning sign for realigning costs. You could find any number of economists who understand why owners locked out players. But some of you don't want to hear about it. I'm guessing the NFL is willing to sacrifice your patronage, in the short-term at least, with the knowledge that a much larger segment will come racing back as soon as the doors open with few questions asked.
Dustin of Dell Rapids, S.D., writes: With James Jones likely leaving via free agency, and Donald Driver growing older, will the Packers re-sign Jermichael Finley to a long term contract during/after this year? After Jones and Driver leave, if Finley is gone, our offense much less of an imposing force. Finley will likely be looking for some big money, but is he worth re-signing, even at a Vernon Davis size contract?
Kevin Seifert: Once again, I'm surprised at how many people are worried about this issue. Finley's contract does expire after the 2011 season, and Finley's wife tweeted this week that family members are already asking where Finley will play in 2012.
Despite Finley's enormous talent, longtime Packers beat writer Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel isn't convinced the Packers will re-sign him. A knee injury derailed Finley last season on the way to what appeared a breakout season, and the fact is he has yet to put together an elite-level 16-game season. The Packers have also invested heavily in a number of core players already, from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to receiver Greg Jennings to safety Nick Collins and cornerback Tramon Williams. Linebacker Clay Matthews will probably soon be up for an extension.
The 49ers signed Davis signed a six-year deal that included $23 million last September.
To me, Finley will answer this question himself by the type of 2011 season he produces. If he becomes the type of 16-game weapon many people believe he can be, it's going to be hard for the Packers to part ways with him.
Michael of Tallahassee, Fla., writes: How does the exemption(s) work that I'm hearing about regarding the salary cap? Specifically is this something that will be a permanent part of the upcoming labor agreement or is it a temporary thing to benefit the teams who are currently over the proposed salary cap and will go away in a couple of years.?
Kevin Seifert: For something like this, it's best to consult with former Packers contract negotiator Andrew Brandt, who is now an analyst for ESPN and the National Football Post. This year, writes Brandt, teams can reduce one player's cap charge by $3 million. So, in essence, the cap will be $120 million plus a $3 million exception, or $123 million. In 2012, the exception will be $1.5 million, but the exception is not built in to every year of the proposed CBA.
Zayne of Houston writes: What do you think of the chances that Clinton Portis comes to the Vikings? He is widely known as the best blocking RB in the league and the Vikings could definitely use him on third down with a rookie QB for protection and a safety gauge much like they used to use Chester Taylor.
Kevin Seifert: I suppose anything is possible, especially with a new coaching staff that surely has different ideas than its predecessor. And it's true, the Vikings first tried to sign LaDainian Tomlinson as a third-down back last season before drafting rookie Toby Gerhart.
But like Tomlinson, I don't think Portis would consider the Vikings his top option. As long as Adrian Peterson stays healthy, the No. 2 back in Minnesota won't play a lot. I'm not sure if the Vikings want a veteran backup for him, and I really don't think Portis would prefer to sign there if he had options.
Wayne of Lake Worth, Fla., writes: Receiver Derrick Williams of the Detroit Lions...In or Out?
Kevin Seifert: With Stefan Logan as a kickoff/punt returner, and rookie Titus Young expected to serve as the No. 3 receiver, the best Williams could do is the No. 4 receiver. He's had two years in that role. I wonder if the Lions' patience has run out.
Anton of Lowell, Ark., saw last week's discussion of the Bears' aging defense and wrote: Can you detail the Bears' talent pool of up and coming players on defense? It seems like they have failed to develop new draft picks (ala Lance Briggs) lately, and I'm scared we'll be seriously hurting once the 2000-04 guys are out the door. Can you shed any positive light on recent draft picks? Is our player development seriously lacking? If so, what can we attribute our recent dry spell to? Why have our new guys on D not taken the next step (Nick Roach, Corey Graham, Zack Bowman)?
Kevin Seifert: The Bears don't have much patience with their cornerbacks. I will say that. We've seen some really good play from Graham and Bowman in the past two years, but both got pushed deep down the depth chart after a couple of poor games. I especially wouldn't rule out the possibility of Bowman re-emerging as a starting-quality player, but it'll take an exceptional training camp to win back the Bears' trust.
One young player I really like is nickel back D.J. Moore, who had four interceptions, eight pass breakups and one touchdown last season. He seems to have a knack for the ball and understands pass coverage. Of course, we were saying the same about Bowman last year at this time. But if you're looking for some hope among the Bears' younger veterans, Moore is a worthy candidate.