It is possible, even likely, that the NFL and its players will continue their staring contest through the 2011 draft — even with a ruling from U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson.
The appeals process could take weeks or longer, during which time it’s unlikely the league would open for business. We’re probably doomed to status quo, in other words.
But if ESPN legal analyst Lester Munson is correct, Judge Nelson will most likely end the lockout, leading to an immediate appeal — a scenario I think would lead, eventually, to the league opening for business under 2010 rules while the sides continued their battle in the courts.
Those 2010 rules set the bar high for free agency. Only players with six accrued seasons would qualify for the unrestricted market. Starters such as Arizona’s Steve Breaston, San Francisco’s Dashon Goldson and Seattle’s Brandon Mebane would lose leverage and most likely return to their teams under relatively modest one-year deals.
The players listed in the chart — those with at least six accrued seasons and no contracts for 2011 — would be free to explore opportunities elsewhere.
Options and implications for this type of free agency in the NFC West:
Overview: The Seahawks have a long list of players without contracts for 2011. That was mostly be design. The team would like to continue turning over its roster without investing too much in older players such as Matt Hasselbeck, Raheem Brock and Olindo Mare.
Top priority: Figuring out the quarterback situation. Hasselbeck is headed for free agency and could leave if another team gives him some of the longer-term assurances Seattle has resisted. The Seahawks have shown some interest in Philadelphia Eaglesbackup Kevin Kolb, a player they inquired about last offseason. They still have Charlie Whitehurst. They could draft a quarterback early.
Players in flux: Defensive tackle Mebane heads the list of Seattle players who would not reach free agency under the rules used in 2010. General manager John Schneider called Mebane a “steady pro” when asked about him at the combine. That sounded like faint praise and an indication the Seahawks are not yet prepared to pay top dollar for Mebane if, and when, he hits the market.
Veteran variable: The Seahawks have a few of them, including Mare and Brock. But let’s focus on offensive linemen Sean Locklear and Chris Spencer. They combined for 31 starts, but neither appears to be a priority for re-signing. Stacy Andrews is a candidate to step in for Locklear at right tackle. Max Unger could replace Spencer. Coach Pete Carroll thinks the team has upgraded its young depth on the line.
Name to keep in mind: Robert Gallery, guard, Oakland Raiders. Tom Cable’s addition as offensive line coach makes Seattle a logical destination for Gallery, who has declared his intention to leave the Raiders.
|Arizona Cardinals||Bryan Robinson||NT||14||16|
|Arizona Cardinals||Alan Faneca||G||13||16|
|Arizona Cardinals||Jason Wright||RB||6||1|
|Arizona Cardinals||Matt Ware||S||7||0|
|Arizona Cardinals||Ben Graham||P||6||0|
|Seattle Seahawks||Lawyer Milloy||SS||15||16|
|Seattle Seahawks||Chris Spencer||C||6||16|
|Seattle Seahawks||Sean Locklear||RT||7||15|
|Seattle Seahawks||Matt Hasselbeck||QB||12||14|
|Seattle Seahawks||Chester Pitts||G||9||5|
|Seattle Seahawks||Craig Terrill||DT||7||1|
|Seattle Seahawks||Raheem Brock||DE||9||0|
|Seattle Seahawks||Olindo Mare||K||14||0|
|Seattle Seahawks||Jordan Babineaux||S||7||0|
|Seattle Seahawks||Ray Willis||RT||6||—|
|Seattle Seahawks||Leroy Hill||LB||6||0|
|Seattle Seahawks||Brandon Stokley||WR||12||0|
|Seattle Seahawks||Matt McCoy||LB||6||0|
|Seattle Seahawks||J.P. Losman||QB||6||0|
|Seattle Seahawks||Leroy Hill||LB||6||0|
|San Francisco 49ers||Aubrayo Franklin||NT||8||16|
|San Francisco 49ers||Takeo Spikes||LB||13||16|
|San Francisco 49ers||David Baas||OL||6||16|
|San Francisco 49ers||Alex Smith||QB||6||10|
|San Francisco 49ers||Barry Sims||OT||12||7|
|San Francisco 49ers||Brian Westbrook||RB||9||5|
|San Francisco 49ers||Demetric Evans||DL||9||0|
|San Francisco 49ers||Jeff Reed||K||9||0|
|San Francisco 49ers||Tony Wragge||OL||6||0|
|San Francisco 49ers||Travis LaBoy||OLB||6||0|
|San Francisco 49ers||Will James||CB||10||0|
|St. Louis Rams||Adam Goldberg||OL||7||16|
|St. Louis Rams||Billy Bajema||TE||6||8|
|St. Louis Rams||Mark Clayton||WR||6||5|
|St. Louis Rams||Michael Lewis||SS||9||0|
|St. Louis Rams||Chris Hovan||DT||11||—|