Publicly, NFL coaches and generals managers at the NFL Scouting Combine said things were business as usual.
“Whatever the rules are, there will be the same rules for 32 teams,” Chiefs G.M. Scott Pioli said.
That’s true, but not all 32 teams face the same challenges if there is a long work stoppage. Pioli’s Chiefs are relatively well situated to handle a summer off. Others aren’t so lucky. Let’s rank what teams will be hurt most by the lockout. (And what teams may actually benefit.)
Tennessee faces the trifecta of uncertainty: They have two new coordinators and absolutely no option to start at quarterback. (Uh, Rusty Smith??)
This is the wrong offseason to break in a newbie football czar (John Elway) and a new defensive scheme under John Fox. Trading Kyle Orton could be nearly impossible, and Tim Tebow will miss valuable practice time.
Browns football czar Mike Holmgren will pay for delaying the end of the Eric Mangini era. Presumptive starting quarterback Colt McCoy won’t get to learn his new scheme and the defensive players don’t fit the team’s new 3-4 defense. With a first-time coach in Pat Shurmur, it’s like they are starting all over again.
Notice a trend atop the rankings? Teams with new coaches are going to be at a big disadvantage if there’s a long lockout. The Panthers may be stuck with Jimmy Clausen as their Week 1 starter in a brand new offense.
NFL labor crisis
The Pete Carroll Program is entering Year Two, but how much progress was really made? Their quarterback position is actually more unsettled, and the team needs time to install a new offense. This is a team likely to continue a massive overhaul whenever a CBA is reached, so time is at a premium.
Perhaps Jim Harbaugh has spoke so glowingly of Alex Smith this offseason because he knows he won’t have any better options. An abbreviated free agent period in August or September will lead to a lot of shotgun marriages. (And a high divorce rate next offseason.)
Miami would love to add pieces to their bankrupt offense, especially with new coordinator Brian Daboll. Instead, they could get stuck with another season of Chad Henne in a loaded AFC East.
The best way to get value for Carson Palmer would be to trade him before the draft. That won’t be possible now, and it’s anyone’s guess what quarterback will run new coordinator Jay Gruden’s West Coast offense next year.
Pressing pause isn’t a great idea for a team with John Skelton as their best returning quarterback. Oh, and Arizona’s annually disappointing defense has yet another new coordinator.
New coordinator Juan Castillo hasn’t coached defense since the 1980’s. He needs the offseason just as much as the players. Any team that is active in free agency like Philly could also get penalized this year. Speaking of which ...
Without their annual offseason championship to win, what do the Redskins have? After one year of Mike Shanahan, the roster actually has more holes than when Jim Zorn was dumped.
Teams near the top of our list have a lot of young players with new coaches. St. Louis’ offense is extremely green at quarterback, receiver, and tackle. Post-lockout, they will have to take a crash course in Josh McDaniels’ playbook – one of the most complex in football.
It will be tough to Wade Phillips to install his 3-4 defense without practice time. The Texans have a lot of players like Mario Williams and Brian Cushing playing in very different roles. A bright side -- the offense has enough continuity and returning parts to survive a lockout just fine.
The youngest team in the league needs as much time on the field together as possible.
Dallas brought in a new defense coordinator – Rob Ryan – but the scheme remains the same. Continuity is solid on offense, although that’s not necessarily a good thing with this aging offensive line.
Buffalo doesn’t rank too high because they have a returning coaching staff and they aren’t overly active in free agency. Still, a lockout could stall the progress of a potential incoming rookie quarterback.
Well, quarterback Matthew Stafford probably wouldn’t be healthy enough to practice much anyway. Detroit would like to be active in free agency, but a lockout wouldn’t be crushing for Jim Schwartz’s program.
Rex Ryan’s team has plenty of veterans that don’t need a lot of practice time. The tricky part here is the Jets have a lot of big free agent decisions and would love to pick up some veterans via trade and free agency. There will be no Santonio Holmes-type deals this time around for an annually active team.
New coach Hue Jackson already ran much of the offense last offseason, so a transition shouldn’t be too rough. The Raiders lockout-proofed their roster by re-signing Richard Seymour, John Henderson, Stanford Routt and Kamerion Wimbley in February.
Jay Cutler and his young wideouts could use more time around Mad Mike Martz so they can figure out what he’s talking about.
You could make the argument a long lockout helps the young Jaguars a bit, if only because it hurts division rivals Tennessee and Houston.
The Giants own enviable continuity on offense and plenty of talent on defense. They aren’t a team that is afraid to spend in free agency, but a lockout wouldn’t hurt them much.
Falcons G.M. Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith have been together longer than most of the NFC’s power tandems. That says a lot about job security in the league.
Still searching for receivers after all these years. Baltimore may be prevented from making a splashy move like the Anquan Boldin trade, but their veteran roster should hold up well in a lockout.
Having a coach on the field like Drew Brees will be an advantage if there’s no actually coaching going this offseason. While they have a lot of free agents, New Orleans’ scheme continuity will help.
Going back to Todd Haley as a de facto offensive coordinator should be a lot easier than bringing in a new guy.
The weirder the rules are, the more that creative front offices should thrive. The Patriots and other quick-thinking teams can better adapt and sniff out market inefficiencies.
Missing out on a free agent period won’t exactly be devastating for a draft-and-develop team like Pittsburgh. Perhaps more time off could actually help any Super Bowl runner up hangover.
We stacked the bottom of our list with the best front offices. Ted Thompson is going to stay the course no matter the league rules, and he has the ultimate trump card -- the most talented roster in the league.
It’s hard to imagine a team affected less by a lockout than the Colts. They could care less about free agency and their schemes haven’t changed in a decade. Their free agent class will be all their returning injured players.
CSN: Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has been contacted by police investigating a possible homicide in North Attleboro, Mass. Hernandez is not believed to be a suspect but a rental car in his name is connected to the death.
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