With nobody outside Judge Susan Nelson's chambers knowing when or whether there might be NFL free agency this year, the focus across the league sits more squarely on the draft than anytime in recent memory.
But I'm having a hard time getting into it. It's almost like the league is going to pretend to function for three days, then stop again. Unless the lockout is lifted, draftees will attend press conferences in their respective new cities, then they won't be able to take playbooks, sign, or in any way participate in the functions of the franchises they supposedly have joined. There won't be any undrafted free agents signed, which is going to make the seventh round suddenly nerve-wracking for many dozens of guys.
And, if the lockout remains, the Eagles will not be trading Kevin Kolb. Please, spare me your scenarios that involve shipping a blowup doll in a No. 4 jersey to Arizona in exchange for a blowup doll with "Cardinals' No. 1 draft choice" written on it, or something. This isn't the kind of thing you trick the NFL on. Either trades will be allowed by the draft, and Kolb will be traded, or they won't, and he won't. No double-secret handshakes on a deal to be consummated later.
I am wondering about how the lockout will affect the Birds' favorite draftime activity in recent years, trading up or trading down. Right now, the Eagles draft 23rd overall in the first round. In a normal year, we could be assured of one thing -- they wouldn't be picking 23rd. After not moving at all in Andy Reid's first four years in charge, three of which when the draft was run by Tom Modrak, the Eagles have moved out of their designated spot six times in the last eight drafts, including the last four years in a row.
The last time the Eagles stood pat, they used the 14th overall pick on Brodrick Bunkley, after a 6-10 2005 season, the only losing season for Reid since his first year here. They didn't need to trade up that time to get where they seem to like to be, the teens. (Excepting 2007 and 2008, when they decided they'd rather be in the second round.)
It seems that the farther the Eagles move up, the less success they have with the pick. Their biggest move under Reid was from 30 to 15 in 2003, to nab Jerome McDougle. Their smallest move, 21 to 19 in 2009, netted them Jeremy Maclin.
Teams will still be able to trade draft picks, if not players, this year, so moving up or down will remain possible, but if you go into the draft with, say, two first-round picks, one from trading Kolb, you have a lot more ammunition to move. And moving up means giving up later-round picks. Will teams be willing to do that in a year when nobody is sure if there will be free agency? Or undrafted rookies? These draftees might be the only guys you can bring in.
Oh, the preseason schedule is coming out this afternoon, another excercise in pretending things are normal. I wouldn't make a lot of preseason game-travel plans.