We still have no idea what will become of the NFL going forward. Will there be a rookie wage scale? Will a new CBA allow for fourth year players to be unrestricted free agents? Will we even have a season in 2011?
These are all questions dangling in the wind. About the only thing we do know is that both sides have been ordered back to the negotiating table this week. What will become of said negations? Only time will tell.
For the Oakland Raiders, a team poised to finally right the ship, this labor situation could not have come at a worse time. With so much uncertainty, let’s take a look at the worst case scenario should we get a resolution before the start of the regular season.
A team in need of an offensive line makeover has already missed out on addressing needs via free agency. Let’s assume there will be a small window for free agency before training camp opens. This, of course, will be after the draft.
Now while the Raiders can, a recently have, found value in the later rounds not having a first round pick this season is a real hindrance. Undoubtedly the apple of Oakland’s eye is Stefen Wisniewski. The former Nittany Lion is a versatile lineman capable of playing both guard and center at the next level and his Raider roots don’t hurt his cause either.
Depending on whose mock you subscribe to, Wisniewski will be there for the taking when Oakland is on the clock in round two or he’ll be off the board late in round one. Either way Al Davis is pitted with the reality of potentially having to roll the dice on a rookie or second year lineman Bruce Campbell while sitting through another year of seeing Samson Satele struggle to block the stronger nose tackles in the AFC West.
Aside from the uncertainty of having to draft before free agency, the Raiders also have a few contractual situations that only a new CBA will resolve.
Both Michael Bush and Zach Miller were slated to be restricted free agents. As the Raiders have done in previous years, they tendered offers to two of their most important offensive assets that would allow for any other interested party to have to part with high draft picks in order to plunder Bush and Miller.
In addition the restricted label would allow for Oakland to match any offer another team might present. This, of course, is all under the stipulations of the previous CBA.
If the new CBA does not recognize fourth year players as restricted free agents then both Bush and Miller could stand to become ex-Raiders.
In this scenario both the draft and free agency become even more important. Replacing Miller is seemingly impossible and losing Bush would be a major setback to a run first offense.
Here is where there is no real Plan B in place. Finding another franchise tight end cannot be a priority in the draft nor in free agency. In addition, the insurance policy for Darren McFadden that is Michael Bush is invaluable.
Should the worst happen then I’m afraid that the Raiders are relegated to going forward with Brandon Myers and Rock Cartwright in expanded roles.
Lastly we come to perhaps the most ominous of all worst case scenarios. For a second let’s assume that no agreement is reached and we lose an entire season. This has the potential to be a real set back for the franchise.
As it stands Jason Campbell is a competent starter but not a franchise QB. Colin Kaepernick has popped up on Oakland’s radar in recent days. But even if he’s drafted developing throwers has been a problem for the Silver and Black. Without a year of experience combined with the expiring contract of Campbell the Raiders could be back to square one with the most important position on the roster.
Overall, this lockout hasn’t doomed the Raiders but it has certainly dealt the franchise a temporary setback. Hue Jackson might know his roster but he doesn’t yet know it in the capacity as head coach. Should we get a resolution that avoids all of the outlined issues mentioned then the reality is that Jackson and his staff will have to scramble to address their immediate needs.
All in all, the worst case scenario is that what we see in 2011 could be no different than what we saw in 2010. We could be watching the same team struggling to reach .500 with issues along the offensive line and more questions at quarterback. A lateral move that does nothing to help improve the product on the field.