This offseason, with 130-plus days of litigation, negotiation and appeals, has not been what you would call the norm. Football finally seems ready to resume, however, and it’s time to ponder what clubs will do first.
For the past several months, the tenuous labor situation has forced all NFL front offices to be on the ready – on call, if you will – for a shotgun start. Procedures have long been in place, but countless schedules and calendars have been ripped up, changed and updated.
Once the new league year actually begins, I feel the free agency madness will be directed toward the current players in the league who are UFAs (unrestricted free agents) and CFAs (college free agents). I know what you’re thinking: “Hey, Softli, wait a minute! What about the draft picks that are not under contract?”
While draft picks are not technically under contract with their respective clubs, they are safe from other teams. Signing rookies to contracts in the past took several months, but it will only take a few days to get those rookie contracts completed and approved by the league office in 2011.
When it comes to the much larger pool of unrestricted players, college free agents and individuals who may be released by their current clubs, these men will go from floating in limbo to main focal points once the shotgun start begins. Rosters for 2011 will have a maximum of 90 players for training camp.
All 32 teams have their phones on speed dial to the agent population and are itching to book flights, organize and set up visits to their facilities, as well as plan tours of the city to enhance the “recruiting” experience.
While several teams build their rosters through the yearly NFL Draft, adding key free agents to fill hot spots, the new CBA rules (once approved and agreed upon by both sides) will lay the groundwork for both front-office executives and the agents who represent the players.
Listed below is a breakdown, by division and conference, of the potential number of free agents based on accrued seasons (three years, four years and five-plus seasons).
Divisional miles long, crippling a city and leaving homes sucked off their foundations. Cars were lifted and thrown to the other side of town. X-rays were found 70 miles away from the main hospital, and sadly dead bodies were sprinkled throughout the city. The only good news was the hundreds of trapped survivors that were rescued days later.
I hated to repaint that unforgettable nightmare for those folks from Joplin or the nation watching in disbelief and with heavy hearts. When 101 ESPN management told me I had been invited to tag along with the Rams organization to Joplin on a community outreach trip, I jumped at the opportunity, not only to see the devastation, but also to help the people of Joplin in any way possible.
Seventy-five Rams employees and selected media members will depart the Russell Training Center on two buses at 5 a.m. with an anticipated arrival into Joplin around 10 a.m. The Rams have worked with the United Way and AmeriCorps of St. Louis to identify a variety of volunteer options, which I have outlined below:
Misty’s Mission volunteers will help unload trucks and organize the distribution center. This might include the opportunity to interact with families that were impacted by the tornado.
Multi-agency warehouse volunteers will organize donations and make room for additional donations.
Call center and data entry center. Volunteers will answer phones and assist with data entry.
Catholic Charities volunteers will help organize and reorganize donations.
Debris removal volunteers
Upon arrival in Joplin, we will report to the volunteer check-in area at Missouri State Southern University to be dispatched to the various project locations and work until approximately 1:30 p.m.
Kevin Demoff, the executive vice president of football operations/chief pperating officer of the Rams, has been the driving force behind the Rams Community Outreach and Development since joining the Rams organization.
On Tuesday he said, “Given the degree of devastation that Joplin suffered, we knew it would be important to assist in a sustained relief effort to support the initial wave of volunteers that jumped into action immediately following the tornado. We’re proud that our Staff Days of Service program has become a hallmark of this organization and allows us to give back to the community in meaningful ways like this. Tomorrow is a great opportunity for us to come together as a staff to help our Missouri neighbors and remind people of the ongoing needs in Joplin.”
The Rams organization has donated $25,000 to the American Red Cross and Salvation Army to help aid in the relief efforts in Joplin and St. Louis after tornados ripped through both communities, leaving devastation and death in their wake. Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo and his wife Maria were joined by team cheerleaders and alumni at a Salvation Army telethon to help raise approximately $45,000 for those impacted by the Good Friday tornadoes in St. Louis.
With the NFL lockout continuing, the uncertainty of the Hall of Fame Game and the players still working out on their own, the Rams front-office executives, coaches, cheerleaders and some members of the St. Louis local sports media will have the exhilarating feeling of giving back to a community that is in much need of help, a sense of love and a total rebuild.