The witching hour is upon us. At the stroke of Midnight tonight, the 2009 NFL season is officially under way. Thus begins the mad dash of free agency as we see which teams can spend or waste the most money the quickest. The heavy hitters and upper middle class of free agents will be the first to go. We'll see a few trades that are already lined up become consummated. It is a hope-filled weekend where teams look to change their fortunes and build the champions of tomorrow.
For the Lions, this is an extremely important off-season. I don't think I need expound on that thought for anyone on this site. Coming off the worst season in NFL history, the Lions need to play every card right and can't afford to miss on many players. With the combine still fresh on our minds, most of us have been busy contemplating how the draft is going to shake out; frantically making changes to our mocks with the recent happenings down in Indianapolis. But if you want an inside track to what the Lions are thinking with the draft, just watch the moves that are made over the next 48 to 72 hours.
The next several days will be extremely telling with respect to the draft and the overall make-up of the 2009 roster. By next weekend, most of the popular mocks out there will have to be re-shuffled. What if the Lions go out and grab a guard capable of starting like Jason Brown or Chris Kemoeatu? With Backus still on the roster, does that rule out all of the big tackles at the top of the draft? I would think so. What if they grab a linebacker like Bart Scott? Say goodbye to Aaron Curry with the first pick. Like I said, the draft will really start to take shape after the first few days of free agency. From everything I've heard and read, the Lions will look to be active early on.
I've got my favorite players that I hope they make a play for and I'm sure you all do too. I just hope that they don't sit on their hands for too long. With the looming uncapped year in 2010, this is the year to make a splash in free agency and spend that extra dough. When the league goes to uncapped status, it's not simply a free-for-all. In fact, in a lot of ways, free agency is much more restricted - especially, in the first few years. For example, free agents will have to accrue the equivalent of six full seasons instead of the four under the current collective bargaining agreement. What does that mean for the near future? Simple... fewer overall free agents will be hitting the market. The Lions understand this, that's why I believe that they will be bigger players in the market this year. Now is the time to make an impact.
Don't get me wrong, you don't simply come in blindly blazing at the moon. The pick-ups need to be smart signings; signings that fit the team and the direction that Schwartz intends to pursue. But they have to bring in enough talent to get them through the next two or three drafts. If not, they probably won't have much to choose from next year. Also interesting, will be the structuring of the contracts. I think a lot of them will be front loaded with a lot of the guaranteed money paid in the first few years.
So hold on to your hats everyone and keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times, because the free agency express is set to take-off when the clock strikes Midnight. The new Lions should start trickling into Allen Park within the next twenty-four hours or so and our 2009 roster will start taking shape. It's like Christmas, isn't it? Or maybe it's more like a box of chocolates.... you never know what you're gonna get. Have fun!