The NFL lockout's resolution created a climate in the league this year that requires teams to execute all transactions with excessive speed. All the trades, releases and signings that traditionally take place over a much longer time period are now literally changing team rosters overnight. The head-spinning speed of all this management activity makes it hard to keep up with. Those who don't contribute to the new trend will find themselves left behind this year. There's no time for any team to sleep on making the significant moves required to be ready for the fast-approaching regular season.
Free agency has taken on a life of its own this year. A few weeks ago fans didn't even know if their favorite teams would be playing at all this year. Many of those fans are now wondering how many new faces they'll have to get used to cheering on before all the transactions slow to a trickle. Thankfully, NFL.COM and YAHOO have special pages devoted to detailing and tracking the quickly-draining free agent pool.
The available crop of talented players waiting to find out their fate is dwindling by the day, but there are still plenty of stellar personnel left to pick up. Those teams that didn't get everything they wanted out of this year's draft have limited shopping time left, though. Today's hot deal could be gone by tomorrow at the pace players are changing hands this year. Teams also must be aware of pitfalls like released players who couldn't pass their physicals. The lockout's length made many players think they didn't have to be locked in to regular exercise and conditioning workouts.
Much of the urgency involved in the attitudes teams are taking toward acquisitions this year is due to the lack of significant time left to integrate new talent into their playing schemes. While management is working overtime to put more tools in the coaching toolbox, coaches are having to adjust on the fly with the first preseason game less than two weeks away.
The Philadelphia Eagles quickly snatched up the player thought to be the most valuable free agent of all this year in Nnamdi Asomugha, but there are plenty of other deals to be made.
Need a running back? Ahmad Bradshaw, Cedric Benson, Ronnie Brown, Michael Bush, Willis McGahee and Ricky Williams are all still unsigned as of Sunday morning. Around a dozen more offensive backs who aren't household names are also waiting to be presented with contract offers.
Great quarterbacks are in much shorter supply, but that doesn't mean anyone should expect Brett Favre to come out of the woodwork again to play another embarassing season. Marc Bulger, Jake Delhomme, Rex Grossman, Matt Leinart, and Chad Pennington would all be more appropriate choices for teams still looking to acquire a starting QB.
The wide receiver market is even more wide open with big names like Terrell Owens, Braylon Edwards, Randy Moss, Mark Clayton, T.J. Houshmandzedah, and Steve Smith (Giants) all waiting for a phone call.
Defensive standouts are also plentiful in the free agent market, though more are getting signed by the day. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie, DE/LB Jason Taylor, and Safety Roman Harper are all still out there for the taking.
No matter what positions teams need to fill before the season opens, it's not too late at all for defining moves to be made. Still, the way early negotiations are going it's not a good time to play the waiting game. This season's market for new players is a constant moving target. Pulling the trigger too late on a deal this year could mean team management missing out altogether on the best acquisition to be made. Those who sit on the sidelines before the season starts may end up being the ones saying "There's always next year" when the season ends.