Sports

Dormant NFL will roar to life

We can only imagine what degree of torment the NFL work stoppage has been for Seahawks GM John Schneider, who spent his first year with the team averaging nearly a deal a day.

After some 280 transactions, Schneider was forced to go cold turkey when the NFL collective bargaining agreement expired in March.

It will be interesting to discover if he developed coping mechanisms: brokering deals for neighborhood Little League teams, trying to squeeze extra bread sticks out of the pizza delivery guy. Maybe he’s been pulling night shifts as a phone solicitor.

The draft in April kept him busy, but since then … no deal.

If a new agreement is reached this week as predicted, it should be fascinating to see him scramble to make up for lost time. Schneider and the rest of the NFL can still pull this together in time to make this lockout period relatively painless.

There have been some outbreaks of ill will, and commissioner Roger Goodell has taken some bashing. But the rest of us have only missed the trickling of news of free-agent signings, and tidbits from minicamps along the way.

Now, the excitement of player movement will be intensified by the extreme time compression before the start of training camps. This will resemble Fantasy Football when people get together one night to set their rosters.

I think it’s scheduled for Bill Polian’s basement.

There won’t be much time for posturing on contracts, either. Close the deal in five minutes or move on to the next prospect. Like speed dating.

When the talks started, the owners’ desire to expand the season to 18 games threatened the on-field product … not to mention the long-term well-being of players.

But once that came off the table, the issues have only been about money. And what does the typical fan care about the division of a few percentage points of annual gross revenues, or what rookies will get paid? As long as these guys are suited up on time, we’re fine with it.

Beyond the effects of the lockout on Schneider’s nervous system, the Seahawks are expected to be one of the teams most hampered by the absence of customary offseason activity.

Their offensive staff has been rebuilt with a new coordinator, line coach and quarterbacks coach. That degree of assimilation would be tough under normal conditions, but without minicamps and organized training activities? It might be midseason before everybody can fully master a revamped system.

And that all factors into the prime decision that must be made as quickly as possible: What to do for a quarterback?

Tepid talks with veteran Matt Hasselbeck resulted in no signatures before the lockout. This is a good debate because there are merits to both perspectives. His productivity has dwindled during two seasons of staff turnover and widespread offensive ineffectiveness.

And Schneider and coach Pete Carroll have made it obvious the goal is to rebuild the roster, and everybody is expendable.

But Hasselbeck still had moments, is better when he has support, and he is one guy who might be able to step in and functionally run the offense on short notice.

There’s not much in the way of free-agent alternatives, and trading for someone like Philadelphia’s Kevin Kolb would require shipping off the kind of draft choices that are painful to surrender for a team trying so hard to rebuild and get younger.

There’s a spot at left guard awaiting a free agent, and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane could draw considerable interest when the market opens. He’s a stout guy whose contributions are not fully revealed by stats alone, making him another who is worth keeping if possible.

It seems that this is a time when returning players have greater value because there is so little time to acclimate newcomers. The top two draft picks, for instance, are expected to come in and be starters on the offensive line when the exhibition season starts Aug. 11 – little more than three weeks from now.

One thing working in the Seahawks’ favor is that the constant turnover of the past year has them accustomed to making changes on the fly and pulling a quick trigger on personnel deals.

So we may presume that Schneider is already loosening up his dialing digits and clearing his throat for action.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 dave.boling@thenewstribune.com

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