Is there a such thing as a lockout-proof roster?
It’s impossible to really know. Prior to this one, professional football had only endured two work stoppages in half a century. And both of those player strikes (1982 and 1987) were shorter and less intrusive to offseason developments. They also took place prior to free agency, so the effects probably weren’t as great.
Still, common sense states that some teams are probably better prepared to deal with a 136-day interruption than others. So, what’s the criteria for avoiding the lockout blues? Well, in our humble opinion…
Have a veteran quarterback already in place: Grooming a rookie is quite a tall task when you only have about five weeks to get it done. New quarterbacks acquired in trades or via free agency might be a little easier to get up to speed, but teams with experienced pivots firmly entrenched are clearly better off.
Who qualifies? Patriots, Jets, Bills, Ravens, Steelers, Texans, Jaguars, Colts, Chiefs, Broncos, Chargers, Giants, Eagles, Cowboys, Bears, Packers, Saints, Buccaneers, Falcons.
Have coaching staffs already in place: A quarterback learning new schemes in about a month and experiencing immediate success is unlikely. Imagine an entire team having to do so? The teams that didn’t make changes with head coaches and coordinators will be better off in 2011.
Who qualifies? Patriots, Jets, Bills, Ravens, Steelers, Jaguars, Colts, Redskins, Chargers, Giants, Eagles, Bears, Packers, Lions, Saints, Buccaneers, Falcons.
Don’t be too reliant on rookies and young players: First-year players simply have more work to do in less time, which will put them at a major disadvantage. And you have to wonder if second- and third-year guys will see their development stunted by an abbreviated offseason.
Who qualifies: Dolphins, Patriots, Jets, Ravens, Steelers, Texans, Jaguars, Colts, Chiefs, Chargers, Raiders, Giants, Eagles, Cowboys, Packers, Vikings, Saints, Falcons.
Limited turnover: Once again, the fewer the newbies, the lower the chances are that teams will experience the deer-in-headlights effect. Franchises that were forced to make drastic changes in free agency might have a tough time developing cohesion and momentum.
Who qualifies: Dolphins, Bills, Steelers, Browns, Colts, Chiefs, Broncos, Chargers, Packers, Saints, Buccaneers, Panthers, Falcons.
So, what teams fit all of the above criteria, which teams do well and which teams are in trouble?
Built for the lockout: Steelers, Colts, Chargers, Packers, Saints, Falcons.
Others in good shape: Patriots, Jets, Bills, Ravens, Jaguars, Chiefs, Giants, Eagles, Buccaneers.
The opposite of lockout-proof (in real trouble): Bengals, Titans, Seahawks, Cardinals, Rams, 49ers.
Others in bad shape: Redskins, Lions, Raiders, Vikings, Browns, Panthers.
Somewhere in between: Dolphins, Broncos, Texans, Cowboys, Bears.
The obvious conclusion: Based on perceived standards, the rich could end up getting richer while the poor get poorer in the NFL this season. (And while we’re making seemingly obvious conclusions, the NFC West really sucks.)
But in professional sports, and especially in the NFL, perceived standards are often thrown out the window. So don’t lose hope, Bengals/Titans/Seahawks/Cards/Rams/49ers fans!