Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Important Dates Coming Up in the NFL

by: William P. Tomisser

Here's what's coming up for the NFL and the Seahawks in the 2009 off-season courtesy of Aaron Weinberg at Next Season Sports. You can find a list of these dates without the commentary at his site.

I know you all come here just for the commentary though, so here we go!

The highlights:

Tomorrow, January 15th, is the deadline for college underclassmen who want to enter the NFL draft in April to have their applications in. They then have until Sunday, January 18th to change their minds and withdraw their applications.

The scouting combine starts on Thursday, February 19th, and continues through Sunday, February 22nd. NFL hopefuls can have their fortunes dramatically change one way or the other during these trials.

To Continue . . .

I'll start with a few words on the combine, which I plan to expand on later as the event approaches with a story that details the current state of the combine:

It's become an accepted practice for the top college talent to train vigorously at various camps run by top athletic trainers for huge fees paid for by agents seeking to boost their clients' draft positions, thereby increasing their fees which are based on a percentage of the guaranteed money which their clients get paid.

Personally, I think the practice has gotten to the point that you have to be careful how much stock you put in some of the amazing feats turned in by athletes who have trained specifically for those events.

Some players seem to come out of the woodwork every year and look as if they are sleepers who scouts missed when evaluating the current crop of college talent and some players stock can really soar.

However, a lot of the events really don't have any direct translation to playing football and are really just track and field events. Yes, they are measurables of athletic prowess, but not necessarily of football savvy and playing ability.

For example, an athlete can train to high jump and add impressive inches to his previous ability at a performance-enhancing camp, but what is important for a wide receiver is catching the ball after he jumps to get the pass, and that's a skill training for the high jump event won't improve at all. In fact, it may cloud the issue for someone evaluating that person as a football player, particularly for receivers.

Weight training beforehand can help a lineman give an impressive show of strength at the combine, but doesn't mean the player has good leverage technique, good spacial awareness, or well-controlled balance, all of which are more important factors when that linemen is standing at the line of scrimmage ready to provide a lane for his running back to run through than how many reps he can do in the bench press.

The list of problems is long, and I will cover it in more depth in a couple of weeks. I'm currently recalling what I read about it in Pete Williams' book The Draft (Amazon link) as well as doing some research on other parts for the story.

NFL teams must have designated their franchise and transition tags by Sunday, February 22nd, which coincides with the end of the scouting combine and sets teams up in preparation for the veteran free agent signing period. Seattle is expected to possibly use their franchise tag on Leroy Hill if they haven't re-signed him to a new contract by then.

There isn't really anyone else they would consider using the tag on. Leonard Weaver is an important free agent too, but the NFL doesn't make any distinction between a halfback and fullback so putting the tag on Weaver would be paying him the average of the top five running backs in the league. That's way too much to pay for a fullback.

All teams must be under the salary cap by Sunday, March 1st, and then on Tuesday, March 3rd the veteran free agent signing period begins. I expect the Seahawks to possibly be involved in the first day or two of the free agent signing period this season. I think they will have a player or two in their sights and will pursue them vigorously.

Defensive tackle, defensive end, wide receiver, safety, offensive linemen, running back, and maybe even a quarterback could be early targets. I also think the Seahawks will lay low until that time in order to not tip off anyone what their intentions are or who they might be after.

It wouldn't surprise me if the team has a player or two flown into the Seahawks' new practice facility in the wee hours of the morning on the first day of free agency in a move designed to be a preemptive strike to acquire a player or two they covet before anyone else can make an offer.

You have to believe that Mora's enthusiasm and the new facility, coupled with a ride on Paul Allen's private jet, could be a powerful persuader to a player being asked to sign with Seattle and not look further. This is what everyone said the new facility would do for us and Mora and Ruskell talk a good game, as we saw at the press conference. I say it's time to see that whole scenario in action being used to snare talent for the Seahawks.

The annual NFL meetings run from Sunday, March 22nd through Wednesday, March 25th. The compensatory picks for the April NFL draft will be awarded at those meetings and all manner of NFL business will be conducted.

Mark this next one down on your calendars--on Saturday, April 25th the Seahawks will draft higher at number four in the first round than they have in over a decade. The draft continues on Sunday, April 26th with the Seahawks currently set to draft in the top 5 of every round except the fifth, since they traded their 2009 fifth round pick to Denver for Keary Colbert, who has since been released from the team.

Additionaly, the Seahawks expect to receive compensatory picks in the later rounds of the draft this year. We could conceivably have 9 or 10 draftees this year in total, including compensatory awards.

Other important dates yet to be announced:

May through June - Mini Camps start TBA.

July - Training Camp starts TBA.

August - Preseason Football takes center stage. 1st game date TBA.

September - The Seahawks kick off their 34th season and 1st under head coach Jim Mora. 1st game date TBA.


Bill T