Well, the one eventuality I didn’t prepare myself for was the one that occurred: Judge Nelson decided to take a couple of weeks to mull it over. Meanwhile, she urged both parties to continue talks in hope of reaching a settlement. As you all likely saw, the NFL invited the players to return to the FMCS and resume collective bargaining under federal mediator George Cohen; the players—who, no longer unionized, can’t collectively bargain—invited the NFL to negotiate a settlement presided by Judge Nelson herself.
After some po-tay-to/po-tah-to back and forth, Judge Nelson will host a conference call today to settle the issue of where and how mediation will occur. I applaud the league for offering written assurances that these talks will in no way be used against the players as the lawsuit goes forward. It’s a clear sign that both sides truly want an agreement. I also applaud Judge Nelson for giving the sides another chance to settle it like grownups, before she gets out the wooden spoon and starts paddling heinies.
Among many more important things, I worried that government shutdown would prevent federal mediation. However, Gabe Feldman, director of Tulane's Sports Law program, says George Cohen would be available to mediate even in event the Republicans and Democrats prove even harder to bring together than the NFL and NFLPA*.
The Net Rat deconstructed the idea that Lions should draft an offensive tackle 13th overall. He goes point-by-point: the Lions’ line was quite good at pass protection, none of the available tackles will be an immediate upgrade, a rookie may not be as ready as Fox or Hilliard, and it’s unlikely that only one of Backus, Cherilus, Fox, Hilliard, and Ugoh will be able to play at a high level this year. I agree with all of this.
Here’s what the case for an OT (and, for that matter, a DE) boils down to: there will surely be a couple of very good ones available when the Lions pick. Year after year, the Lions have passed on taking an OT with truly elite size and athleticism, because they had more pressing needs elsewhere. Time after time, Lions fans decried the wasted opportunity . . . now, one may fall in their lap.
I believe the situation is perfect for a guy like Colorado’s Nate Solder. He possesses that magically rare combination of huge frame (6’-8”, 319) and incredible athleticism—but he needs time to develop bulk and technique. If he were a little more developed, and a careerlong OT instead of a converted TE, he’d likely not make it out of the top five. Instead, he’s a project with the potential to not only replace Backus in a few years, but be the kind of elite blindside guardian Lions fans have craved ever since Lomas Brown.
Don't get this twisted; I'm not saying the Lions NEED to draft an offensive tackle, or even Solder specifically. I’m saying Backus’ consecutive-start streak, Gosder Cherilus’ knee, and Jason Fox’s development, are things the Lions can’t bet on beyond 2011. There is a need for a long-term solution, and—if everything goes to plan—the Lions won’t be drafting high enough to net an OT with Solder’s tools for a long, long time.
One last bit of business: I have to take time out to plug my friends over at Sideline Scouting. They’re a bunch of fanatical fans, like me, who’ve been putting their nose to the grindstone and churning out excellent draft guides year after year. The 2011 edition of Sideline Scouting’s draft preview is 391 pages, over 32 megabytes, and just $5.00. I love their work, I use their guide extensively as a reference, every year, and I recommend you do so, too.