Welcome to 24 more hours of teeth gnashing, headline checking, clock ticking torture. I will certainly take it as a positive that the current Collective Bargaining Agreement has been given another full day of life, with perhaps another extension to the deadline on the other side of Friday.
In the short term, well, it has been a very emotional black cloud hanging over the game for months. Only in the last couple of weeks, though, as Deadline Thursday neared, could you sense pulses quickening and perspiration dripping. You can read all you want about the negotiations and watch the sound bites and listen to the experts analyze the talks between NFL owners and the National Football League Players Association, but only a few in the room, within the negotiations, understand the pace at which the talks are proceeding.
It is all very unsettling and, frankly, scary. I spent a part of Thursday talking to safety Nate Allen, a daily participant in his rehabilitation program at the NovaCare Complex. If there is a work stoppage, of course, Allen has to rehab elsewhere. He plans to go to Florida to do so. You understand the challenges with that, away from the team's athletic trainers.
The football side of the organization is focused on draft preparations. If there is a free agency period prior to the draft, the Eagles will implement their plan. They have discussed their options and they know that they will have some time, perhaps only a few weeks, to address some of their interests in free agency. Already the Eagles have offered tender contracts -- under terms of the current CBA, which may or may not have any relevance once the new deal is struck -- to the players they are interested in bringing back in 2011. No matter how the new CBA looks, there are going to be some tough decisions made here.
I want to get to free agency as quickly as possible. I can't wait to see what is next with this team. In the very short time since the season ended, the Eagles have overturned their coaching staff and signed a handful of players with NFL experience who are going to make roster competition very, very interesting and given quarterback Michael Vick the franchise tag (which he has already signed) and placekicker David Akers the transition tag.
Assuming there is a salary cap, the Eagles are prepared for the moment. There are already big names spilling out onto the streets, with many more to come. The Eagles can be as aggressive as they choose to be.
I'm looking forward to the Eagles building on the momentum of the 2010 season, of kicking Barry Rubin's offseason conditioning program into high gear and watching all of these young players take a huge leap forward in their NFL careers. I'm, as are you, waiting to see what happens with trades and draft-weekend moves and the inevitable roster juggling that Andy Reid and Howie Roseman are so good at performing.
I want to see this roster get built into 80 players, and then dwindled to 53. I want to see the season start as quickly as possible.
It can't happen unless the owners and the players come to terms on a new CBA. The 24-hour extension announced late on Thursday afternoon is, on the surface, a positive move. Another 24 hours of agony can't hurt too much, can it? Not at all, if it leads to something great with a new deal on the not-so-distant horizon.