Don't be fooled by the big media writers and talking heads telling you that the only thing that will be different this year is that the offseason will start later than usual. For guys who are about to become free agents this is going to change everything. And for the teams who have players they aren't sure they want to keep it gives the opportunity to address needs in the draft first.
Think about a guy like Marc Colombo. The Cowboys are unsure if they want to bring Colombo back next season. In the past, the they would have made that decision in March or early April. But now the Cowboys can see how the draft plays out before deciding if Colombo will be part of the team next year. Maybe the Cowboys draft Tyron Smith, the tackle from USC, in the first round. Tyron could start at either tackle spot if he is as good as advertised. Marc Colombo can probably say his goodbyes if Tyron is drafted.
And in the same scenario, think about a guy like Doug Free. The Cowboys obviously want Free to be back next season. But let's say the Cowboys pick Tyron Smith. Now they have Colombo, Free and Smith as potential starters next season. Doug Free loses some leverage because the Cowboys have drafted a player that is capable of stepping in immediately at left tackle if Doug Free overvalues himself in free agency. The Cowboys would probably still bring back Free but I'll bet Free loses a few million dollars in the process. Losing a few million is easy for me to write but probably a lot tougher for a player to swallow.
The same logic applies to several other positions as well. At safety the Cowboys are really hurting. But they have already had talks prior to the lockout with Sensabaugh's agent about bringing him back. Sensabaugh thinks he has a much bigger market value than the Cowboys do. But what if the Cowboys draft Rahim Moore from UCLA in round 2? Maybe the Cowboys think about plugging in Moore at free safety and rolling the dice with Barry Church on the strong side. Just like with the tackle position, drafting a safety would give the Cowboys leverage in negotiating with Sensabaugh whenever free agency does finally begin.
And think about guys who the Cowboys would like to have back but aren't completely convinced that they need to have. I'm talking about players like Jason Hatcher, Stephen Bowen, and Kyle Kosier. Depending on how the draft plays out there is a good chance that these guys will lose any chance to be back next season. Don't tell these guys that starting free agency after the draft won't make a difference.
I'm still really frustrated with the lockout. I will be happy when this ridiculous battle over $9.3 billion is over. Both sides aren't doing anything to get a deal done which, to me, means they are both to blame. We should find out in the next couple of weeks if the lockout will be allowed to continue or if the teams will be forced to open the league to the players again. But there is no telling how long it will take for the new league year and free agency to start. Odds are stacked against free agency taking place before the draft. But, on a positive note, I do think the delay in the start of free agency could work to the Cowboys advantage in the end.