- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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A team-by-team look at how a continued labor impasse and extended NFL freeze on transactions would affect the division:
Denver Broncos: A long labor impasse would stunt the development of second-year quarterback Tim Tebow. Like all young quarterbacks, Tebow needs time in the offseason to work with his coaches, study the playbook and work with teammates in the system. If Tebow missed an entire offseason, he would have a difficult time catching up once training camp starts, seriously damaging his chances to be the opening day starter.
New Denver coach John Fox is not going to be comfortable going with Tebow as his starting quarterback unless he gets ample time to see him perform in the offseason. If the impasse extends well into the summer, Denver may be forced to take a look at Kyle Orton instead of trading him. If there is a quick resolution before the draft, Denver could be tempted to move Orton.
Kansas City Chiefs: The biggest key in Kansas City is Matt Cassel’s continued development. He flourished in 2010 under offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. However, Weis is now at the University of Florida. Cassel struggled in the two games after it was disclosed that Weis was leaving.
Kansas City promoted offensive line coach Bill Muir to offensive coordinator. But in addition to head coach Todd Haley, Cassel will work closely with new quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn, a former NFL quarterback and head coach. He has a strong reputation for working with quarterbacks.
Cassel and Zorn need time to work together. The two won’t be able to communicate during the labor impasse. It will be troublesome for the two to miss months of study time. This would put Cassel behind. He’d have to cram to learn Zorn’s ways. That could hurt the entire offense.
Oakland Raiders: A lengthy labor impasse would keep Oakland from knowing exactly what this team will look like. The Raiders have locked up defensive players Richard Seymour, Stanford Routt, Kamerion Wimbley and John Henderson in addition to special-teams player Rock Cartwright. They also have re-signed reserves Kyle Boller, Hiram Eugene and Daniel Loper. But Oakland still has many free agents to deal with, including star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, tight end Zach Miller, safety Michael Huff, running back Michael Bush and guard Robert Gallery. Gallery said he is not planning to return to Oakland. Oakland gave tenders to Bush and Miller, but they could end up being unrestricted free agents in a new CBA.
The Raiders have created some risk for themselves with their aggressive strategy of re-signing free agents. If there is a salary cap in the new CBA, they don't know how high or low it will be. So it's possible they have have painted themselves into a corner by giving out too many contracts.
Also, if the draft occurs before the impasse is resolved, the Raiders will have to make some tough decisions, based on the uncertainty of their remaining free-agent class.
San Diego Chargers: Like Oakland, San Diego has a lot of free-agent uncertainty. The Chargers didn’t enter the offseason with as many high-profile free agents as Oakland, but they have key players to deal with. Unlike Oakland, though, the Chargers haven’t been aggressive with their free agents during this uncertain time. The only way San Diego addressed free agency was by giving receiver Vincent Jackson the franchise tag. Keeping Jackson is key.
There are other issues. San Diego needs to figure out what to do with safety Eric Weddle and receiver Malcom Floyd . They put restricted free-agent tenders on them, but there is a chance they could be unrestricted free agents in a new CBA. They are two key players.
The Chargers have a good roster, but it does need to be enhanced. A long impasse will keep the Chargers from fully knowing exactly what their roster will look like. That could create some anxiety for a team that thinks it can make a Super Bowl push with the right moves. However, adding former defensive player of the year Bob Sanders was a sign that when free agency does begin, this team could be active on the open market, which hasn't been the case in recent years.