Happy Draft Day, Broncos fans! So, the NFL Draft begins tonight but it may not even be the most important football doings of the day - as Judge Nelson denied the NFL's request for a stay of her injunction last night, we're at something of a showdown. The league is still trying to put off starting the new league year at the risk of putting itself in contempt of court and losing even more than what they've already have - and we could be talking about financial penalties in this case. So, the owners have requested a stay of the injunction from the Eighth Circuit, and there's always the possibility that court will indeed issue a stay sometime today (or soon).
But if not, then the NFL will only be wading into deeper and deeper doo-doo with Judge Nelson, and things will only get uglier for those billionaires everyone was feeling bad for six weeks ago. So, while it's unlikely the clock on the new league year will start in the next day or two (because at this point the owners may be desperate to hold onto something) and therefore not permit trades of vets or free-agent signings, it's possible that it does...
Of course, we will have an open thread and live analysis tonight and all throughout the draft. BTW, TJ and Doc are jumping on the Twitter wagon, so be sure to follow them: @T_J_Johnson and @alloverfatman - you know, if laughter and intelligent analysis appeal to you at all...
According to SBJ's Liz Mullen, Judge Susan Nelson has turned down the NFL's request for a stay of her lockout injunction. This means the NFL
is going to may have to start the clock on the 2011 league year soon, if not ASAP and could therefore open the door for free agent signings and trades of veteran players for draft choices (cough*Kyle*cough*Orton*cough).
ESPN's Adam Schefter has tweeted that Judge Nelson ordered the NFL to start the league year immediately after earlier saying the NFL will now turn to the Eighth Circuit to request a stay, while Gary Myers of the Daily News tweeted that it's uncertain whether the NFL will start the league year just yet.
Mullen just tweeted the following:
Judge Nelson denies NFL's motion to stay the injunction, of the NFL Lockout & leaves it to the NFL to decide what rules to impose. NFL Free Agency may start tomorrow, the same day as the NFL Draft, or not depending on what the NFL chooses to do, under Judge's order...Judge: "This Court’s Order does not obligate the #NFL to enter into contracts, nor does it proscribe the League’s non-lockout conduct.."
Schefter tweeted that the NFL is instructing teams not to make any moves until the Eighth Circuit rules on the stay request. More to come...
Good Evening, Broncos fans! We're less than 24 hours before the 1st round begins, so I thought it worthwhile to pass along some of the latest happenings. Kara Henderson is still camped out at Dove Valley, and today she spoke with the X-Man, who said "the trade would have to be worth it" to move down from #2. We can only hope, right? Xanders told both Henderson and Gray Caldwell in a Q&A for the team's site that he expects calls will come in about trading the pick no earlier than 30 or 60 minutes before the draft is to begin.
Henderson also reported that she's hearing Denver is zeroing in on Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller; considering that she likely got that info straight from the Broncos, we can figure they are trying to stir up further interest in the pick from teams rumored to be after Miller - such as Buffalo (#3), Arizona (#5) or Houston (#11).
UPDATED 7:30PM ET - According to WXYZ in Detroit, Broncos DE/LB Jason Hunter was stabbed in his left shoulder by his 23-year-old girlfriend this morning. The report states that Hunter has declined to press charges which could have included felony assault. Hunter's agent tweeted that it was a "very minor injury" requiring "just a few stitches." The Broncos released a brief statement via Patrick Smyth today. This comes only days after former Broncos WR Brandon Marshall was stabbed by his wife in Miami; OTAs apparently can't come soon enough for some players.
Hunter has spent five NFL seasons with the Packers, Lions and Broncos and contributed 3 sacks, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble and 2 fumble recoveries in his first year with Denver, including a 75-yard TD return in a 49-29 home victory over the Chiefs. More to follow...
Brian Xanders and John Elway have both said they want to come away with four starters from the 2011 Draft.
It's certainly an ambitious goal, and one appreciates Xanders and Elway setting the bar so high without resorting to meaningless slogans.
But is it likely?
Earlier in the week, Dave Krieger took a shot at pointing out how difficult a task Xanders and Elway have in front of them. His conclusion?
Optimism, naivete and, let's be honest, pure fantasy are always in unlimited supply around the NFL draft.
Kreiger based his conclusion on some decent evidence--namely, that Mike Shanahan and Josh McDaniels had limited draft success.
What do the numbers actually show us? Is Krieger correct?
UPDATED 9:36AM ET - Good Morning, Broncos fans! According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, the Texans are interested in moving up to draft Von Miller or Patrick Peterson, although they likely do not have enough ammo to move all the way up to #2 in a deal with Denver. Meanwhile, NFLN's Jason La Canfora writes that Shanny and the Skins are desperate to move up for a QB and are considering a jump as high as #2 in a trade with Denver to draft Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert. La Canfora writes that the Broncos may indeed be willing to drop as low as Washington's slot at #10 and covet Auburn DT Nick Fairley. However, the Redskins have only two picks in the first four rounds and would need to send future picks to Denver in such a deal. How great would a John Elway-directed bidding war for the #2 pick between Shanny and Kubes be?
No direct mention of Denver here, but PK tweeted last night that Atlanta is looking to make a move into the top 10 to nab one of two WRs - A.J. Green or Julio Jones. You know, it's funny - while the local yokels are still busy stressing the notion that nobody had called the Broncos about the #2 pick as of a week ago, the national guys are talking of plenty of trade interest. How does this happen?
Coming into the home stretch for the 2011 NFL Draft, Denver fans are still facing considerable uncertainty on the fate of the #2 pick. The lack of a CBA means that trades cannot involve players already under contract (in theory) to the teams involved. It also means that we can’t know if there will be a rookie cap that would make the pick more enticing, since the money would be less than the astronomical guarantees that the top draftees obtain. Last, you usually see a team that really needs a certain position - OT and QB are the two most common, but WR and sometimes RB have come into play - trading up. This year’s QBs are a mixed lot - probably not the strongest of QB classes means that less teams are ready to mortgage their additional picks in order to get X player.
That doesn’t mean that such a trade is impossible - in the NFL, it only takes a single covetous team to make that upward move. But they have so many unusual factors that I’ve consistently avoided factoring trades into my draft pick discussions. There are four players who are of interest to the Broncos, and two of them play the position that Denver is weakest in - defensive tackles Nick Fairley of Auburn and Marcell Dareus of Alabama. The other two are phenom cornerback from LSU Patrick Peterson and all-everything linebacker Von Miller out of Texas A&M. Today, it’s Fairley who merits a long look.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! NFLN's Kara Henderson spoke with John Fox yesterday and came away thinking that Denver expects Tim Tebow will earn the starting QB job. She also noted that the Denver brass is divided between taking Alabama DT Marcell Dareus and Texas A&M LB Von Miller if they are to stay at #2. Here's her conversation with Fox. If nothing else, it's finally nice to hear some QB-related sense coming out of Dove Valley - remember all of those "Elway names Orton Starter" articles? What a waste of time...
As for the lockout injunction, the owners have already filed their appeal with the Eighth Circuit and their request for a stay with Judge Nelson. Many players across the league are expected to show up at their respective teams' headquarters today to work out, and if so they will be allowed in. Of course, be sure to read Ted's Gut Reaction to the injunction, and the first group of articles from across the web.
UPDATED 8:32PM ET - This is really big news, but it's definitely no surprise, which you know if you've been rolling with us. All along, it's been pretty clear that the law was on the players' side. A union can decertify if it wants to, and you can't lock out a non-organized labor force. Individuals are free to file suit, where a union can't, and that's the vehicle through which a new CBA is going to be eventually reached.
I am a little bit surprised that Judge Susan Nelson declined to grant a stay, pending appeal. That indicates that she considers the probability of her decision being overturned to be low, but often, if a stay is requested for a timely appeal, it is granted.
The 8th Circuit could stay the decision, and to me, as a chaos-averse fan, it would be preferable. In a stay, the lockout would effectively continue for a while, until the Appeals court can rule. If they agree with Judge Nelson, which is likely, it's game over for the lockout. It's virtually certain that the Supreme Court isn't going to hear this case.
The reason that a stay is probably preferable for a fan is because if there's no stay, the owners will be ordered to impose rules and get back to business. Say they're required to begin a new league year by May 1st. A bunch of free agents get signed, and then the 8th Circuit overturns Nelson's ruling. What then? Are there take-backs on those signings? It'd get pretty chaotic.
7:38PM ET - The NFLPA has responded with a statement of their own:
We are pleased with the ruling granting the plaintiffs preliminary injunction to lift the NFL owners’ illegal lockout issued this afternoon by Judge Susan Richard Nelson. We believe that this 89-page well-reasoned decision is totally consistent with prior precedent, governing caselaw as well as administrative rulings on all the issues raised by the NFL Defendants. We are confident that this ruling will withstand any appeals.
7:07PM ET - The NFL has released a statement in response to Judge Nelson's ruling as follows:
We will promptly seek a stay from Judge Nelson pending an expedited appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. We believe that federal law bars injunctions in labor disputes. We are confident that the Eighth Circuit will agree. But we also believe that this dispute will inevitably end with a collective bargaining agreement, which would be in the best interests of players, clubs and fans. We can reach a fair agreement only if we continue negotiations toward that goal.
6:35PM ET - Here is Judge Nelson's ruling in full. (PDF)