Window closing for teams to work with new players

If the earliest anything will happen to end the NFL lockout is early June, at the very least it cuts the offseason almost in half for teams.

What that really means for coaching staffs around the league is that the window they can spend with free agents and rookies to learn new positions and new systems is rapidly closing. It creates the biggest problems for these players who have to make offseason adjustments so they’re not thinking in order to play. If you have to think to play, you’re not going to be a good player in this league. If you’re a marginal athlete trying to make a team, you won’t get on the field.

This reality of a condensed offseason means teams are better off looking at their own guys — understanding their deficiencies, age or injury history — as providing the best options to win.

That’s the case in Seattle, where Matt Hasselbeck gives the Seahawks their best chance to win. If the labor impasse drags out, it doesn’t matter what other quarterback options are out there — such as Donovan McNabb or Kevin Kolb — because they won’t be able to come and learn the system and the terminology, or their new teammates, in time to make an impact.

Kyle Orton probably gives the Broncos their best chance to win. In Washington, Santana Moss had 92 receptions last season and would be difficult to replace by anyone, even if he’s an aging player. Alex Smith, without the window of free agency, is in the same category and at least has some experience for the 49ers because rookie Colin Kaepernick isn’t ready to play.

The labor situation will likely force the hands of teams to take a long look at their own players and re-sign them, at least for this season. It also impacts the players, many of whom might be thinking about re-signing with their old teams even if they have other offers, because it might be more beneficial to return rather than trying to learn a new system and fit in during a short period of time.

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