No two seasons are ever the same in the National Football League. Every year, there are minor tweaks in rules along with player, staff, coaching, and front office switches for teams. However, 2011 looks like it is going to be one of the seasons with the most change in recent memory. From the many coaching switches to the current battle over a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, there is a good chance the 2011 season is going to look completely different from the 2010 season in a lot of ways.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement is the biggest change coming in the 2011 season. It is going to have an enormous effect on how next season and seasons thereafter are going to go. Possible modifications coming in the new CBA include a rookie wage scale, alterations to free agency, revenue sharing, as well as, an 18 game regular season.
A rookie wage scale is something that is highly sought after by both team owners and veteran players. The way the system is right now rookies can come out of the draft having never done anything on an NFL field and make more than veteran players who have been in the league for multiple years. If they put a cap on the amount a rookie’s initial contract can be, it will allow for owners to spend on more experienced veteran players who have earned it.
If the cap is put into place it will greatly affect the way the draft takes place. The way it is now, high draft picks are pretty much guaranteed outrageous multimillion dollar contracts. This fact makes teams skittish about trading up for higher draft picks because they do not want to have to pay that kind of money to their draft picks. If a cap is put in place, however, there will be a lot more trading for higher draft picks. Teams that do not need so many draft picks, but have a certain player they are looking for who will be drafted high, will try to trade up with one of the higher drafting teams, which normally have a lot of holes and could use more players, to get who they want.
Another change that could come with the new CBA is free agency. There are talks of modifying some of the definitions of restricted and unrestricted free agents, as far as how many years a player has to be in the league to be considered each. This is going to have a big impact on what could be one of the biggest free agent classes ever. Also, they may make adjustments to the franchise and transition tags, in regards to how many each team gets and how they can be used.
While revenue sharing does not mean much to the fans, it is one of the biggest issues with the new CBA and is the main reason the owners decided to opt out of the old one. I’m not going to get into all of the details of this one, but it basically comes down to how much money the owners get and how much the players get. The NFL is a business, after all, so the money issue is one of the biggest issues that need to be ironed out with the new CBA.
The CBA could bring an 18 game regular season schedule. This is something the owners want to bring in more money, but the players are worried about injury and things like that. Not to mention, the way a lot of games get stale near the end of the season once teams lock in their playoff spot, it is just going to get worse with two extra games at the end. Of course, since they would be eliminating two preseason games, it could even out pretty well. This is one issue that is completely up in the air.
Other than the CBA, other big changes are the head coaching moves. As of this writing, eight teams will have different head coaches than they did at the start of the 2010 season. That is 25% of the league that will have a new person leading their team. While not the most coaching switches in a season ever, or even in the past decade, it is still quite a large amount and just adds to the great feeling of change coming in the 2011 season.
As with just about every season, there is a good chance there are some rules changes coming. In particular, the amendments that might be made in regards to helmet to helmet hits and concussions. There was a big spotlight put on those types of hits in the 2010 season, and it is possible some major modifications could be coming. The changes wouldn’t be so much about the rules themselves, but maybe about the amount of fines and/or suspension after a rule-breaking hit. It is still to be seen what is to come with the rules.
There is almost guaranteed to be a lot of player team switches in the 2011 season. As already stated, this could be the biggest free agency class in history. All sorts of high quality players could be on different teams next year, completely changing the landscape of the NFL. Nnamdi Asomugha, one of the best shutdown corners in the NFL, has already become a free agent.
Not to mention, Brett Favre has officially put in his retirement papers. Even though that has not meant much in the past, but with all of the drama of the 2010 season, there is a good change it is for good this time. With Aaron Rodgers leading the Green Bay Packers to a win in Super Bowl XLV, Green Bay can finally put Favre behind them for good.
Oh, Chad Ochocinco is supposedly going to change his last name back to Johnson, as well.
The 2011 season has a great feeling of change attached to it. Between, the new CBA, the coaching moves, and what is going on with the players, it is sure to be a very strange and exciting season.