A federal judge denied the NFL's request for a stay on judge Susan Nelson's ruling to lift the lockout. This means that as of Friday, the 2011 NFL year will begin, and the league will go back to mostly business-as-usual while the NFL continues to attempt to appeal the decision.
With the NFL draft beginning later tonight, the Chicago Bears run for a victory in Super Bowl XLVI will begin!
This is still no guarantee that the season will start as scheduled, since the NFL is still appealing the court ruling, and there is still no collective bargaining agreement. Free agency also may or may not happen, but if it does happen, it will do so under the limited rules of last year's free agency in which players must have 6 years of accrued time with their current team in order to qualify as an unrestricted free agent.
This will also affect the draft in that teams are more likely to be able to sign undrafted free agents and unrestricted free agents starting next week. This means that teams won't have to gamble as hard to fill every position of need in the actual draft. Teams will also not be able to trade players for draft picks during the first round of the draft, but in subsequent rounds (Friday and beyond), teams can trade players for draft picks. So many draft strategies may change.
And Da Bears actually do have some draft picks this year. In fact, they have a pick in every round except 7. This is a stark contrast from the previous few years, in which the result of the Jay Cutler and Julius Peppers deals gave most of the Bears draft picks to other teams. I think the Bears draft strategy is pretty clear-cut though: they need to solidify their offensive line to help cut down on the 56 sacks they gave up last year and make more room for Matt Forte and Chester Taylor!
A lot of people will argue that Chicago needs to look for a receiver, but I think Johnny Knoxx is going to develop nicely, and so it's not as big a concern. In fact, I'd much rather see Chicago develop their young talent at wide receiver and maybe pick up an experienced player in free agency to help take pressure off Cutler. But the bottom line is that if Cutler has time, he'll play better.
After the offensive line, I think Chicago needs to start looking for defensive players to act as understudies to their aging defenders like Brian Urlacher and Charles Tillman.
UPDATE April 29, 2011: Football denied!
The U.S. Eighth Circuit Appeals Court granted the NFL's request for a stay in the ruling of Susan Nelson's ruling to lift the lockout. That means that the NFL is back in a lockout state as of this evening until the Eighth Circuit Appeals Court can make a decision on the case next week.
Round and round we go...