March Madness has been reserved for college basketball for years – so much so that advertisers that aren't affiliated with the broadcasts have to come up with some other phrase like "March Mayhem." It's the same reason why you hear the Super Bowl referred to as "The Big Game." The NFL has the Super Bowl. College basketball has March Madness.
Until this year.
Expect an unprecedented ramping up of activity – both in NFL war rooms and in the media that covers the most fan-rabid sport in the country. A year ago at this time, there was a great gnashing of teeth about the pending NFL lockout. Depending on who you listened to (and when you listened to them), the feelings alternated between unbridled optimism to gloom and doom.
This year, with the college bowl games and the Scouting Combine helping form the opinions of those in the positions to make the decisions, arming them with information, the first post-lockout offseason is ready to get underway.
Imagine the malaise fans endured when there was no football business going. Coaches, general managers and key decision-makers felt even more angst during that period. Their jobs are dependent on making the right decisions – who to keep, who to cut, who to sign, who to pass over. That's their livelihood.
The Wild West free agency that took place last year was compressed into the span of a days, not weeks and months. The lack of activity as days turned to weeks and then turned to months was an unexpected byproduct of the labor dispute. One of the busiest times in the process of building toward the next season was done.
A year later, those same people are champing at the bit to get free agency going. Big deals are going to come down. They always have in the era of free agency, but, after missing out on it for a year, there is going to be a lot more attention to detail and the return of what passes for normalcy in the NFL. There is the typical flurry of signings in the first three or four days of free agency, then a lull hits and those players who thought they were going to get huge money sign for the best offer on the table – creating a second rush of signings.
After missing out on that last year, expect to see more aggression that in previous years when it comes to the opening salvos of free agency. The owners and the players resolved their differences and made nice last July. In two weeks, the first test of that treaty begins in earnest. Once the first owner steps up with an eye-popping contract, the ball will start rolling. It may not stop until the top free agents are skeletonized and left bare. Fans who went through lockout withdrawal a year ago can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that, after a one-year hiatus, it's "game on" when free agency begins and officially kicks the 2012 season into high gear.
Former Vikings QB Brooks Bollinger, who was the head coach at Hill-Murray High School in St. Paul, has accepted a position as an assistant coach at the University of Pittsburgh.
Former Viking/part-time boxer Ray Edwards went under the knife again. At the Combine, Falcons head coach Mike Smith said Edwards, who had just 3.5 sacks in his first season with the Falcons, had knee surgery he termed as minor.
Who would have thought we would see the day that Randy Moss would be peddling himself to the highest – if not the first – bidder. It's one thing to say you'll sign an incentive-based contract. It's another to say you'll go to St. Louis or Indianapolis or Cleveland to help out a team in need. Look for Moss' spring tour to only include teams that have a legitimate chance to make the Super Bowl in February 2013. Anything less would be chaos.
The family of Dave Duerson is suing the NFL for concealing the full extent of concussions. The irony is that, for several years, Duerson was on the NFL's claims board that, sadly, denied requests from former players to access retirement/injury benefits. Former Viking Brent Boyd, a heroic yet tragic figure in the concussion discussion, seemed to shoot down the family's defense, telling The Chicago Tribune, "Duerson told me my long-term effects were an act of God, not football. And now his family's suing claiming something he fought against?" As bitterly ironic as it might be, Boyd could be a defense witness for the league. But there is such a thing as cross-examination and Boyd is about as eloquent a speaker on the subject as any former player – at least those that are still alive.
The Bears cut defensive tackle Anthony Adams, who was scheduled to get paid $1.9 million. The timing of his release will allow teams with defensive tackle needs to give him priority scrutiny because he becomes a free agent immediately. If he remains unsigned until the free-agent period begins, then the Bears' decision would make more long-term sense than the timing does in the short term.
Former North Alabama and Florida CB Janoris Jenkins was discussing his legal problems with the combine media Sunday and said he is prepared to get into the NFL because he already has four children. In the over-analyzed world of the draft, Jenkins will get drafted. But, it may not be on Day One, despite first-round talent.
Early second-round draft pick prediction: the Oakland Raiders take Georgia Tech WR Stephen Hill. Hill ran a 4.36 40 at the combine and, while Uncle Al is gone, he is not forgotten. The late, great "Just win, baby" prophet Al Davis consistently became enamored with combine numbers and Hill met the family need for WR help for Carson Palmer … who needs a lot of help in the passing game. The problem? Palmer. When the Raiders lured Palmer off the couch, in doing so, they surrendered their first-round pick in April's draft to the Bengals – a franchise equally inept in recent years when it comes to committing to the future. If the Ray-duhs had a first-round pick, my bet will still be on Hill.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Free agency is usually a hectic time, but it could be crazy this year. With a compressed free-agent period last year and some teams more than $20 million under the salary cap, there could be deals flying in a couple weeks.
Last year's compressed free agency and this year's cap situation could produce a spending spree.