Ready For Some Offseason Football?

That could be the case if the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals rules to temporarily end the lockout. If that's the case, free agency and other transactions and offseason practices would begin. Here are some of the personnel issues awaiting the Packers.

Any day now — maybe any minute now — the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis will rule on whether the league's lockout of the players can continue until it rules on the NFL's appeal of a lower court's decision that the lockout was causing irreparable harm to the players.

If the league loses the appeal, then courtroom football will be replaced by offseason football for about a month. That means trades, free agency, and OTAs and minicamps will be the discussion rather than a buildup to June 3, when the Eighth Circuit hears 30 minutes of testimony from each side that ultimately will determine the fate of the lockout.

We'll be going over these topics — and much more — in the coming days and weeks. But here's a primer of what awaits if the lockout ends this week.

Undrafted free agency

There are 85 players listed on the Packers' offseason roster, though the 10 draft picks don't count since they haven't signed a contract. That puts the Packers at 75. Cullen Jenkins, Matt Wilhelm, Atari Bigby, Korey Hall and Jason Spitz wouldn't count, either, since they're set to be unrestricted free agents (in the case of Bigby, Hall and Spitz, they were not given restricted free agent tenders). Daryn Colledge, Brandon Jackson, James Jones, John Kuhn and Mason Crosby, who were given restricted free agent tenders, presumably would count.

"There is no CBA and we do not have any rules in place yet for a 2011 season," league spokesman Greg Aiello told Packer Report when asked whether RFAs would count on the roster.

So, unofficially, given the labor uncertainty, the Packers are at 70. Therefore, they could sign 10 players and bring in however many more on a tryout basis. In years past, they've kept a couple roster spots open to sign the best of the tryout players.

A few positions they'd no doubt like to fortify would be quarterback (only three on the roster), offensive tackle (only seven, including Chad Clifton, who wouldn't practice much, anyway, and guard/tackles T.J. Lang and Marshall Newhouse), nose tackle (only one) and wide receiver (only seven, including Donald Driver, who also practices sparingly during offseason practices).

Rookie camp

Coach Mike McCarthy had planned to hold the rookie minicamp Friday through Sunday. That clearly won't happen, even if the 8th Circuit rules in favor of the players today. In past offseasons, OTAs would begin two weeks after that.

"I don't even know what our offseason schedule is going to look like," McCarthy said after the draft. "I've always approached the offseason and training camp as a whole. You have objectives and targets that you need to accomplish in the offseason program that can carry into your training camp."

Free agency and trades

Dread, rather than excitement, should be the emotions when unrestricted free agency begins. The Packers appear almost certain to lose Jenkins, who turned 30 in January and will be one of the most in-demand players on the market.

Moreover, for all the talk of Oakland's star cornerback, Nnamdi Asomugha, having interest in joining Charles Woodson in Green Bay, the Packers reportedly have $129.8 million committed for 2011. And that's before signing 10 draft picks and bringing back any unrestricted free agents. Only one team (Dallas, $136.5 million) has more committed and the salary cap in 2009 (2010, remember, was uncapped) was about $130 million.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.


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