Such a move would affect approximately 130 players and would dramatically alter the plans of many clubs toward free agency. Suddenly the unrestricted pool would include four-year veterans like tailback Ahmad Bradshaw; wide receivers Sidney Rice and Steve Smith (Giants); tight end Zach Miller (Oakland); offensive tackle Doug Free; guard Justin Blalock; center Ryan Kalil; defensive end Charles Johnson; defensive tackle Brandon Mebane; linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Stephen Nicholas; safeties Melvin Bullitt and Eric Weddle; and cornerback Josh Wilson.
Said one AFC personnel director, who believes the unrestricted limit will go back to four years, and who has evaluated all four-year veterans as if they will be unrestricted free agents (as have most franchises): "You're talking about a big jump in the caliber of the free-agent class, believe me, if those (four-year) guys are in. A big jump."
A few other four-year veterans who are garnering interest as potential unrestricted free agents: Green Bay wide receiver James Jones, Atlanta guard Harvey Dahl, Carolina quarterback Matt Moore, Panthers defensive tackle Derek Landri, and Chicago cornerback Corey Graham.
Kubiak is going into his sixth season with the Texans, has never qualified for the playoffs and has only one winning record, despite being a chic playoff pick each of the past couple years. Only three other coaches in modern NFL history - Bart Starr (Green Bay), Jack Patera (Seattle) and Norv Turner (Washington) - failed to earn a postseason berth in their first five seasons with their teams and returned for a sixth year.
There were a lot of pundits who suggested near the end of last season that Houston owner Bob McNair would give Kubiak the pointed-toe boot, and it didn't happen. In essence, Kubiak got a mulligan.
It will be interesting to see if McNair is as patient, and grants Kubiak a do-over, if the Texans don't carve out a playoff spot in 2011. Even in the midst of a news slowdown because of the lockout, there are some rumblings McNair won't be as understanding.
Kubiak made headlines this week because he and Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt will travel to the Persian Gulf to visit U.S. troops there. It's a tremendous gesture on Kubiak's part, but goodwill might not be enough to overcome a bad record in 2011.
Only once in Kubiak's tenure, his first season of 2006, have the Texans failed to rank in the top half of the NFL offensively; and they have been in the top four each of the past three seasons. Only once since Kubiak became head coach, though, has Houston rated higher than 22nd on defense. The team brought in Wade Phillips to fix a unit that was rated No. 30 in 2010, and he could be Kubiak's salvation.