The current NFL Lockout is definitely going to be the biggest road block for incoming rookies, especially if the owners are granted an extended stay. If that happens, the lockout would stay in place at least until their appeal of Judge Susan Nelson's decision can be heard, which is scheduled for June 3. So, it's entirely possible that the Eight Circuit Court judges grant the owners their extended stay and then side with them after their appeal, leaving the lockout in place through.... I don't know.
If that happens, it's entirely possible for a rookie to head into the 2011 season with absolutely zero experience and zero direction from their coach. There would likely be no minicamp and possibly no preseason to help get their feet wet. That is extremely bad news for the 2011 NFL Draft class, especially for guys like Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, Jake Locker and Christian Ponder who may be given the starting quarterback job in their first years as pros.
However, this could turn out to be very, very good news for NFL veterans.
FOX Sports' Len Pasquarelli writes that the current labor state of the NFL could, and likely will, benefit veterans, even those who may not have been considered starters, because they have what all of the rookies lack: experience.
"You take the five- or six- or seven-year veteran who isn't a starter, is making good money, and is a role player," agent Joe Linta said. "In a normal year, those guys would be in jeopardy. A lot of teams would be looking to replace them with a draft pick or a (rookie) free agent, someone who makes a lot less money, and might more or less do the same job. But if there's basically no minicamps or any offseason program, no training ground for the young guys, teams are going to keep the older players because they know the system."
Where does that leave a team, like the Bengals, who have a new system and really absolutely zero experience at the most important position, though? Up the creek without a paddle?
The Bengals have a long to-do list once the lockout is lifted. While I believe that re-signing Johnathan Joseph should be priority No. 1, the second priority should be a toss up between finding an experienced quarterback and re-signing Cedric Benson.
There aren't a ton of teams that run the west coast offense in the NFL anymore, and the Bengals may have a hard time finding a quarterback who's experienced in the system for the right price. Andy Dalton is, without question, the future of the franchise, and I'm sure the Bengals wouldn't want to spend a boat load of cash on a quarterback if he's just going to be a backup or stay in Cincinnati for only a year or two.
So really, the list of optimal candidates for the job is likely fairly small. In a normal year, guys like Seneca Wallace, Marc Bulger, Chad Pennington or Kerry Collins may have come at a cheap price, but their value may be driven up by the lockout and a need for experience.
The Bengals could be looking at a small handful of favorable options at quarterback at best, and if the lockout ends right before the season starts, or right after is should have started, they and teams like the Panthers, Titans and Vikings will be scrambling to find a solid veteran quarterback to either start or serve as a backup. If the Bengals aren't willing to spend some money, they could find themselves hurting pretty quickly.