First off, great comments on the Otah and CBA pieces.
As I looked at this a bit closer I realized that I'd already said most of what needs to be said. Namely that I think the CBA will be done before the uncapped season, and that the Lions are in the same position they were before: improving, with a journey still before them -- but at least started on trail.
Looking again at Lombardi's article on SI.com -- it seems the Lions are, as far as from what we can see -- as close to doing that sort of plan as any other team out there is. So what does that really mean? It means we and the media really know very little about what teams really do and think behind the scenes. Look at all the conjecture (including my own) and come the end, at least 50% is total crap, about another 40% half wrong, and the other 10% gets most of it right. (I was likely being over-generous giving the media 1:10 statements being correct, but they do get people on the roster and coaches right about that often, so maybe that counts)
I like how it is written, but Lombardi's article really just made me, when I re-read it tonight, go "Well duh." All of the things he is talking about other than the draft being eliminated (which I doubt the league will let happen after this many years, I can assure you because I am knowledgeable *wink wink*) are EXACTLY what a team needs to do to succeed with a cap!
Get good young players
Find a QB
The Lines are important - need depth there
keep your ten guys on the roster in the tops of their position
try to keep younger backups where possible instead of investing big dollars in mediocre or aging FA
don't waste money on injury prone vets - spend less on a young guy with more upside.
Have great scouting
Seriously folks, that is how you run a successful franchise. How are the Lions doing on those counts? We'll have to see how they do developing their newer draft picks (Marinelli's picks), and this year's draft will be a real bellwether on if the scouting department really has improved. As for FA, the older guys they were signing were not to big dollar contracts, and the Lions, for the most part, are moving to really cap-friendly contracts (assuming there will be a cap). They cut Jones and brought in Smith and Felton. We don't know about QB but they are at least making moves in that direction with Orlovsky and Stanton. As for keeping guys, what exactly do we think the Redding contract was? He'd have been paid Tommy Kelly money on the open market. I still need to see more from the Lions on keeping their players who are tops at their position -- the main reason we don't know is we haven't had anyone who is tops in their position (outside of Redding) have their contract come near to term recently. The Lions have been too busy offloading those injury prone vets and overpaid back-ups whose contracts were expiring...or made to expire. (snip snip)
So all in all, there are some definite progress areas (useful, again in either a capped or uncapped year) -- but that there are still a lot of areas where improvement needs to be seen, or how situations arising the near future (Roys contract, Raiola's Contract, Sims' s contract, Peterman's Contract) will show where they are at. Even in the improved areas, there is still a lot of room to move upwards. However, it does seem for the most part they are at least in the right forest, if not always on the right trail.
As for "that pinhead" (to quote nubsnobber) Clayton...
His article, when I re-read it, was a hack job from one end to the other. In the same paragraph that he bashes the Lions for not improving their running game (?), their oline (??) and says they don't have any future QB's on the roster after Kitna (????) he lost all credibility. Then topping it off by listing Smith, Lenon, Lewis and George Foster -- one of whom is the third safety this season, and at least two of whom I would bet won't be starting by September of 2008, much less 2010, just sent me into gales of laughter. I don't doubt the Lions could possibly draft someone to replace Lenon/Lewis at SLB next year.
Was he serious? Especially when he brushed off Tom Brady's contract potentially coming up during an uncapped season?? Or when he touts the rookies RB and T that Carolina picked up, dismissing that the Lions picked up same? Not only that, but of the "other" (assuming Otah starts at RT) 4 guys on the line -- 3 are playing in new positions, and the center was their backup last year. So in essence, they have an entirely new Oline. How do we know it's good? It is a bigger question mark than the Lions! Even basic logic follows the Lions to having at least a an above average line next year:
1. Lions Oline returns 4 starters
2. 2 of those starters (both G positions) have players pushing for playing time.
3. the LT has a young guy who started at RT taking reps behind him and breathing down his neck
4. Cherilus was considered 2nd best pure RT after Jake Long in the draft.
5. the Lions are moving to a more balanced offense from a 90% passing offense
6. the Lions are going to vary the QB drop so it is not always a 7 step drop, thus actually changing where a pass rusher will need to attempt to get to in order to sack the QB
7. This leads a logical person to believe that the Lions Oline has experience together as a unit, it's weakest point was improved, and the scheme is going to be Oline friendly
8. Thus, the Lions will have much improved Oline performance this season
See, that wasn't so hard John. You get paid to do this stuff -- why are you mailing it in? You even named a guy not on the Lions roster!! (although it was later removed, he named Kennedy at Safety with Smith the first time I read it. Couldn't find a cached version with it though) You checked the end of the season rosters instead of bothering to go to each team's site and check the roster there -- not for starters, but potential starters teams are grooming for two years from now...
I could go on about how the Lions drafted this year or last players to fill each of those positions he mentioned. He basically gave about the same arguments for his teams in the "good" and "bad" categories -- but for one set he put a positive spin saying they will get contracts done and find replacements, while he assumes the "bad" teams won't.
Final analysis on these stories and the CBA? Let the Unions and Owners negotiate and talk about it again when we know something concrete -- and 90% of all national sportswriters are hacks. The other 10% don't even bother pretending.