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What a Judge’s Decision Means to the Eagles and Trading Kolb

Apr 10, 2011, 9:57 PM EDT

The first big step toward resolving the NFL lockout was taken on
Wednesday, when a Minnesota court heard arguments for a “preliminary
injunction” in the players’ antitrust lawsuit against the league.
Basically, Judge Susan Nelson is being asked to lift the lockout because
the players—who are no longer unionized—believe the lockout is illegal
under antitrust laws, and will suffer “irreparable harm” if they are not
allowed to work. It’s all here in this handy guide.

While Judge Nelson might be sympathetic to the cause of the players, admitting they appear to present a strong case,
she didn’t seem to have Kevin Kolb’s interests in mind. The court did
not make a decision at the hearing’s conclusion, instead taking the case
“under advisement,” and although a decision will be reached soon, Judge
Nelson said it would come in a couple of weeks. The NFL Draft begins on
April 28.

The date of the draft is important because assuming the Eagles intend
to trade Kolb for picks in 2011, the lockout first must end. A couple
of weeks, in its most literal translation, suggests a ruling will come
no less than eight days prior to the draft. Under that best case
scenario, it would give the front office precious little time to hammer
out a deal, and that’s if the judge has reached a decision by then, or
sides with the players in the first place. Oh, and one more obstacle:
the league will appeal when the lockout is blocked, which could delay
the process for weeks.

So that means the Eagles are stuck with Kolb?

Not necessarily. Nobody really knows what is going to happen. The
players could win their injuction, and the court could end the lockout
even with an appeal pending. While that would leave only a small window
for the Eagles to negotiate a trade before the draft, it still should be
enough time to get something done. Plus, despite the fact that teams
can’t officially swap players, there is no reason why they couldn’t take
calls. The Inquirer’s Jeff McLane reported two weeks ago that one team
at least has already offered a first round pick.

Should the lockout continue through the draft, the Eagles can still
unload Kolb before the season begins. It may not be ideal, but the
Eagles could accept draft picks in 2012. The fact of the matter is, they
are in a position where both Kolb and Mike Vick are scheduled to become
free agents next year (if this thing is over by then), and in lieu of
reaching an extension with one or the other (also impossible right now),
the club risks watching somebody walk away for nothing.

Even in the event of a protracted lockout lasting deep into summer,
the Eagles are in a position where they should strike a deal. There are
concerns over a player’s trade value, particularly a quarterback, if
training camps open up late and teams are scrambling to get ready for
the season. Also, once the draft has been completed, fewer teams will be
in the market.

Not to say those factors wouldn’t have any impact at all on Kolb’s
value, but they don’t completely preclude making a fair trade. The fact
is, there aren’t enough available starting-caliber quarterbacks already
in the league or in the draft, so there will be teams looking to fill a
need there. In particular, clubs that employ a variation of the west
coast offense still make sense, because it wouldn’t take as long to get
Kolb up to speed.

For instance, one increasingly interesting landing spot for Kolb
could be Cincinnati. Carson Palmer insists he is finished there, and
frankly, he is no longer very good. New offensive coordinator Jay Gruden
is installing a timing-based west coast offense, and former Eagles
quarterbacks coach Jay Urban recently joined the staff. That seems like a
comfortable fit for everybody, and with the extra picks from a
potential Palmer-to-Miami trade (or wherever), they could boldly skip
quarterback early in the draft and outbid the rest of the league later
for Kolb’s services.

There are an endless array of possibilities, but most important, the
ongoing lockout and lack of an immediate ruling on the injunction in the
antitrust case have not vanquished the Eagles’ options just yet. With
every day that passes, the chances of winding up with an extra first
round pick in this year’s draft decrease, yet even that is not quite
lost. For now, we wait on the courts.

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