Quick Turnaround in the NFL

Losing their free agency case when federal judge David Doty sided with the players in his ruling in favor of the latter on April 30, 1993, the NFL owners decided that if you're stuck with a lemon, serve lemonade.

And that "lemonade" came in the form of the owners turning free agency into an annual, three-month-long media extravaganza — an extravaganza that will begin this year on March 15, just 31 days after Super Bowl LVII was played.

But first things first, and that means the combine, contested as it almost always is in Indianapolis, the city of fast cars — and for one day every year at least, fast wide receivers who always manage to steal the spotlight at the combine from players at every other position.

The wide receiver draft class of 2023 is headed by Quentin Johnston of TCU, who could turn out to be an even better prospect than last year's Christian Watson because Johnston hails from a "Power Five" program, while Watson did not (North Dakota State). Both have extremely similar measurables though: Johnston is 6'4", 215, and is expected to break 4.4 at the combine, where Watson clocked a 4.36 at 6'4", 208 last year.

And where Johnston is seen as a potential second coming of Calvin Johnson, Boston College's Zay Flowers, at 5'10", 172, is seen as a potential second coming of the 5'10", 170-pound DeSean Jackson, who ran a 4.35 at the 2008 combine. Flowers is given a solid chance to outrun Jackson's time — but we will know soon enough.

With the NFL owners likely to ban the "Tush Push" when they meet in Phoenix for four days starting on March 26, so-called "power backs" could suddenly be in great demand in the upcoming draft. The top candidates include UCLA's Zach Charbonnet (6'2", 222) of UCLA, Georgia's Kenny McIntosh (6'1", 210) who could very well join Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean as former Bulldogs drafted by the Eagles, the targets of the crusade against the "Tush Push," and Roschon Johnson (6'2", 223), who was a backup behind Bijan Robinson (6'0", 220) at Texas. Robinson is projected to be drafted in the first round, where Philadelphia has not selected a running back since Keith Byars in 1986.

Regular watchers of NFL Network — which free agency helped put on the proverbial map — will have scarcely had time to process all the information gleaned from free agency when the draft will be held for three days beginning on April 27 in Kansas City.

Maybe the NFL is scripted — and if Dallas gets to host the 2024 draft, then you will know that the NFL is really, really scripted: Philadelphia is playing the toughest schedule in the entire NFL next season, San Francisco is taking the biggest jump in the entire NFL in strength of schedule, Tom Brady is gone from Tampa Bay, Aaron Rodgers could very well be gone from Green Bay, and anyone who believes that Minnesota is going to win 11 one-score games again next season ought to have their head examined.

Clearly, the NFC's berth in Super Bowl LVIII is "'Murica's Team's" to lose. And then maybe — just maybe — Dak Prescott will finally get the respect he has earned with his 63-40 record as a starter and 97.5 career passer rating? (Jimmy Garoppolo has the same problem: he's 44-19 as a starter and has a career passer rating of 97.8 — so presumably it is not racial).

In 1919, the town of Enterprise, Alabama, in the heart of cotton country, erected a plaque in "honor" of the boll weevil, because the destruction it caused prompted farmers in the South to plant other crops besides cotton.

Perhaps the NFL owners should erect a plaque in honor of Judge Doty — for giving them what at first appeared to be the dubious gift of granting their players free agency.

But they will have to wait before erecting such a plaque: Judge Doty is still alive. He is 93-years-old.

In the meantime, since the "new league year" — and with it, free agency and trades — officially begins at 4 PM, Eastern Daylight Time on March 15 (DST begins on March 12), they should erect a ball in Times Square to mark the countdown to it.

Five, four, three, two, one...

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