Historic and unprecedented. After 4½ months of a work stoppage, the NFL will open for business Tuesday and the Jets — along with their 31 counterparts — will be able to negotiate with free agents.
"It's going to be madness. It's going to be crazy," Jets TE Dustin Keller told newyorkjets.com. "I think fortunately we're not starting camp until Sunday [July 31] and that will give us a little bit more downtime until we get our whole team and whole nucleus together. We'll figure out who those guys are going to be because as of right now, I don't even think Mike Tannenbaum knows yet. We'll see how that works out."
Filing for transactions won't start until Friday at 6 p.m. ET, but teams can reach agreements with all free agents starting Tuesday. The Jets have 16 unrestricted free agents, including the likes of CB Antonio Cromartie and WRs Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes and the versatile Brad Smith. Linebacker David Harris is the club's franchise player and OL Rob Tuner is the Jets' sole restricted free agent.
"I lit a candle and I'm hoping everyone's back," said LB Bart Scott on Monday on NFL Network. "Those guys do a great job understanding how to use the rules the best and how to operate the cap. I think we're one of those organizations that have guys that are creative in the free agency and we'll find a way to sign as many guys as we can."
Change is in the air. The Jets, who released NT Kris Jenkins (now retired), LB Jason Taylor and T Damien Woody earlier in the offseason, could have a very different look when the team opens training camp next weekend.
"Obviously we want to keep guys we had last year. We had a great team and great character guys around, but that's just not reality," Keller said. "You can never keep the same team, but hopefully we can retain as many guys as possible."
Reality will also transition at training camp for many clubs as gone are two-a-day padded practices. The Madbacker expressed his regret in the rules change recently, saying it was "wimping out, making players more soft."
"I still agree with that to a certain extent," Scott told NFL Network today. "I understand why it was put in — it was put in for some of the coaches who were going Bear Bryant. But I've always been fortunate enough to be with coaches who knew how to take care of the players. It's my understanding that some coaches were taking it a little bit too far."
Keller believes the extinction of camp two-a-days will be beneficial to players throughout the league.
"It's the same rules for every single team, and if anything, it's going to prolong guys' careers," he said. "Guys won't be out there banging every single day and every single practice during camp, so I think it's going to help us out more than anything. As long as every team is doing the same thing, it's a level playing field."
The doors will open to veteran players on Tuesday and Keller plans on being at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.
"I'm going to come in tomorrow, get my physical done and hit the weightroom and start working out with our new strength coach, Bill Hughan. I plan to watch a little bit of film and get back into the swing of things because this has been a weird offseason, a long offseason," he said. "Guys didn't really know what to do with all the time they had, so it's going to be nice to get back in there and get back to a regular schedule."
Borrowing a phrase from Scott, Keller expressed his desire to get in as much work as possible with Hughan.
"I can't wait to get in there," he said. "We've all been working out, but it's not the same when you're there with your teammates competing in the weightroom and competing when they run out on the field. It's going to be better for us and I'm glad we can get a few days with him before the start of camp."