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The Bears Can Thank The Lockout For Gabe Carimi

Obviously, that sentence isn't true, but with this being a strange, strange offseason, we really should look at the impact the lockout has on teams and their offseason teambuilding. Follow me past the jump as we discussion how free agency and the draft impact each other, and how the lockout changed that this year.

We know the typical offseason has free agency before the draft - that's not breaking news, but thanks to the lockout, when free agency begins this year it'll be after the draft has ended for the first time. Signing free agents after the draft isn't anything new, but this becomes a big deal because all the bigger targets are still out there.

Consider just last year. When free agency began on March 5, the alarm clock had barely stopped buzzing before Julius Peppers, Chester Taylor and Brandon Manumaleuna had put pen to paper. For a team lacking its first and second round picks, landing the big prize and two wanted players was a major relief.

But because free agency hasn't occurred yet (despite the minor players such as Andy Fantuz signing contracts), the draft became the first influx of new talent - and thus, to a required momentary shift in philosophy. Last season, a team could sign the big free agent to fill the gaping hole and, thus, didn't have to depend on a rook to hold down the team's biggest hole, most often drafting best player available.

This year, on the other hand, a team can't rely on free agency to that degree. If free agency was before the draft as usual this year, the Bears could have signed a lineman or two, and reduce the need to draft a tackle like Carimi, or snap up Albert Haynesworth and not make it necessary to draft Stephen Paea.

It's a double-edged sword, though. If a team signed some free agents waited until the draft to look for a player, the player it wants might not be there - then you end up with sixth-round Al Afalava starting. It leads to reaching.

Really, the structure resembles a free-agency period, the draft, then another free-agency period - this year, the first of those will be eliminated. Honestly, I like it. If teams believe the draft is the lifeblood of a team, this is the way it's done. The team fills the need in the draft, then fills in any holes remaining with free agents.

What do you guys think? Should all the big players go in free agency before the draft, or should teams fill holes in the draft then grab the big players to fill in?