Football's hot stove league kicks off at 12:01 a.m. Friday morning, when teams can start igniting their fans' hopes and cooking up free-agent contracts.
Yet, before any team reaches for its checkbook and before any team opens its vault, it should study the makeup of football's final four from last season. There are divergent models of how to advance to the Super Bowl.
The San Diego Chargers' only significant free-agent move at this time last year was to resign their guard Kris Dielman.
So there are, clearly, two models from which each team must study and choose.
Under one route, it can go conservative, relying on the draft to infuse its roster with the type of talent the Giants drafted last April, when they hit on all eight picks.
Each team must make its choice. In the coming days, each will. But it is what makes this time of year, what is supposedly the off-season, so critical.
Every offseason decision influences every regular-season and postseason game.