2011 NFL Lockout: Full schedule of games possible after all?

Earlier today Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that a possible deal might be in place in time for ratification by the league owners during their July 21 meetings. According to him

There is a growing belief inside league circles that the NFL and NFL Players Association will have an agreement in place that can be ratified during the July 21 league meetings in Atlanta, according to sources familiar with the state of negotiations.

Of course there's always a caveat:

However, one member of the players' negotiating team who has been a constant presence at the table said that players feel they have made significant concessions and overtures "that have not been reciprocated."

What do both of those statements mean? Well it's certainly possible that a deal will fall through due to player or owner intransigence, however I feel like that's extremely unlikely. The two sides have met for several weeks now, and despite some tense sessions things have not fallen apart. The owners probably have a bit more leverage than the players thanks to the Circuit Court's ruling on their behalf on the lockout, but they stand to lose the most money if pre-season and regular season games are cancelled.

How confident are people that a deal is going to get done? Confident enough that a list of "transition rules" have been proposed for the league between ratification of a deal and the actual signing of the deal. 

If the deal is presented for ratification on July 21, here is the proposed timeline:

  •  July 21 -- Educate the clubs on the new league rules and allow voluntary training for teams and agents.
  • July 25 -- Sign undrafted rookies, as well as give free agents a chance to re-sign with their teams.
  • July 28 -- League year starts and free agency begins.
  • Aug. 2 -- Rosters must be set at 90 players.
  • Aug. 3 -- Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets.
  • Aug. 7 -- A four-day match period for teams to match restricted free-agent offer sheets.
  • Aug 12 -- Deadline for rookies to sign contracts (not yet agreed upon).
  • Aug. 16 -- Signing period for restricted free agents ends, as does the signing period for franchise and transition tenders.
  • Aug. 29 -- Deadline for players to report to earned credit for an accrued season toward free agency

The biggest holdup for any finalized CBA appears to be hammering out the resolution to a rookie wage scale, and the biggest hangup there appears to be the length of the contracts. I do think that a shortened off-season will have a tremendous impact on this year's class of undrafted free agents, as well as those drafted in later rounds, but those are topics for other articles.

Overall I think it's looking very, very promising for a full season of regular football, including the possibility that we'll have a full slate of pre-season games. 

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