After a weekend of budding optimism, fans are hoping today will prove decisive in the NFL Lockout and conceivably get us back into football by the middle to end of the week. In spite of media optimism over the weekend, this labor dispute has shown things can change on a dime. Things seem to be reaching a level of inevitability, but until we get the press conference and all the bells and whistles I'll remain a little skeptical, or at least cautious.
If things do get worked out soon, there appears to be a tentative schedule that would actually give both sides a chance to finalize negotiations into tomorrow and still stay on schedule. ESPN put together a possible schedule of events this week but there was a different possible schedule sent out by Drew Brees to his teammates. The ESPN schedule is as follows:
Monday: NFLPA Executive Committee votes whether to recommend approval of owner-approved CBA. Then, the 32 player reps vote whether to recommend approval of the CBA.
Wednesday: Players from some teams begin reporting to facilities and vote whether to recertify the NFLPA as a union and accept the proposed CBA. If the NFLPA has gotten the necessary votes, teams can also start contract talks with their own players, including free agents and draft choices.
Thursday or Friday: The remaining players report and vote whether to approve recertification and the CBA. If the NFLPA then receives the necessary 50-percent-plus-one-vote majority in approval, then it recertifies as a union.
Saturday: Free agency starts and teams can officially sign players.The schedule Drew Brees' emailed out indicated free agency could start as early as noon on Tuesday with no grace period for teams to re-sign their own players. While Brees is a little bit closer than this to me, I have to wonder how accurate that would end up being based on the timing of getting the CBA voted on by the players. If the players (after the Executive Committee and player reps) are not going to vote on it until the start of training camp, it would seem that the league year wouldn't start until after that was complete, as mentioned by ESPN. However, it's also possible they just decide to start it up while getting the voting done. Who knows.
When they say "necessary votes" in the ESPN schedule, that basically means they'll start collecting votes and once they reach 50% + 1 of the 1,900 or so players then contract talks begin. The earliest players can report to training camp under the tentative CBA is this Wednesday, which is 15 days plus one for physical examinations before the Thursday August 11 preseason games. This would mean the 49ers could report as early as this Thursday.
Assuming the two sides don't figure out a way to screw all this up, it would appear as though any signings outside of current team free agents would then go down starting Saturday. That means undrafted rookie free agents as well as current free agents. Best case teams starting doing their own deals by Wednesday afternoon, worst case they start on Friday if it takes that long to get 50% + 1. Well, real worst case is something we don't want to think about.
We'll hopefully have good news as the day progresses. If free agency does get started on Saturday, well really whenever it gets started, chaos will ensue with such a limited amount of time to take care of months worth of moves. What's even more interesting about this possible schedule is that Sunday the 31st is the MLB trade deadline. Twitter might very well blow up next weekend.