It's getting closer... The July 21st league meetings in Atlanta is when most are predicting the lockout will finally die. The rookie wage scale is still a snag in the negotiations, but they're still negotiating. When the rookies hit free agency is also part of the snag, but talks continue. ESPN.com breaks down the rookie poll negotiations as well as other pertinent labor info, including a possible schedule for teams once the labor strife ends. Yahoo Sports also has a possible schedule up, and I'll highlight it after the jump.
July 21: Meet with teams on the updated rules; voluntary team-sponsored training would be allowed.
July 25: Undrafted rookies could be signed, and teams would have a window of opportunity to sign their own free agents. What we don't know yet is whether free agency will be available to players whose contracts expire after four years, as it was before 2010 when the number went up to six, but the winds seem to be blowing that way. Obviously, that would put a far larger pool of true free agents on the market.
I like the idea of having a window to exclusively talk with your own free agents. And I can't see the players bending on the 4 years before free agency. I expect the FA poll to include all those previously unrestricted guys.
July 28: The league year would begin, and free agency would start. This, of course, would be a very interesting date parameter in that teams could have a three-day headstart on signing their own free agents. It is not known at this time whether the "right of first refusal" tender will be invoked as part of a new CBA, but I wouldn't bet on it.
The Bears financial team is pretty quick in getting things done, hopefully they re-up their own with a quickness, and start planning on some midnight meetings with FA's.
August 2: Teams must have rosters set at 90 players to begin the preseason.
August 3: Restricted free agents can sign offer sheets with other teams, and prior teams will able to match those offers by August 7.
August 12: Rookies must have signed their contracts.
I'd expect the Bears to again be one of the first to have all their rookies signed.
August 16: The end of the signing period for restricted free agents.
August 29: Deadline for players to report if they want to earn an accrued season under the new CBA.
Can we all prey to the football Gods for some football? Are you ready...