ESPN reporters Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter have penned a co-report indicating that the sides have etched out an timeline in which to open up the league for operations. In a piece entitled Sources: Sides Eye July 21st Ratification, they speak to the progress made in the last few sessions. Now sources could mean only two, but hey, it's better than only one! I hope they checked their sources against each other, and aren't secretly speaking to the same valet attendant.
...the level of overall confidence in reaching an agreement also is evident in a document known as "The Transition Rules" that NFL teams would follow if and when both players and owners ratify a new labor agreement.
The Transition Rules spell out an actual timeline for roster transactions under the July 21 deal scenario, including the start of the new league year during which free agents would become eligible for the open market on July 28.
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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.
...people familiar with the talks now think an agreement in principle will be put in place in the next seven to 10 days, a handshake deal that would allow each side to ratify the deal to start the 2011 season.
The article states that this timeline would allow for a period to sign UDFA's and your own free agents starting July 25th. Here is the window where we could see the team resign Doug Free, Stephen Bowen, Kyle Kosier and Marcus Spears, better known as KD's internal wishlist. Full free agency would begin three days later, July 28th.
The article ends with notes on what remains to be agreed upon, and it is a substantial list in my opinion. I understand the optimism centered around closing in on deadline dates and this week's continued negotiations in New York, but there is still a lot of room for things to fall apart. Just because a plan has been sketched out and leaked to the media doesn't guarantee it will play out in this way. For one, the proposal by management that for the 2011 transition period, teams would have the right of first refusal on up to three free agents, in addition to their franchise-tag designees hasn't sat well with the players.
The rookie wage scale is reported to be the largest stumbling block remaining, which is understandable. The money paid to rookies is really the driving force behind the bad NFL contract in a multitude of ways. It makes at least 20 players each year top earners without any known production, therefore driving up the bargaining power of the middle tier of league talent. It also raises the bar for the players that deserve higher earnings based on elite performance.
Under the NFL's proposal, the top pick's contract value would go from $78 million over six years to $34 million over five years with the ability to renegotiate after three years.
A rookie wage scale would certainly reduce the amount of cap room taken up by #9 pick Tyron Smith, if first rounder contracts are slashed in such a dramatic way. That could net a few million extra to throw Doug Free's way.