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Transition Rules Indicate NFL, NFLPA Certain CBA Finalized By July 21st?

The NFL lockout has drained everyone — fans, players, owners and mediators — for what seems to be ages now, when in reality the lockout is roughly four months old, or to be exact 121 days and nineteen hours at the time of this writing. It’s still the longest work stoppage in the history of the NFL.

Negotiations have at times seemed dead locked, neither side willing to budge on the most pressing of all issues, how to split the NFL’s nine billion dollars in revenue fairly among owner and player.

Then finally some clarity as the clouds part for the shortest period of time and an agreement reached on the split (48% players, 52% owners), only for news to break shortly thereafter that the owners reneged and now want more money.

For now the fight over the revenue split has subsided, but realistically no one knows for sure what to believe any more. It seems every time progress is made it’s ripped away in a cruel “psyche”moment. Fans are ready for some solid facts and genuine progress.

That genuine progress, and I say this tentatively, may finally have arrived.

New reports claim that a deal will be in place by July 21st. That date would make it available for the teams owners to ratify at their next league meeting in Atlanta, in which 24 of the 32 owners would have to accept the deal for it to pass.

Also if it does pass then training camps would open on time and the preseason would play out in it’s entirety. The only casualty would likely be the Hall of Fame game between the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams, but it’s a casualty we all can live with.

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. It’s a road map of sorts that gives teams an understanding of what to expect and how to handle the coming month.

  • 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.

To date this is the closest we have been to the new deal, and no one expects the labor contract to fall through this go around. There is however one issue that’s on-going that could affect the outcome.

Both sides are still squabbling over just how to put together the terms of the new rookie wage scale. It’s more of the same old song and dance, the owners want it one way and the players another.

High-level sources on both sides of the talks say the debate in the rookie pool talks is over how to structure a fifth-year option for first-round draft picks.

Under current proposals, all first rounders would get four-year deals, plus an option year. That option could be executed by the team after the third or fourth year of the contract.

However, owners want a fixed amount for the fifth year option, roughly $4 million. Players want a top 10 salary at the position for the top 16 picks. They proposed a top 15 salary for picks 17 through 32 and then proposed top 20. John Clayton, ESPN.com

The wage scale seems to be the final hurdle, although no one seems to be to worried about the disagreement over rookie funds. After all it would be a travesty if we lost preseason games, or even regular season game, because they can’t figure out how to get rookies paid properly.

Settling on the wage scale also translates into just how much more money the NFL is going to invest in retired veterans pensions and health care programs.

Last week a group of veterans filed a lawsuit in Federal Court against the NFL and the NFLPA in attempt to get a seat at the bargaining table.

They felt as if they were not getting an opportunity to state their case to secure more funds. Likely they are watching the negotiations very closely. Let’s just hope we don’t experience any more “psyche” moments.

Related: 2011 CBA: Cowboys Training Camp A Positive; NFL Vets Lawsuit A Negative, New Orleans Saints Headed For Hectic Period Once NFL Reboots, 2011 NFL Lockout: July 15th A Target For Resuming Football Operations.

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Tags: 2011 NFL Lockout CBA Chicago Bears July 21st Louis Rams NFL NFL Hall Of Fame NFLPA St

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