NFL Lockout 2011: Free Agency Doesn't Necessarily Depend On A Completed Labor Deal

Here’s my guess based on the very way that I feel about this NFL offseason: my primary concern is being able to indulge in rumors and news of player transaction, rookie updates, roster battles and possible trades. If the NFL were to grant me that possibility, as a fan, I could care less if the owners and players were still working out the exact particulars of their labor deal.

That’s the proposal placed forward by ESPN’s Dan Graziano, who today wrote that it might be possible for the NFL to pull back the lockout — since they have the right to do so at any time — and allow free agency to commence under certain agreed upon rules. While it’s a sticky scenario, it would help move the offseason along and keep the hopes of a full preseason and regular season intact. It would also appease a fan like me who simply wants to dream over what could be on his favorite team.

Sounds like a plausible scenario since the owners are currently writing the rules, but Graziano says it does come with a hiccup or three:

Remember, these are not collective bargaining-talks that are going on right now. These are settlement talks on the antitrust suit the players filed against the league. If the owners were to lift the lockout and have free agency, even under mutually agreed-to rules, they’d have to be 100 percent sure they weren’t putting themselves at risk of being guilty of an antitrust violation. I imagine they’d have to get a promise in writing from the players that the players wouldn’t pursue legal action against them as a result of anything that happens during the free-agent period.

Of course, the primary hope is that labor peace is achieved sometime this holiday weekend or soon thereafter, which would nullify any need to develop a side deal to open free agency on a contingency plan. However, given the recent setbacks reported today in the ongoing negotiations, providing a bit of light at the end of the tunnel to NFL fans would be a great gesture, as we as providing a bit of news in a dry time of year.

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