Report: NFL lockout could be in final weeks

SPORTS NETWORK

, Last Updated: 12:39 PM ET

The NFL lockout might be in its final weeks.

According to a report published Monday, there could be a collective bargaining agreement in place between the NFL and its players in time for the deal to be ratified during league meetings on July 21.

The report on ESPN.com included one quote from an unnamed owner who was optimistic the deal would get done, but also one from a player who complained that the league has not reciprocated what the story said were "significant concessions and overtures" made by the players.

Citing people familiar with the ongoing negotiations, the report said a "handshake deal" could be in place within 7-10 days and would be up for ratification by both sides.

The lockout began on March 12 after the NFL and players' union failed to reach an agreement on how to split about $9 billion in revenue, among other sticking points.

In the four months since, the sides have battled each other in courts and during negotiating sessions that have become increasingly secretive.

In a victory for the owners, an appeals court ruled last week to keep the lockout in place, vacating a lower court's decision. But it also ruled that an antitrust lawsuit filed by the players could move forward.

The sides are scheduled to meet again this week for talks that could go a long way in determining when and how the season will begin.

The ESPN report said both sides "appear comfortable" with a deal that would split all revenue so that the players would receive about 48 percent of the money at first and not less than around 46.5 percent during a new CBA that would last for 7-10 years.

Almost all preseason games would be played if a deal is reached by July 21, according to the report.

The ESPN story also detailed a document called "The Transition Rules" -- basically, a blueprint that would guide the league through the start of a new season.

Among the issues that need to be worked out are deadlines on when teams can sign rookies and free agents.

The report said free agents could be eligible for the market on July 28. Teams would need to set their 90-man rosters around August 3, leaving a small window for them to pluck from a free-agent pool that could number in the hundreds of players.

According to the report, the biggest speed bump in the way of a new agreement involves the debate over a rookie wage scale. The sides have agreed on a deal that would cut compensation in half, although the players have balked at one that doesn't allow rookie classes to become free agents after four years.

The story also says the sides are in disagreement over a proposal by owners that allows them to match any contract offer during the 2011 transition period to keep their free agents. It was rejected by the players, ESPN reported.


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