WASHINGTON – For those of you not well-versed in labor law, here is a short interpretation of what the failure of the NFL and its players to strike a new CBA on Friday means.
Free agency probably will start in two to four weeks. Or even less.
But the 2011 season is much more up for grabs.
For those of you confused by the failure of collective bargaining, by the meaning of decertification or, better yet, the phrase “disclaimer of interest,” the bottom line is that the NFL offseason – including the NFL draft – will progress pretty much as normal after a short break.
For now, however, the 2011 offseason is expected to start after what is expected to be a brief lockout of the players by the owners. Jeff Kessler, an outside attorney for the NFLPA who has worked with the league for approximately 25 years, said he expects the league to lock out the players rather than face the start of free agency at midnight Saturday.
The union will counter the lockout with the antitrust class-action lawsuit it filed in conjunction with decertifying. In that lawsuit, the union is arguing for an injunction of a possible lockout and any other restrictions the league might put on free agency going forward. The case has been assigned to U.S. District judge Patrick Schiltz instead of his colleague David Doty, who has long overseen NFL labor matters.
In short, the players believe they are in a good position to get a favorable ruling and an injunction against a lockout. Once the owners are unable to lock out the players, it would be up to the owners to put in place a series of rules regarding free agency. That system is expected to be similar to what the NFL has done with free agency since 1993, such as players being free agents after four, five or six years. That means that veteran players such as Nnamdi Asomugha(notes), Braylon Edwards(notes) and perhapsSantonio Holmes(notes) will be eligible for free agency the same way as if a new CBA deal had been struck. The legal fight will continue, but it would be unlikely to stop the start of free agency.
In other words, you can eventually breathe easy.