NFL free agency to start next weekend?

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is featured on a banner outside the team’s store at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego July 20, 2011. National Football League (NFL) players decided Wednesday not to rush into a vote on a tentative agreement aimed at ending a lockout that has dragged on for over four months. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com reports the NFL league year will not start until five days after the new CBA is ratified, while training camps will not be allowed to start for one week. Thus, if the CBA is signed on Monday then free agency will begin next weekend. (I used my outstanding mathematic skills to figure that out so you didn’t have to. You’re welcome.)

ESPN’s Adam Schefter also reports that a deal to end the lockout has essentially been reached and everything else over these next 24 hours is just a formality. Here’s a timeline (courtesy of ESPN) of how things will go down over the next week:

Monday: NFLPA’s executive committee votes whether to recommend approval of the CBA approved by owners on Thursday. Then, a player rep from each of the 32 teams votes whether to recommend approval of the CBA.

Wednesday: Players from some teams report to facilities and vote whether to recertify the NFLPA as a union and accept the proposed CBA.

If the NFLPA has gotten the necessary votes, teams can also start contract talks with their own players, including free agents and draft choices.

Friday: The remaining players report and vote whether to approve recertification and the CBA. If the NFLPA then receives the necessary 50-percent-plus-one-vote majority in approval, then it recertifies as a union.

Saturday: Free agency starts and teams can officially sign players.

Not to focus on the negative, but imagine if the players had decided not to decertify and the two sides actually talked back in March. A deal would have been reached months ago.

In the end, those pundits were right who said going to court was the worst thing for both sides – more so for the players. An enormous amount of time was wasted after the players decertified and tried their luck in court. Hindsight is always 20/20, but had they not done that then maybe they wouldn’t have had to cave as much as they did in the end. We won’t know the final details of the new CBA until Monday, but this will be viewed as a major win for the owners.

Either way, it’ll be nice when this thing is officially over and fans can go back to reading about potential free agent signings instead of a nauseating amount of court jargon.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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