Report: NFL free agency could be 'chaos'

BY foxsports • June 23, 2011

The NFL's labor talks continued Wednesday in the Boston area amid continued optimism the two sides will reach an agreement within the next month that would save the entire 2011 season, the New York Post reported Thursday.

Much of the buzz outside the closed meeting room centered on what is sure to be a frenetic period of post-agreement free agency, as well as the league's potential plan for more TV money to help meet the ambitious revenue projections that will help sell the labor deal to the players.

Lead NFL attorney Jeff Pash created a bit of a stir by indicating the owners would not open free agency until they have a new collective bargaining agreement signed and sealed.

Considering that the new CBA would be hundreds of pages thick and last as long as 10 years, that plan would not allow teams much time to conduct free agency before training camps start in late July if, as expected, a labor agreement is reached by mid-July.

"Chaos," an AFC GM told The Post Wednesday when asked about the possibility of a two- or one-week free-agency period. "It wouldn't be impossible, but just getting all the physicals [vetted] in that short of time would be a problem."

Adding to the frenzy would be the wave of players newly eligible for unrestricted free agency instead of restricted free agency (where the current team has the right of first refusal) under the proposed CBA.

A league source said players with just four years of service time would be eligible for unrestricted status under the new deal, as opposed to needing six years last season while the NFL operated without a salary cap after the owners opted out of the previous CBA.

Also creating noise at the owners' brief labor meeting Tuesday in Chicago was a report that the NFL plans to increase its TV revenue by selling a full season's slate of Thursday night games, as opposed to showing eight Thursday games in the second half of each year on the NFL Network.

The owners aim to double the league's annual revenue to $18 billion (from the current $9 billion) by 2016. But a weekly Thursday night game is sure to be opposed by coaches, and commissioner Roger Goodell said the issue had not been brought up in the meetings.

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