Lockout'11: Free agency after an injunction*

March, 14, 2011
3/14/11
11:15
AM ET
As we enter the first full week of Lockout'11, I'll try not to bury you with legal minutiae and random speculation. All of this is unprecedented, and none of us knows how it will play out.

With that said, I will pass along specific information that will have a direct impact on our NFC North community. One such story comes from Mark Maske of the Washington Post, who has a pretty good handle on how the offseason would proceed if the NFL Players Association wins an injunction against the league, effectively ending the lockout.

If that happens, the owners would impose their own structure for free agency to begin next month. According to Maske, those rules almost certainly would mirror those used during last year's uncapped offseason. Most notably for us, that would mean players would need six accrued seasons to qualify for unrestricted free agency.

We've assumed that the league would return to its previous four-year requirement when free agency began, ostensibly after a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). But if free agency starts without a new CBA, which would happen if the NFLPA's injunction is successful, players with four and five accrued years would be restricted free agents.

Based on the tenders offered this month, teams would at least have the option of matching any offer those players receive on the market. Some prominent NFC North players would fall into that category. Below is a partial list of the players who would be unrestricted with a new CBA, but restricted under the likely terms following an injunction:

Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions*
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

Again, none of us knows exactly how this will play out. But if you're keeping a cursory eye on the initial legal proceedings, which could continue for a month, know this much: An injunction likely will take us back to the 2010 uncapped rules for free agency.

*Update: As several of you pointed out, Lions defensive end Cliff Avril has three accrued seasons and thus will be a restricted free agent no matter what system is implemented.

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