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Thursday, June 23, 2011
Estimating how free agency could unfold

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

All indications on the labor talks continue to sound positive. There’s no deal just yet and, even once terms are agreed to, it could take some time to get everything in writing.

But personnel offices around the entire league are staying busy by preparing for what promises to be the most unique free-agency period in NFL history. I talked to an NFC South personnel official a little bit ago and asked him for his thoughts on how things will unfold once the lockout is lifted.

Keep in mind, the agreement’s not done so personnel officials don’t definitively know every detail just yet. But the personnel official I talked to said he’s expecting a very short window for signing free agents.

He suspects the speculation by many isn’t far off and is estimating the NFL will open the free agency period somewhere around July 15 to July 20. Most training camps are scheduled to open in the last few days of July.

“We’re probably looking at a seven- to 10-day window to build your football team,’’ the personnel official said.

But personnel departments will have much more to worry about than the accelerated free-agency period. The personnel official expects the league to first give teams a brief period, perhaps about three days, to try to re-sign their own players before opening free agency.

The personnel official also expects that the start of the period for teams to re-sign their own players will also be the time when teams are allowed to sign undrafted rookie free agents and begin negotiating contracts with their rookies.

It’s all a little way down the road, but all indications are mid-July could be a very interesting time in the NFC South and throughout the league.