Free agency could begin July 28 under 'Transition Rules'

The NFL owners and players are moving toward an agreement that could get nearly all training camps open on time and start the much aniticipated free agency period July 28, according to an ESPN report.

The belief is the league’s 32 owners could ratify a new collective bargaining agreement during the next league meeting scheduled for July 21 in Atlanta that would set in motion the wheels for the 2011 season.

Per the report, the league has something known as “The Transition Rules,” a document that spells out the timetable for the beginning of the new season. A ratified deal on July 21 would ensure nearly all preseason games are played with the one in question being the Aug. 7 Hall of Fame Game meeting between the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams.

Negotiations between owners and players will continue this week in New York. Players have warned they’re not the on the cusp of a deal, but the sides have been meeting regularly for a month-and-a-half, and they can’t be too far off. A rookie wage system is reportedly the biggest hurdle, and in the Transition Rules, there could potentially be a deadline date for draft picks to sign, something there obviously has not been in the past.

The rules also call for a separate period for undrafted college free agents to sign and allow teams a few days to re-sign their own free agents before a massive market would open July 28. Rosters would be expanded to 90 beginning Aug. 2. There is a lot of work remaining to be done and the dates are flexible. Check out the report for a complete timetable.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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