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SBD/April 27, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies
NFL Lockout Watch, Day 47: Class Counsel Letter Says Free Agency Should Begin
Published April 27, 2011
they can only talk to agents about players
FREE AGENCY BEFORE DRAFT? NFL Exec VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash told reporters on a conference call yesterday he "just didn't know" if NFL free agency could begin before the NFL Draft on Thursday. In a lengthy conference call, he said the league was seeking guidance from Nelson on a number of issues. "I think both sides need to have clarity as to what the court’s order is, whether a stay is in effect and the like," Pash said. Asked whether the injunction against the lockout meant the new league year, which historically heralds in the free agent signing season, had begun, Pash said, "We have not asked Judge Nelson to determine when the new league year will begin. That is something we will have to decide once we have an understanding of the scope of the order and the status of any motions for stay pending appeal." One reporter asked if it was possible that the new league year could begin, and then end after a two- or three-day period. Pash said, "The point you’re making, I think, is a very powerful reason for getting a stay because what it suggests -- whether it's 48 hours, or 72 hours, or three weeks, whatever -- that you can well find yourself in a situation where a team and players have made decisions and taken actions that are very difficult to undo" (Mullen).
SORTING IT OUT: On Long Island, Bob Glauber reports NFLPA attorney Mark Levin "told unsigned players they should solicit free-agency offers." But since the league "hasn't issued rules governing free agency, it is not considered feasible to sign players" (NEWSDAY, 4/27). Meanwhile, Cowboys COO, Exec VP & Dir of Player Personnel Stephen Jones said that if the NFL were to announce that free agency has begun, the team "will be ready to move even if the draft is upon them." Jones: "If it were to start tomorrow, we'd be ready to go. We certainly wouldn't sit on our hands and say we've got to draft before we start" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 4/27).
UNDRAFTED PLAYERS IN A LURCH: SI.com's Don Banks wrote "of all the people affected by the NFL's offseason of turmoil, nobody's future is more in limbo than the hundreds of players who normally enter the league via the collegiate free-agent route." There will be "no jockeying for collegiate free agents unless the league is ordered by the courts to resume pre-lockout rules as soon as this weekend," meaning that undrafted prospects "might wind up being one of the more obvious casualties of this year's labor battle." Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik said, "It's going to be tough on those 300 to 400 kids that aren't going to have a contract when the draft ends. ... It's going to be a different process at the end of the draft. A different feeling." Banks noted last year "more than 480 undrafted players reportedly were either signed by NFL teams or brought in for a post-draft tryout, compared to the 255 prospects who heard their name called in the seven rounds of the 2010 draft." Multiple league execs speculated that "without the traditional collegiate free-agent signing spree to conclude draft weekend, trade activity in the sixth and seventh rounds on Saturday could spike" (SI.com, 4/26). Agent Bruce Tollner: "It'll be quiet. Post-draft, we're accustomed to experiencing a couple hours of serious activity on the phone. ... But this year it's going to be silent" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 4/27).