We always want to be cautious about these reports, because the news is so big and we've been fooled before by the complexity of the process. However, there are too many reliable sources out there telling us this to avoid disbelief anymore:
On Monday, the lockout that has been on since March 12 will come to an end.
Between Yahoo's own Jason Cole, NFL.com's Albert "Stakeout" Breer, and the crew over at ESPN (John Clayton, Chris Mortensen, Adam Schefter), the news gets happier and happier wherever you look. Mort first reported that the two sides worked through several of the remaining deal points (seen here), Breer was on the scene in Washington, D.C. to report on the dialogue between the members of the NFLPA's executive committee, and then, the movement toward a new deal between players and owners that could have a deal signed by the players on Tuesday — we already know that the owners ratified their own proposal last week, and the ham-fisted way they went about making that known put the process back a couple of days .
And on Sunday, Schefter reported the news we've all been waiting for — there is a deal in principle, and we can all expect a Monday press conference with major news.
The NFL's players association and owners groups have reached agreement on the remaining points needed in their 10-year labor deal, sources from both sides said.
Despite the fact the new agreement will require a majority vote from the players, that part of the deal between the two sides is considered a formality, according to sources.
The NFLPA is making plans for a major press conference Monday. But first the player reps' executive committee is scheduled to fly to Washington, D.C., on Sunday so they can vote Monday.
Just as the NFL would not have called a vote Thursday in Atlanta without knowing it would pass in the way it did -- 31-0 with one abstention -- the NFLPA would also not be going forward without that assurance.
The remaining issues on the table were apparently worked through (or close to completion) on Saturday — among others, the resistance of certain plaintiffs in the Brady v. NFL lawsuit to sign off on a new CBA, the payment of $320 million in lost 2010 benefits to the NFLPA in exchange for a settlement in the lockout insurance case, whether players would receive the franchise tag just once in their careers, and whether the players would have an opt-out clause after seven years in the new 10-year agreement.
The next point at issue is for the NFLPA to recertify as a union, which the NFL has reportedly agreed to facilitate by opening team facilities on Tuesday so that players can come in and sign their voting cards. A majority of 51 percent is required for that to happen. Once the NFLPA recertifies, other deal points can finally be put to bed — things like the new drug policy, testing for HGH, and the particulars of the player discipline policy. That last point may be a bit thorny, because the players' side wants more of a voice in the appeal process. However, at this point, it's tough to imagine any small point getting in the way of this momentum.
To keep the preseason on track and starting Aug. 11 (with the Aug. 7 Hall of Fame game already cancelled), NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith have agreed to move forward with the agreement schedule on a parallel line with the union negotiations, speaking to the environment of trust that has developed between the two men despite the adversarial process.
If all of these points go through without a hitch, the league year could begin on Wednesday, with free agency starting that same day, and training camps ready to go by the weekend.
There's a lot left to get done, but this looks like the Big One — the news we've been hoping for all along. We appear to be mere days away from real, actual football.
As always, we'll keep you posted with updates as events dictate.