The NFL's owners had already approved a new collective bargaining agreement, and so all we'd been waiting on these last couple of days was for some final details to be worked out and for the players to approve the deal. And so today, the NFLPA executive board — and the 32 team player reps — voted unanimously to approve the terms of a new CBA. So it's official now: Football, finally, is back. And with the condensed offseason set to begin, things are about to get crazy.
As of today, teams can go to 90-man rosters, but the real fun begins tomorrow. Here's the tentative timeline of events, from ESPN:
Tuesday: Teams can sign their draftees (as well as undrafted free agents) beginning at 10 a.m. Teams can also begin free-agent negotiations, trades can commence, and signed players will be allowed to enter team facilities.
Wednesday: Players can begin reporting to training camp, depending on the timing of their team's first preseason game. (They'll be able to report fifteen days before that first game.) Players from ten teams can report Wednesday. The Jets and the Giants are not among those teams.
Thursday: Teams can begin cutting players. Players from ten more teams can report. (Still no Jets and Giants, though.)
Friday: Giants players can begin reporting to training camp, as can players from nine other teams. Also, free agent contracts can be filed to the league office beginning at 6 p.m.
Sunday: The Jets will be among the final two teams to report to camp, since their preseason doesn't begin until August 15. (The other team reporting on Sunday? The Texans, whom they'll be playing in that August 15 game.)
So basically, unless you're so desperate for football that you're excited about the distribution of the official free agent list (something that will take place today), you've still got a few more hours until things start happening. But once they start, it'll be fast and furious. (May we suggest taking another look at the Jets' and Giants' free-agent wish lists?) There will be football games very soon: Preseason ones first, and then, gloriously, a full season's worth of real ones. It's nice to be able to say that with certainty. (Officially, the players have until August 4 to ratify the CBA and re-certify as a union. At that point, they'll be able to work out the absolute final details — things like health care and the handling of grievances — but league business can go on in the meantime.) Oh, and by the way: The new CBA reportedly runs for ten years and does not include an opt-out clause. So if nothing else, we won't have to repeat this unpleasantness for another decade, at least.