For the past few months, football fans have had many questions. Over the next few days, they will begin to get their answers. Using the NFL's timeline for football operations, let's try to put some perspective on what's to come in this abbreviated walk-up to the 2011 season.
Monday, July 25
The NFL issued an official list of all free agents. This was simply protocol as teams have known which players will be free agents since February. If they need this list, then they really are in trouble.
Tuesday, July 26
Busy day. Let's take this bit-by-bit:
» At 10 a.m. ET, players will be allowed in team facilities, and trades may commence. For instance, if the Eagles deal Kevin Kolb, it seemingly would come together quickly. Whichever team acquires him -- and Arizona seems like the frontrunner -- it's also expected they'd need to sign him to a long-term deal since he's in the last year of his contract. That would have to be brokered right away because teams have to figure out their salary cap and be compliant to cap rules by the time the league year starts. Whichever team acquires him (Seattle could also figure in the mix) would want to get him acclimated to their schemes right away too.
The Eagles also would seemingly not want to drag things out for too long -- even though they could to garner ideal compensation -- because if they move Kolb, they'll have to get in the backup quarterback market. While that's not a premier need, they'd have to get a player -- Vince Young? (no way it's Brett Favre) -- so he could learn the system.
Don't expect Carson Palmer to get moved from Cincinnati. The main reason is because owner Mike Brown simply won't acquiesce to a player giving an ultimatum. Another thing to consider: Palmer could retain similar trade value after the season even if he doesn't play. Some teams are going to have quarterback issues after the season, and a fresh and hungry Palmer could be willing to restructure his hefty contract to consummate a trade. The Bengals might be willing to deal him before the 2012 draft.
» Teams can sign their rookies. The first ones under contract will be the top undrafted rookies like Mark Herzlich, Weslye Saunders and Pat Devlin. Several general managers said undrafted rookies should be signed in two or three hours. The drafted rookies are a priority, but depending on free agency needs, teams could address re-signing their own vets and other teams, as well as before addressing their draft picks. That could be a risky venture for some high picks.
Even though there is a new rookie wage scale, there is still room for negotiations and agents could hold some of their rookies out of team facilities until their players are signed. Agents know those teams who drafted quarterbacks really want those guys in the building as soon as possible, so coaches could really push the front office to get those players under contract.
» Teams also can negotiate with all free agents. In the deal owners ratified Thursday there was a pre-free agency period where teams could negotiate with their own free agents. Now, with teams free to negotiate with anyone, it could be somewhat tougher for teams to re-sign their own guys -- or at least at a lesser price tag if there's competition driving up the market.
» Players who were due bonuses in their existing contracts -- Jets tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson had a $750,000 workout bonus, for example -- have two days to take physicals in order to qualify for those bonuses.
Wednesday, July 27
The first day of camps open for 10 teams. Camps will open over the next three days. The odd part about this timing is teams can't waive players until Thursday, July 28. Technically, a player could show up for camp and get cut the next day. Teams likely would tell chopping-block players not to show up, but that might not always happen.
Friday, July 29
Free agents can be signed. Deals will be in place after days of negotiations, so this is a formality, but players might not be able to collect signing bonuses or practice immediately. There is a chance the league year doesn't start until Aug. 4 because of the steps needed to legally ratify the new collective bargaining agreement. Let's say Nnamdi Asomugha or Sidney Rice sign deals July 29, they can report and go through classroom sessions, but they can't participate in any physical activities until the league year officially begins. That could happen before Aug. 4, but still, there could be some lag time.