Citing sources familiar with negotiations, ESPN is reporting that sentiment is growing that an NFL labor agreement can be ratified July 21 at the league meetings, meaning that a handshake deal in the next few days would get teams up and running for training camp and free agency rules.
It could mean that a month from now, Thursday night Aug. 11 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, the Dallas Cowboys will play the Denver Broncos in a preseason opener.
Training camps, under the scenario to be launched July 21, would open on time. The Cowboys would head to San Antonio around July 27.
The only preseason game that could be in jeopardy, ESPN is reporting, is the Aug. 7 Hall of Fame game between the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams. That's the traditional preseason opener in conjunction with the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
(But how about NFL players and owners coming together for a group hug and a celebration of football and free admission instead of a game that night in Canton?)
The last big hurdle appears to be finalizing a new rookie wage scale. Players have agreed, ESPN reports, on cutting rookie pay in half but won't budge on having rookies become free agents after rour years.
The owners want a team to have a fifth-year option. Players disagree on how to structure that option. A player source says an idea by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to tie a quarterback's fifth year option to average QB salary was shot down, according to ESPN.
So No. 1 pick Cameron Newton would get half of what 2010 top pick Sam Bradford received (six years, $50 million guaranteed), but will be a free agent sooner, when he could cash in with a huge deal.
The owners want to be saved from wasting $32 million on busts like JaMarcus Russell.
Jerry Jones has said that one of the reasons he stayed in the first round this year, taking offensive tackle Tyron Smith with the No. 9 overall pick, was in anticipation of a revised rookie wage scale.
Wednesday and Thursday, ESPN reports, are huge negotiation days, and setbacks are still possible.