ESPN is reporting that the lockout is almost over. The NFLPA's executive committee is expected to recommend approval of the CBA on Monday, after which the 32 player reps will vote whether to recommend approval to their player base. After that, players will report to team facilities on Wednesday to vote to recertify the union, with possible additional players coming in on Friday to vote if the first round has not gathered the necessary amount of votes. Confused yet? That's four different rounds of votes, but none of them should be a problem. Then again, you never know in these crazy negotiations.
If the players gather enough votes on Wednesday, teams will be allowed to talk contracts with their own players, while free agency will officially start on Saturday. Even if the players don't gather enough votes until Friday, free agency should still start on Saturday. This will allow a full slate of preseason games to be played.
One more week before free agency finally starts, months after it should have. But we're close to the end now, and really close to the return of football. And when it does return, there won't be a labor stoppage for at least 10 years: that's how long the CBA will run, and there will be no opt-out clause for either side.