What free agency could look like

Nothing is done yet and nothing is guaranteed in the crazy world of the NFL lockout. But John Clayton writes that recent labor talks between owners and players mean it’s at least possible a deal could get done by the end of June.

That would be great news for everyone in the big picture. But what would it mean in the short term? The league year usually started in March and teams have missed minicamps, organized team activities and there’s been a freeze on free agency and player trades.

In Clayton’s scenario, camps would start at, or close to, the normal time in late July or early August. Clayton also speculates that free agency would start around July 15.

That’s far from ideal for anyone, but every team will be playing by the same rules, unless the new deal includes a “final eight’’ plan that limits what the top teams from last year can do in free agency.

That would keep the main free-agent signing period to about two weeks and it would make for a very busy time for general managers, front offices, coaching staffs and the free agents. But those general managers, front offices and coaching staffs have been sitting around for several months talking about what free agents they’re interested in. Teams know who they want and they might already have gotten the message across through agents before the lockout started.

If the gates open the way Clayton speculates, it will make for a hectic few weeks. But that will help make up for the silence of the last few months.