Lockout'11: If free agency is imminent...

As you no doubt have heard by now, U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson has ordered an end to the NFL's owner-imposed lockout. The league has planned an immediate appeal, with a request for a stay until the appeal is decided.

In other words, it's not clear if the NFL's offseason will begin imminently or if we are still several court decisions away from real action. I'm guessing the latter, but in the event of the former, it's worth re-visiting last month's post on the potential for a court-ordered offseason.

If the owners don't receive a stay and/or lose the appeal, the expectation has been they will revert to 2010 offseason rules to determine player movement in the absence of a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). If that's the case, some players who would have been unrestricted free agents under a presumptive new CBA would instead be restricted free agents in 2011, making them far more likely to remain with their original teams.

Here is a partial list of the key players who fall in this category and thus are anxiously awaiting word on the stay request. We'll have more as news warrants.

Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Minnesota Vikings