Lifting of lockout could scramble rules

If NFL players succeed in their attempt to have the lockout lifted by the legal system, the pool of unrestricted free agents is going to get a lot smaller than expected.

Mark Maske reports the league would invoke a system in which players with expired contracts and less than six years of service would not be eligible for unrestricted free agency. For example, Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams, who has five years of service and no current contract, would be a restricted free agent. The Panthers already prepared for that possibility by sending Williams notice of a tender.

On the flip side, players like Tampa Bay linebacker Barrett Ruud, who has played six season and is not under contract, would be eligible for unrestricted free agency.

If the lockout is lifted, there will be no salary cap, just like in 2010. Teams also will be given one extra franchise or transition tag.