After what evidently was a very productive Saturday, optimism abounds (again) that the NFL lockout has just about run its course and that a deal is close to being in place between the owners and players.

I've been hesitant to get overly excited about any of this until an agreement is announced, but Mark Maske of the Washington Post (who has done an outstanding job of covering the lockout) reported today that "the deal is essentially in place" with "final touches being applied."

Maske tweeted this morning that the plan is to have a final, official document of the agreement ready for players on the executive committee to review Monday and that the executive committee's approval recommendation is expected Monday. Maske also put together a timeline of how things could unfold post-lockout.

Here it is:

  • Players' executive committee will meet Monday in Washington D.C. and is expected to recommend approval of CBA.
  • Players would be allowed into training facilities by Wednesday and teams would be permitted to begin signing some players to conditional contracts.That would mean teams signing their rookies and re-signing their own free agents, all to contracts that are voided if the lockout doesn't end. (For instance, the Vikings could attempt to sign Sidney Rice at this point, although the rules the NFL released on Thursday stated that Rice also could start talking to other teams but not sign.)
  • The CBA would then have to be ratified by a majority of all NFL players. If that were to happen, training camps would open and full free agency would begin Saturday. Trades also could be made starting Saturday. Maske points out his timeline is subject to change but the way he has it mapped out would allow the preseason to begin as scheduled on Aug. 11. The Vikings are scheduled to open the preseason on Aug. 13 at Tennessee.

As for the Vikings plans, coach Leslie Frazier has said he wants to have the team report to training camp in Mankato on July 31 and hold the first practice the next day. Obviously, this isn't going to be an ordinary camp and Frazier is going to have to take some time to see what is what in terms of players' conditioning.

One would imagine the Vikings would like to get as many players as possible into Winter Park as soon as possible (in other words, as soon as allowed) to re-establish contact and give them their physicals.

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