A new NFL collective bargaining agreement could be in place and ratified during the July 21 league meetings, ESPN reported Monday morning.
This comes on the heels of another report Sunday that the two sides are "in really good shape" and that they're down to "one main issue ... the rookie wage scale," CBSSports.com's Ryan Wilson reports.
One NFL owner told ESPN over the weekend that there's "no reason to believe [the deal] won't get done." The thinking is that a handshake agreement will be put in place in the next seven to 10 days allowing each side to ratify it and start the 2011 season.
One issue with the July 21 ratification date: for weeks we've heard that if an agreement wasn't in place by July 15, free agency and training camps could be delayed, and preseason games could be lost, which would cost the owners and players anywhere from $200-$800 million.
The workaround to that, via the ESPN report:
"While a rookie wage system has been identified as the most complex issue still to be resolved between the owners and players as they return to the negotiating table this week in New York, the level of overall confidence in reaching an agreement also is evident in a document known as 'The Transition Rules' that NFL teams would follow if and when both players and owners ratify a new labor agreement."
According to ESPN, those "transition rules" mandate timelines for roster transactions and free agent signings.
If the deal is done by July 21, sources told ESPN that nearly every preseason game would be played - with the possible exception of the Hall of Fame game, which is slated for August 7.
The two sides have been meeting for weeks to try to reach a new labor pact. Last week, NFLPA executive board President Kevin Mawae and owners John Mara of the New York Giants and Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys joined Goodell and Smith for more negotiations.