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July 25, 2011 - Mike McLain
The NFL lockout officially ended Monday, setting in motion what will be a crazy few weeks of signing free agents and draft choices while coaches try to make up for lost work on the practice field.
Teams can begin talking to the agents of free agents today, but they can't officially sign any until Friday. Teams can sign draft choices and undrafted rookies starting today, a process that shouldn't take too long because of the rookie wage scale.
The wage scale, which was a major goal of owners during negotiations, requires four-year, entry-level deals with an option for a fifth year. There will be a set limit for how much rookeis can make in the first four seasons -- first overall pick Cam Newton is expected to sign for $22 million.
Top 10 picks would make the average salary of the highest 10 paid players at their position if teams exercise the fifth-year option. Newton would makes $14 million, placing his total contract at $36 million, far less than the $80-million deal signed by Sam Bradford, the first overall pick in the 2010 draft.
There's no reason why teams can't get all their draft choices in the fold as soon as possible. The days of lengthy holdouts are over.
The signing of free agents shouldn't be a long process. General managers have had plenty of time -- almost five months -- to put together their wish lists. Look for a mass of signings on Friday.
Yes, it will be a crazy time, but it will be fun for fans that haven't had football to talk about since the draft was held in late April. By the time teams begin playing preseason games, the lockout will be forgotten.
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