If you're looking for a bit of optimism this morning, you'll want to read this report from ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter. In the report, you'll get the latest on the NFL labor front, including details on the last remaining big issue (the rookie wage scale), the date that the two sides are targeting to ratify a new CBA (July 21), and a look at a transition rules document that would govern the new league year in an abbreviated off-season.
The Transition Rules are particularly interesting, and worth discussing here, even though they're not set in stone.
Adapted from a document originally built around a July 1 ratification, ESPN estimates that the new league year would begin a week after CBA ratification, on July 28 - two weeks from this Thursday. In the three days leading up to that, teams would have an opportunity to sign undrafted rookie free agents, as well as negotiate with their own impending free agents. Restricted free agency would last through August 16, free agency would begin with the new league year, and teams would be required to have rosters of 90 players by August 2.
Most interestingly - and this has not yet been agreed to by both sides - there's the potential for an August 12 deadline for rookies to be signed. This would obviously be enacted to prevent holdouts. C.J. Spiller didn't sign with the Bills last season until August 5.