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NFL Lockout 2011: It's Over

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The final piece of the puzzle is in place, football fans: on Monday afternoon, the NFLPA unanimously approved a settlement agreement that will end the NFL lockout and put into place a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. NFL officials are at NFLPA headquarters, where Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith have announced the deal.

The deal must still be ratified by a majority of NFL players, but let's face it - with unanimous approval from the (soon-to-be reconstituted) union, that's not going to be a problem. Football is back, folks.

From a league perspective, next steps include the beginning of free agency, which will start tomorrow. Teams will be allowed to sign rookies tomorrow - drafted or otherwise - and negotiate with all league free agents. Veteran free agent signings will not begin until Friday.

Team facilities will be open Tuesday for voluntary workouts and classroom training. Player contracts can be waived or terminated starting at 4PM Thursday, and contracts for existing players can also be re-negotiated starting with Friday's free agent signing period. Teams cannot make payments to players until the CBA is fully ratified, and the new league year will begin on August 4, one week from Thursday.

Sigh of relief, folks. This is unofficially official. Football is back.