http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/6773711/talks-recessed-owners-give-free-agencyNFL owners have agreed they will not put first-right-of-refusal clauses on 2011 free agents, a major breakthrough in talks with the NFLPA and progress toward a new CBA, sources told ESPN.com's John Clayton.
It had been reported earlier that negotiations stalled Friday because of the free-agency rule.
Upon exiting Friday's meeting, NFLPA director DeMaurice Smith told reporters the lawyers will stay behind, but that he and commissioner Roger Goodell will continue to talk this weekend, possibly in person.
The players were unwilling to grant NFL teams extra right-of-first-refusals on this year's free-agent class, because many of those free agents were restricted under last year's uncapped system.
Owners had asked that they have the right to designate three free agents whose contract offers from other teams they would have the right to match. Instead, players got what they wanted -- four years of free agency with no restrictions.
As each side reached resolutions on other issues, owners dropped the demand, sources said. The breakthrough moves both sides closer to a resolution for a new collective bargaining agreement.
Once a new CBA has been ratified and the lockout lifted, sources told Clayton free agency is likely to begin July 25.
If the owners ratify a new CBA on Thursday in Atlanta and lift the lockout the next day, teams would then have a 72-hour window to try to re-sign their own free agents, sources told ESPN. After that 72-hour window, free agency would start July 25, sources said.
Things are looking better.