Trades, Kolb still on hold, despite NFL memo

The Eagles are still not allowed to trade Kevin Kolb. (Clem Murray/Staff file photo)

Kevin Kolb still can't go anywhere, and it doesn't look like that will change in time for the first round of the draft tonight.

The NFL, facing two losses in court, has advised teams that as of 8 a.m. Friday morning they can resume most business -- such as supervised work outs, OTAs, minicamps and handing out playbooks -- and the regulations and timing of trades and free agency. What's important (from an Eagles perspective) is that the memo doesn't say trades and free agency will open Friday -- but that the league will set the ground rules and timing by Friday morning.

That means transactions are still on hold, and probably will be through the rest of the draft. The league, for example, could say free agency and trades will begin -- but not until Monday.

Even the activity described in the memo could be moot, because the league is seeking a stay of earlier court rulings lifting the lockout. If they get the stay, the lockout is back on and all of the activity described in the memo goes back on hold.

The league basically had to get the ball rolling in the face of threats that they would face contempt of court charges from the players. For Kolb and the Eagles, though, it won't be rolling fast enough for them to do anything tonight, and probably not until after the draft ends.

This is the latest in a day of back-and-forth letters. Both sides right now are waiting for the Eighth Circuit court of appeals to decide on a stay request that could block Judge Susan Richard Neslon's order lifting the lockout.

Below are developments from earlier Thursday and late Wednesday:

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an e-mail Thursday morning: "The clubs were notified last night they should continue to follow the current rules and practices until further notice from our office today."

Current rules and practices means no trades and no free agency, despite a second ruling late Wednesday night telling the owners that the lockout should be lifted. The owners -- whose legal team has looked like the Redskins trying to stop Michael Vick -- have asked another court -- the Eighth Circuit court of appeals -- for a stay that would block the injunction lifting the lockout.

The players have asked to have until 1 eastern Friday to respond to that move, and in the meantime their attorneys say the NFL should open for business, including the start of the league year -- which means trades and free agency open -- and that team facilities should be open to players.

If the owners refuse, they will be in contempt of court, the players' lawyers wrote.

"Failure by the NFL Defendants to comply with the Injunction Order is grounds for contempt, and the Plaintiffs will pursue appropriate remedies," Jim Quinn, a lawyer for the players, wrote to the league's lawyers.

Despite that threat, it looks like the owners are willing to take their chances. They want at least a temporary that would keep the lockout in place. One reason is the chaos of trying to start up trades and free agency during the draft, according to the league.

"Those at the League and the clubs responsible for player-related matters have substantial other responsibilities," at this moment, wrote Paul Clement, a lawyer for the league.

Bottom line: the league isn't allowing trading for now, and there are already reports that some teams have turned players away from facilities.

The NFL Network has reported that people around the league expect that the stay will be denied and the league will have to open for business Monday or Tuesday. Of course, that will be too late for the Eagles to make a Kolb trade that helps them in the 2011 draft. It would mean the start of free agency and other possible trades. Others have reported that a stay ruling could come today -- which could put the whole issue to rest for at least the duration of the draft.

In the unlikely event that trades open up today, it's a safe bet the Eagles would move VERY fast on Kolb. They were talking to other teams weeks ago about a deal, so the bet here is that they've got something close enough that they could make a trade happen in even a small window. But they may not get that window before the first round is up.

Another affected Eagles is safety Quintin Mikell, whose contract is expiring and is really in limbo, since he can't even look to other teams yet. He went to the NovaCare complex this morning. "Was A Weird Feeling. But Everyone Was Cool," he wrote on Twitter.

Below is an explanation from late Wednesday (or maybe early Thursday) on what we knew then, and what is likely to come next:

Judge Susan Richard Nelson handed players another victory Wednesday night, but it still wasn't clear if that would lead to trades and free agency Thursday -- meaning we didn't know late Wednesday if the Eagles would be able to trade Kevin Kolb.

On first glance it appeared unlikely -- and several experienced observers doubted it -- but the situation was fluid. An NFL spokesman said the league would advise teams on how to act Thursday morning.

Here's what we know:

What happened? Nelson rejected the NFL's request for a stay on her injunction lifting the lockout. Basically, she re-asserted her ruling from Monday that the lockout should be ended, and did it in strong terms, slapping around the league's legal arguments. 

“In short, the world of “chaos” the NFL claims it has been thrust into–essentially the “free-market” system this nation otherwise willfully operates under–is not compelled by this Court’s Order,” Nelson wrote at one part.

What's next? Attorneys for the players argue that the league should open up for business -- including trades and free agency -- immediately. The judge ordered the lockout to end, they say. Of course, she also did that Monday and owners have stalled while seeking a stay. The league is now seeking another stay from another court - the Eighth Circuit court of appeals. They're hoping that moves quickly, possibly on Thursday.

Despite what the judge has ordered, the NFL could continue refusing to start a new 'league year' -- which opens up trades and free agency. The players say that might mean the owners are in contempt of court, but the league might take that risk as they seek a stay from what may be a more friendly court. Owners don't want a crack in the lockout.

Possible outcomes: If the league gets a stay, the lockout remains in place. If not, they either open the door to trades on the same day as the draft -- a situation the NFL wants to avoid -- or take their chances that refusing to do so won't land them in legal trouble. 

The league would have to draw up rules, but Nelson wrote that this should not be "overly complex." One possibility would be using the 2010 free agency rules.

“Like any defendant in any lawsuit, (the NFL) must make a decision about how to proceed and accept the consequences of their decision,” Nelson wrote.

Notably, though, she said her ruling does not force teams to sign players. In other words, no one has to bring in free agents, even if the signing period begins. But legal experts said that the owners could face collusion charges if they get together and agree as a group not to sign anyone. It has to be done on a team-by-team basis.