Optimism spreads on possible NFL deal

Owners and players have had 'secret' meetings to negotiate a new labor agreement in recent days. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

Optimism about the end of the NFL lockout is spreading.

Multiple reports in recent days have said the “secret” meetings between owners and players have laid the ground work for a deal within the next several weeks – possibly by the end of June or early July, which would leave time for full-length training camps and preseason games.

The quiet talks resumed today in Maryland and ESPN reported that team executives are being told to leave extra time on their schedule for a meeting in Chicago starting June 21. That’s a signal that they might need the time to discuss the key issues that would go into a potential deal.

The Washington Post’s Mark Maske, who has been very good on the labor story without hype, reported today that it’s unlikely that a deal will be voted on next week, but that the owners’ discussions could lay the groundwork for an agreement just before July 4. If that happens, it seems likely that there would be a little prep time allowed and then the start of trades and free agency in time for teams to make moves and open training camps in late July.

Eagles coaches recently took a week off of work – earlier than usual – to account for the possibility that the lockout ends and cuts short their normal vacation time, from late June to late July.

Still, there's still lots of work to be done, according to most reports, and it only takes one big blow up to derail the progress. But there is at least reason for hope.

If a deal comes soon – and it’s still a big IF – all fans will be happy, but here are a few ways it will help the Eagles:

-- Kevin Kolb suitors will know that they can acquire the quarterback and at least have a full training camp to incorporate him into their system. This should make him more attractive than if a deal waits until, say, late August.

-- Juan Castillo will have time to install his defense, and Jim Washburn will have a chance to teach his methods. Moving Castillo to defensive coordinator is perhaps the biggest coaching switch in the NFC East, so he might benefit the most from having a full camp (yes, the Cowboys have a new head coach, but Jason Garrett had the benefit of getting started on his transition last season). The Eagles also badly need to improve their pass rush, and so far Washburn’s hiring is the biggest move to address that area.

-- This is true for every team, but rookies will have more time to learn and possibly earn starting jobs. The Eagles didn’t draft 26-year-old Danny Watkins to have him sit. And with the safety position in flux, Jaiquawn Jarrett could compete for a starting job if he can quickly adapt to the NFL. The other rookie who might benefit could be fourth rounder Casey Matthews, who will have an opportunity to earn playing time due to the significant turnover at linebacker.