There's been a flurry of reports throughout the day the NFL lockout is very close to ending. In fact, some even suggested that ESPN staff were put on notice that an announcement could come at 1pm today. That obviously didn't happen. Shocking, I know.
However, the reports all agree that it is only a matter of time. With seemingly every major issue agreed upon, save the practice question, the lockout appears just about finished. Whether we hear an announcement this weekend or maybe Monday... who knows?
However, the important thing is that whenever the new deal is announced, it won't be official until the owners ratify it, which would happen on July 21st when the owners meetings in Atlanta commence. So an announcement that a deal has been reached will signal the end of the lockout, but it won't be officially over until the owners vote on it.
Now when that happens, it appears as though the owners will get a three day window starting on July 22 to negotiate with their own free agents. There will be no right of first refusal as the owners wanted, but they will have a chance to talk with their pending free agents before frenzy begins, which seems fair.
Then on July 25th, the floodgates open and player movement will commence. That means trades, free agency... The NFL will truly feel like it's back that day. Just a few days later, training camps will likely commence, which means we could be seeing free agents signing one day and showing up to camp the next or a few days later. It certainly won't be the best thing for getting them integrated in to the team and taught the system... but it sure will be exciting.