Here is the original ESPN report saying an agreement can be reached by July 21 with the preseason schedule kept in place. Free Agency would then begin after July 21 with major changes coming into effect on July 28.
"There is a growing belief inside league circles that the NFL and NFL Players Association will have an agreement in place that can be ratified during the July 21 league meetings in Atlanta, according to sources familiar with the state of negotiations."
If the deal is done in the next week — the preseason and Hall of Fame game can be kept in place. According to Schefter, if the league and union can’t reach a deal in time they will likely lose out on 200-250 Million dollars each week they don’t play preseason games. Of course, if the NFL and NFLPA can’t get a deal done despite losing that amount of money on a weekly basis, the contingency plan is October. Ouch. Very ouch. Everyone involved at that point, fans included, are going to be a little sore over this whole debacle.
Staying optimistic though, it doesn’t get to that point and the July 21 meeting does hold the most critical deadline of this mess of a negotiation. That means — by the end of the week these talks need to make a tremendous amount of progress, a handshake deal is reached, and the papers are drawn up and details ironed out for the start of next week. Can it be done? Or course. Will it be done? Who knows….