The 8th Circuit Court issued their ruling on the legality of the NFL lockout. They said
the lockout was legal the injunction barring the lockout was not legal, but this money paragraph tells me that though players under contract can be locked out, those not under contract cannot as there is no employer-employee relationship.
Another portion of the injunction is not foreclosed by § 4(a). The district court enjoined not only the League’s lockout of employees, i.e., players under contract, but also the League’s refusal to deal with non-employees, i.e., free agents and prospective players or “rookies.” As to these latter groups of players, § 4(a) does not apply. The refusal of the League and NFL clubs to deal with free agents and rookies is not a refusal “to remain in any relation of employment,” for there is no existing employment relationship in which “to remain.”
An injunction with respect to the League’s actions toward free agents and rookies, however, cannot be issued except in strict conformity with § 7 of the NLGA, 29 U.S.C. § 107, because this is “a case involving or growing out of a labor dispute.” Id. §§ 101, 107. The present injunction does not conform to § 7
To me, that suggests free agency must open immediately. The only question is under which rules. Probably the 2010 rules, barring a new CBA. Free agents and rookies signed to contracts would then be effectively locked out… but they would have a contract and teams can start the free agency chaos.