Steven Jackson has until week 10...

Wait a minute.

It's been reported that Steven Jackson would need to report to training camp at least 30 days before the start of the NFL season or lose a year of his accrued seniority toward his free ageny eligibility.

Under the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA), players are eligible for unrestricted free agency after four seasons in the league, meaning Jackson, who's in the last year of his 5-year rookie deal, could be an unrestricted free agent after this season.

That was supposed to be a weighted factor in Jackson's contract negotiations, and some though that he'd be in camp by the 30-day deadline, which was moved up to yesterday because the NFL season begins with a Thursday, September 4 evening game between the Redskins and Giants. Jackson didn't show.

But there's new wrinkle in all of this.  According to ESPN who cites the NFL, Jackson has until somewhere between the Rams eighth and ninth regular season games to report and fulfill his contract.

The difference between the two dates? Jackson lost a year of "accrued" eligibility toward free agency by not reporting yesterday. As long as he reports by week 10, he'll get credit for fulfilling his contract and be eligible for unrestricted free agency ahead of the 2009 season because his contract expired AND the current NFL CBA requires players only have 4 years of seniority before unrestricted free agency. If that does happen the Rams would more than likely - as in they'd be crazy not to - slap him with the franchise tag for the '09 season.

The wild card is the CBA. If the owners decide to opt out of the agreement's last year, 2010, that ups the requirements for unrestricted free agency from 4 to 6 years. In that scenario, Jackson would have just 5 years of eligibility after losing his '08 season of eligibility and playing in '09 with the franchise tag.

If that happens, Jackson would be a restricted free agent for the 2010 season, giving the Rams the chance to match any offers or get mucho compensation for letting him walk.

Is that confusing enough?

While I still think the Rams won't risk playing the first 8 games of the season without Jackson, it does open the possibility of the holdout lasting much, much longer than any of us would like it to. The longer this goes on, the less I like it.

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