It is official, the NFL ended it's labor dispute and lock-out, will institute a new collective bargaining agreement and begin the free agency process in short-order. The news comes as a sigh-of-relief to the myriad of football players in the 2011 class who are waiting to find out what their professional future might hold. That includes a number of Villanova seniors who weren't lucky enough to be drafted in March, but had strong enough work-out numbers to expect an opportunity to attend a training camp and prove themselves.
Guys like Angelo Babbaro, who was an under-the-radar talent in college and wasn't a big enough name to be drafted, are hoping for an opportunity to play football at the next level. Babbaro impressed dozens of NFL scouts at his pro-day by running a 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds and probably projects as a return-specialist who can play special teams coverage or fill in as a third down back or slot receiver. His ability to contribute in those areas, along with his speed and athleticism, should earn him his chance.
Others, like Ben Ijalana, don't need to worry so much about getting a chance. Ijalana was drafted in the second round by the Colts in March, but has not been able to sign a contract due to the lockout. He has been traveling back and forth to Indianapolis to work out with teammates without the benefit of a signing bonus or a paycheck in the meantime, but he will be able to finally sign his first professional contract this week.
Villanova football players were likely worse off than their basketball brethren. Those unsigned football players didn't have wealthy European leagues vying for their services; playing in Turkey is not an option for Angelo Babbaro or his teammate Chris Farmer. If the NFL doesn't come calling, those guys may have to settle for the low-paying Arena League, especially with the UFL struggling financially and the Canadian league already underway.
Rookies can begin signing with NFL teams as soon as tomorrow, so there will be a lot of anxious Wildcats waiting by the phone this week.