And it seems so simple on the surface. No lockout means its at least possible, right?
Well....its really complicated. There are no rules around player contact with coaches, so a coach could ask a player to do something that would normally be forbidden, or that may risk injury. And since there are no rules around player/coach contact, a coach could ask a player if he had paid his dues to the non-union or if his mother was a prostitute. Innocuous as it seems, those question could bring the NLRB right back into the picture, and lawsuits would likely ensue.
There are no rules governing the contracts themselves, or who is a free agent. Sure, the NFL could simply say "we'll use 2010 guidelines" which would mean this pool of players are free agents, and we can spend this much. But one owner could have a man crush on player A and offer him $50 million guaranteed money. What's to stop him? And what of the players who don't meet the eligibility, but could in a future agreement, or who do now, but don't in the future? As the CBA gets hammered out, surely some of this would play out. Typically the NFL and the NFLPA review all contracts. There is no NFLPA, so who would review it for the players?
And certainly the NFLPA (trade association) could simply say that they don't agree with using the 2010 guidelines and file another lawsuit essentially stopping free agency.
I also think agents - while they are out to make money - would be careful here. They don't want to lead their clients in a bad direction, or be viewed as antagonists to the owners. They are more likely to simply urge their clients to not partake for now.
It ain't pretty. So don't get your hopes up.