Free Agency Could Come Early for the 49ers

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
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    It was that kind of day for Kolb -- of course a makeshift offensive line didn't help matters.

    While Alex Smith continues to work out at 49ers' facilities and head coach Jim Harbaugh gets an up close look at potential quarterbacks available in next month's draft, the team's greatest glimmer of hope for the future of its quarterback position could be coming out of Washington.

    Lost in the midst of the ongoing negotiations between NFL owners and its players to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement is the fact that if the league falls into a lock out, free agency and trades would be put on ice.

    The doomsday scenario would impact teams like the 49ers and Arizona Cardinals worse than most teams because both teams are looking for a franchise quarterback. And this year's draft is short on potential franchise quarterbacks who could step in right away and play like the Rams' Sam Bradford.

    But Sports Illustrated's Peter King reports that there is hope in 49ers' land. The veteran NFL writer says free agency could start before a new labor deal is struck.

    King says that the 49ers could be free to trade for the likes of Kevin Kolb or sign a Matt Hasselbeck type as early as the middle of April.

    If the league and its players fail to reach an agreement by Friday's deadline, the players would most likely decertify its union and owners would lock out the players.

    The move would force the issue to go before a federal judge, who could be U.S. District Judge David S. Doty.

    Doty has already made a favorable ruling for players when he said owners could not bank television revenue even if the lockout forced the league to cancel games.

    King says the scenario would require Doty to issue an injunction, which stated during the freeze "the league's last work rules were still applicable, or he could simply allow the NFL to institute a set of rules of its choosing." King says the injunction would be "likely" because the players would ask for it.

    The owners would have the right to appeal but if that did not hold, free agency and trades could start.

    The problem of course for the 49ers would not be resolved. Even if the team decided to make a trade or sign a free agent quarterback, coaches would not be able to have contact with the new player and the new quarterback would not be able to look at the playbook.