Time running out for franchise players

In a league governed by a seemingly endless series of deadlines, the countdown began quietly yet ominously on Friday toward another significant date on the NFL calendar.

When the clock struck midnight Friday, it meant that just one month remains until July 15, the day by which veterans designated as franchise players must sign long-term contracts. After that, according to a stipulation included in the new extension to the NFL collective bargaining agreement, "franchised" players without contracts can sign only the one-year qualifying offer for their positions.