Three players, including Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Reggie White, filed a class-action lawsuit yesterday seeking free agency for about 280 players who have not signed contracts for next season.

Joining White in the lawsuit are New Orleans Saints quarterback Mike Buck and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Hardy Nickerson.

The suit was filed in the same Minneapolis federal court that recently ruled the Plan B free agency system of protecting 37 players on a team violated antitrust laws.

Yesterday's filing seeks free agency for all players whose contracts expire at the end of the season. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to keep the NFL from implementing Plan B, any system similar to Plan B or any other restrictions on the freedom of players to negotiate contracts with other teams after their contracts expire on Feb. 1, 1993.

The Plan B system restricted the movement of veteran players by "protecting" or keeping them from seeking their value with other teams. Frank Rothman, attorney for the NFL, has said the league will attempt to come up with a "Plan C." He suggested that instead of protecting 37 playes, like Plan B did, they may try to protect "29 or maybe 30."

"We will put rules in place," he said after the verdict in Minneapolis. "Okay, so we have a job to do, to figure out what isn't restrictive. But rules there will be."

The most recent suit seeks to keep the NFL from making those moves.

NFL Players Association Executive Director Gene Upshaw said in a statement that "this is the day NFL players have been waiting for."

Joe Browne, vice president for communications for the NFL, said in a statement: "It is unfortunate for all sides that the NFLPA has chosen additional litigation rather than additional negotiation towards a new partnership between the clubs and their players."

This lawsuit comes a day before a decision was expected from Judge David Doty on another legal matter concerning the players. Doty will decide on a motion filed by a group of NFL players seeking free agency this year. The players, led by Eagles tight end Keith Jackson, want to be free to negotiate with any NFL team.

The attorney for the players, Jim Quinn, said that Doty could make a ruling Tuesday.

"I think there is a reasonable chance the judge will rule {Tuesday} or soon thereafter that the players are free," said Quinn.

Jackson is in a contract dispute with the Eagles. If Jackson is ruled a free agent by Doty then, Quinn said, the next step would be to see if any other teams attempt to sign him or any of the other players. Those signings could then be a benchmark for future unsigned players who wish to sue for free agency.

The NFL is hoping that all of the lawsuits can be settled out of court, to which Quinn replied, "They know my telephone number." Owners are expected to decide on an alternative to Plan B over the next several months, with the longest discussion coming at the owners' meetings in Chicago next month. However, any alternatives created by the owners surely will be challenged by the players.

Last week, the owners decided to postpone expansion plans and the World League of American Football until the labor situation is settled.

Jackson's agent has said that the tight end would like to stay in Philadelphia but that Jackson, if declared a free agent, would test the market.

Also yesterday in Washington, a federal jury of five women and three men was selected to decide how much money is owed players on the 1989 developmental squads, who were found to be victims of illegal price fixing. A trial before U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth is scheduled to begin today.