After a seemingly endless parade of deadline extensions, the NFL’s owners have voted to approve the union’s final proposal, ratifying a six-year extension of the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. The league’s salary cap will remain in place, and will be raised to $102 million, as opposed to the pre-vote $94.5 million figure. Free agency was set to begin at 12:01 AM EST Friday, March 10, but ESPN's Chris Mortenson reports that the union has agreed to push that time back to 12:01 AM EST on Saturday the 11th. The primary reasoning would be for teams to be allowed to re-sign their own players and get their houses in order with the new financial paradigm.
The owners have spent the last two days in Dallas, going back and forth on the NFLPA proposal, as well as the separate but equal issue of revenue sharing. In the end, the vote to approve the proposal was 30-2, with lower revenue teams the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals voting against. A 24-vote majority was required.
NFLPA head Gene Upshaw, on a plane to Hawaii for the annual Players’ Association meetings when the vote came down, released the following statement:
On behalf of the players, the NFLPA staff and the negotiating team, we are pleased that this process has finally concluded with an agreement. This agreement is not about one side winning or losing. Ultimately, it is about what is best for the players, the owners and the fans of the National Football League.As caretakers of the game we have acted in the manner the Founders intended. While they could not possibly have predicted the economic growth and revenue streams, they clearly saw the structure. Wellington Mara would be both proud and pleased today. I want to personally thank the commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, for his outstanding leadership, vision and integrity. This agreement would not have been possible without him. His team of Roger Goodell and Harold Henderson were also important. Additional thanks go to my old boss, Al Davis, for being the first to rise, as he did in 1993, in support of Paul and an agreement. And to Dan Rooney and Jerry Richardson, who just would not give up. Finally, thank you to our players, led by president Troy Vincent and his board of player reps, for their unconditional support and encouragement. They are the real heroes. Moving forward, this new agreement gives us the opportunity to continue our unprecedented success and growth.
This agreement will take the NFL through the 2011 season, and will reinforce the incredibly valuable perception that the NFL has the most competitive balance of any major sport – a crucial element of the league’s ever-accelerating popularity. Without it, 2007 would have been an uncapped year. Without it, 2008 could have led to antitrust issues, questions about the legality of the draft, the de-certification of the union and an almost sure lockout. Without it, anarchy was a certainty.
Some highlights of Commissioner Tagliabue’s post-vote press conference:
- The owners met until approximately 1:00 AM Wednesday morning, and right up until today’s deadline. The vote announcement came about half an hour after the deadline of 8:00 PM EST.
- Tagliabue spoke to the “tremendous commitment across the spectrum” of all owners.
- Revenue sharing was always a crucial issue, in order to continue the ability of all teams to compete in a level playing field.
- The consensus was formed by all 32 teams, but it was the merging of two separate proposals – one by Woody Johnson and Jonathan Kraft of the Jets and Patriots, and one by the Rooneys of Pittsburgh and the Baltimore Ravens’ head men – which made the difference. During the lunch break, John Mara (Giants), Jerry Richardson (Panthers) and Pat Bowlen (Broncos) talked to Tagliabue about merging the two proposals.
That group was joined by the triumvirate of Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, and Arthur Blank and Rich McKay of the Atlanta Falcons. When the meeting resumed in the afternoon, that combined resolution brought everything together. It was that proposal which was approved, “without any changes”, according to Tagliabue.
- The revenue sharing model will require contributions of approximately $500 million over the first four years, and several hundred million over the final two years of the deal, in a tiered system. Tagliabue said that the top-five revenue teams will contribute the most, followed by the sixth through the tenth, then the eleventh through the fifteenth. In total, over $850 million will be contributed by the “haves” to the “have-nots” over the six years.
- Tagliabue also said that the idea was to assist teams who were spending to the mid point between the salary cap and the “cash over cap” on a average basis. Tagliabue said that teams should not have to spend more than a certain percentage of their own revenue, and this seemed to be the main point of survival of the entire deal.
- The Commissioner said that the players will receive an “unprecedented” revenue stream.
- The 2006 salary cap will be $102 million, and the 2007 salary cap will be $109 million.
- The franchise tag rule will not change significantly over the first two times a team tags a player, but Tagliabue said that the new provisions will virtually insure a long-term contract at that point – it’s assumed that a third consecutive franchise tag of the same player would prove so cost-prohibitive that a long-term deal would be the only reasonable option.
- Players drafted in the 2nd through 7th rounds will have maximum contracts of 4 years in future. First-round draft picks will still have contracts that are negotiable in years.
Stay tuned to Scout.com for more details as they become available.