For the second time in three days, the NFL and its Players Association agreed to delay the start of free agency as the two sides tried to work out a new labor agreement.
The free agency period was set to begin at 12:01 a.m., Monday, but both sides agreed to move it to 12:01 a.m., Thursday as they tried to come to an agreement to extend the current Collective Bargaining Agreement past the 2007 season.
Free agency was originally scheduled to begin at 12:01 a.m., Friday, but both sides agreed to push that back to today. Prior to the shift of free agency to Thursday, all teams had to be under the 2006 salary cap of $94.5 million by 6 p.m., Sunday.
That deadline was twice extended, first to 10 p.m. then to 11:30 p.m. as teams scrambled to make the moves they needed to comply with league rules.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the delay would give owners a chance to consider the union's latest proposal during a meeting Tuesday in Dallas.
Talks broke off earlier Sunday, leaving dozens of veterans in danger of becoming salary-cap casualties before midnight Monday, when free agency was supposed to begin.
According to the Associated Press, the union broke off Sunday's session.
"The talks ended after the NFL gave us a proposal which provided a percentage of revenues for the players which would be less than they received over the last 12 years," said Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Association. "After suggesting we extend the waiver deadline from six o'clock to 10 this evening, they gave us a new proposal which was worse than their prior offer. Quite naturally, we rejected that proposal and saw no need to continue meeting."
Harold Henderson, the NFL's executive vice president for labor relations, told the AP the union rejected a proposal that would have added $577 million for players in 2006 compared to 2005 and $1.5 billion in the six years of the extension. "It's an unfortunate situation for the players, the fans and the league," Henderson said.