GRAPEVINE, Texas – Labor peace was restored to the NFL when the owners agreed to the players union's proposal Wednesday, extending the collective bargaining agreement for six years.
There were no further details on the agreement, or whether it includes expanded revenue sharing.
The vote was 30-2, with Buffalo and Cincinnati, two low-revenue teams, voting against the extension.
Free agency, put off twice by the protracted negotiations between the owners and players, now will start at 12:01 a.m. Friday.
"It was a good compromise," said Jim Irsay, owner of low-revenue Indianapolis. "We're happy with it — 30-2 is a good vote."
The agreement comes after a week of on-again, off-again negotiations, culminating in a two-day owners meeting.
No agreement wouldn't have meant a work stoppage — at least not for the next two years — but it would have sent teams scrambling to get under a $94.5 million salary cap. That would have put a number of veterans on the street and it would've also limited the amount of money available for other free agents. And it would've led to an uncapped year in 2007.
Now the cap is expected to go up by as much as $10 million with an extension of the CBA in place.
The real debate was between the owners themselves on the important issue of expanded revenue sharing.
The revenue debate involves low-income teams such as Buffalo, Cincinnati and Indianapolis who say high-revenue teams — Dallas, Washington and Philadelphia, for instance — should contribute proportionately to the player pool because they can earn far more in nonfootball income such as advertising and local radio rights.
Those high-revenue teams might contribute only 10 percent of their outside money compared with 50 percent or more for low-revenue teams.
"Some teams are contributing a little more than others," Redskins owner Dan Synder said. "This is really a win-win."
Gene Upshaw, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, has insisted throughout more than a year of negotiations that the division between owners must be resolved before agreement could be reached on a contract extension.