The NFL Lockout is finally at an end after the 32 representatives of the NFL Players Association voted unanimously to accept the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The owners had already voted to accept the deal on Friday.
The players still have to vote on the deal once the NFLPA recertifies, but this vote is widely expected to be a mere formality.
The Lockout began on March 11, when the NFLPA decertified and the owners locked out the players. Since then, the dispute had been dragged through the courts, while progress in negotiations has been painstakingly slow. Encouragingly for all involved, the new CBA will last for ten years and does not contain an opt-out for either side.
The agreement sees the owners take 53 per cent of the revenue, but the owners will no longer take $1bn off the top.
Neutral arbitrators will be appointed by the NFL and the NFLPA to solve any future disagreements, avoiding the future involvement of the courts. A rookie wage system will be introduced, while more equitable supplemental revenue sharing to help smaller markets in the NFL was also agreed.
The NFLPA managed to see off the owners’ demands for an 18 game season, while the minimum salaries will be raised to $375,000 in the first year and $450,000 in the second. Players will also be pleased with the increase in injury protection, while players can become unrestricted free agents after four years and teams must spend at least 89 per cent of the cap from 2013-2020. The cap in 2011 in expected to be around $120m.
Retirees also received substantial increases in benefits, with almost $1bn added to funding for retired players.
Fans can expect a frantic week. Team facilities will open on Tuesday and players will be able to report for voluntary training, conditioning and classroom instruction. Teams can begin to sign their own drafted players and undrafted free agents, while players can be traded. Franchises can also give offer sheets to unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents and franchised players, but the players cannot yet be signed.
Players can be waived or have their contracts terminated on Thursday, while the eagerly anticipated free agency period is expected to start on Friday. Meanwhile, the teams will be opening their training camps between Wednesday and Saturday.
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