Summer vacation is over for the National Football League (NFL). On Monday, NFL players voted unanimously to accept the terms of a 10-year collective bargaining agreement approved by club owners on Thursday, the Associated Press reports. The regular season will begin as scheduled on September 8.
The deal ends the four-month lockout – the longest work stoppage in league history – that began when labor negotiations broke down in March. The main sticking point: how to share the more than $9 billion in annual revenues the NFL generates.
Under the old agreement, the league’s 32 owners shared revenues roughly 50-50 with players. In the new agreement, owners will get about 53 percent. Other changes: salary and bonuses will be capped at about $120 million per club; first-round draft picks will earn less; and most players will have unrestricted free agency after four seasons.
“We didn't get everything that either side wanted ... but we did arrive at a deal that we think is fair and balanced,” NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith told the press outside NFLPA headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The new agreement benefits veteran players, according to ESPN. Among their wins: Minimum salaries will go up, offseason is five weeks shorter and there will be fewer full-contact practices.
Since teams cannot sign or trade players and coaches and players cannot contact each other during a lockout, the NFL has a busy week ahead. On Tuesday, teams can begin negotiating with free agents and signing undrafted free agents and their own draft picks. On Thursday, teams can begin terminating contracts. And on Friday, full free agency begins.
Training camps will open this week on a staggered basis: The first 10 teams, including Baltimore, Dallas and Oakland, report to the field on Wednesday.