NFL owners on Thursday accepted the negotiated terms of a new proposed collective bargaining agreement, sending the vote to players ahead of a potential agreement between the sides.
All 32 owners met Thursday in New York City for an update on the current proposal.
Three-fourths of the owners had to approve the CBA for it to be ratified. While owners were not unanimous in their approval, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter, the proposal still garnered enough support to pass.
"Following more than ten months of intensive and thorough negotiations the NFL Players and clubs have jointly developed a comprehensive set of new and revised terms that will transform the future of the game, provide for players -- past, present, and future -- both on and off the field, and ensure that the NFL's second century is even better and more exciting for the fans," the league said in a statement.
"The membership voted today to accept the negotiated terms on the principal elements of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Players Association would also need to vote to approve the same terms for there to be a new agreement. Since the clubs and players need to have a system in place and know the rules that they will operate under by next week, the membership also approved moving forward under the final year of the 2011 CBA if the players decide not to approve the negotiated terms. Out of respect for the process and our partners at the NFLPA, we will have no further comment at this time."
NFLPA team player reps and the NFLPA's executive council, which had been planning a Friday meeting on the topic in Washington, D.C., are now planning to hold a conference call Friday instead of meeting face-to-face. That call could result in a vote on whether to approve the owners' offer or reject it.
If two-thirds of the NFLPA's player reps approve the deal, it would move on to the next stage, in which all NFL players would vote and a simple majority would be required to approve it.
According to an NFLPA memo released Thursday, here are some of the proposal's key terms that player reps and the union's executive council will weigh when they meet:
• The elimination of any game suspensions strictly for positive marijuana tests.
• A reduction in the number of players subjected to testing for marijuana.
• "Gambling definitions" that ensure players receive a portion of gambling revenue brought in by the league.
• Alterations to training camp, including the "introduction to a 5-day acclimation period," a limit of 16 days in pads and a limit of four joint practices in a three-preseason games scenario.
• An increase in the active squad by one offensive lineman.
Sources previously told ESPN that the proposed CBA would allow the league to expand the regular season from 16 games to 17 at some point in the next four years (although no sooner than 2021) in exchange for financial and other concessions the players have sought in negotiations. One concession is that the preseason will be shortened, sources said.
In addition, sources said that starting in 2020, the playoff field would be expanded to seven teams from each conference, and only one team from each conference would receive a first-round bye as opposed to the two that currently do.
The league's desire to expand the regular season has been met with harsh opposition from many players, who view an expanded season as an unnecessary increase in the risk to players' health and safety. But union leaders have touted to players the benefits of the proposed new deal, which includes a higher percentage of league revenue going to players, improvements in the drug policy and discipline policy, higher minimum salaries, higher per-team spending floors and relaxed offseason work rules -- which were noted in the above-mentioned NFLPA memo.
In addition, players with existing contracts that stretch into 17-game seasons would have their deals amended to account for it, a source close to the negotiations said. Each payer in such a situation would receive a raise commensurate with one game check based on their negotiated per-game rate, but that amount would not exceed $250,000 per season.
One point of contention during the discussions has been the NFL's antiquated "fully funded rule," which teams often use in negotiations with players and agents as a means of refusing to guarantee larger portions of contracts. The rule, which dates to the early days of the league when there was some doubt about teams making payroll, requires all teams to hold in escrow any amount of guaranteed money over $2 million in a player contract. For example: If you get a $50 million contract with $25 million guaranteed, the team has to hold $23 million in escrow, ostensibly so you can be certain it will pay you.
The new CBA would raise the funding rule threshold to $15 million in the first year of the proposed deal and $17 million in 2029, the final year of the deal. So in that earlier example, in 2020, the team would only have to hold $10 million of the $25 million guarantee in escrow. Players had wanted the rule done away with completely, but they've secured a compromise that would, they hope, help create more favorable ground on which agents can fight for more guaranteed money in deals.
Information from ESPN's Dan Graziano and Adam Schefter was used in this report.