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NFL Owners Approve Labor Deal

Collective Bargaining Agreement Extended 6 Years

Rather than risk the end of the salary cap, NFL owners approved to extend the collective bargaining agreement for 6 years, as part of the proposal offered by the league's players' association in which a revenue-sharing clause could cost the owners a billion dollars.

Perhaps more surprising than the approval was the list of teams for and against the proposal. Under the extended deal, the top 15 money grossing teams will contribute to a revenue-sharing pool to be divided among the 17 least grossing teams, with the top five contributing the most, the next five second most, and third five less. Still, it was only Buffalo and Cincinnati, two teams expected to benefit most from the plan, that voted against it, and teams like New England and Dallas, who expect to contribute the most, that voted for it.

The league already shares television revenue. The new deal forces the sharing of revenue made beyond the TV deals and was the major cog the players fought for throughout negotiations. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said the new revenue sharing could amount to between $850 million and $900 million.

Free agency, which has been delayed for two 72-hour periods, has now been postponed until Saturday to allow teams to prepare for the new salary cap. The 2006 cap will be $102 million -- $7.5 million more than before the deal and far above last season's $85.5 million. The cap will go up to $109 million in 2007 -- a potentially "uncapped" year before the agreement.

Ironically, reports say that New England and Dallas were among teams leading the charge toward the deal. In fact, most of the high-revenue teams were said to contribute major concepts and launch impassioned speeches for getting the deal done.

For what it's worth, Tagliabue said an agreement was reached one second before the deadline to notify the union. However, the previous deals to extend negotiations never specified in which time zone the deadline was to occur. Turns out, neither side really cared.

NFLPA Executive Director Gene Upshaw is expected to rubber stamp the deal when it's presented to the union.

In the process of giving credit, the AFC East got the oblong ball rolling with New England and the New York Jets putting forth an initial plan. The AFC North then chimed in with a deal designed by Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Then it was a proposal from the New York Giants, Denver and Carolina. Finally, it was Atlanta icing the cake.

What this means for the Patriots at this point is unclear. They certainly have more salary cap room, but Robert Kraft also has less money to spend. Scott Pioli is a master of the cap, no matter what changes are made, and Bill Belichick quite clearly has one of the best eyes for talent in the league. Expect them to continue their streak of getting the most for their money, but the deal could shake up things elsewhere in the league, and that fallout could disrupt the best laid plans of the best and most careful of architects.

PatsPulpit will have more as further details become available and as team officials begin to comment on the process, the deal and the future.