NFL owners agree to CBA extension, 30-2

Thursday, March 9, 2006

The owners of the teams of the National Football League agreed Wednesday night at 7:35 p.m. EDT--25 minutes before a final deadline of 8:00 p.m. EDT--to a collective bargaining agreement extension proposal put together by the NFL Players Association. The final vote was 30-2, with Ralph Wilson of the Buffalo Bills and Mike Brown of the Cincinnati Bengals voting no.

Faced with a severely limiting salary cap of US$94.5 million in 2006 and the total loss of the salary cap in 2007, potentially ending the era of parity in the NFL, the owners' final caveat was not with the NFLPA, but with themselves. They were arguing over the continuation of revenue sharing, and how it should proceed through the CBA extension. In the end, owners agreed to a three-tiered revenue sharing system: The top five revenue teams would each pay the highest share into the revenue sharing pool, teams 6-10 would each pay the middle share, and teams 11-15 would each pay the lowest share. The lower 17 teams would then split the revenue sharing pool.

The CBA extension permits the salary cap to rise to $102 million for the 2006 season, and $109 million for 2007. It also extends the maximum proration period for signing bonuses to five years in 2006, then six years in 2007, before returning to five years in 2008.

The owners and the NFLPA have been working on a CBA extension for nearly two years. If the deadline had passed Wednesday night, then the current CBA would have ended after the 2007 season, with the owners fearing a strike and a possible challenge from another professional football league, like the USFL in the mid-1980s. This fear is substantiated by the 2004-05 strike in the NHL, during which an unsuccessful challenge was made by a re-formed World Hockey Association.