GRAPEVINE, Texas - Labor peace was restored to the NFL when the owners agreed to the players' union proposal Wednesday, extending the collective bargaining agreement for six years.
There were no further details on the accord, including whether it includes expanded revenue sharing.
The vote was 30-2, with Buffalo and Cincinnati, two low-revenue teams, voting against it.
Free agency, put off twice by the protracted negotiations between the owners and players, now will start at 12:01 a.m. Friday.
"It was a good compromise," said Jim Irsay, owner of low-revenue Indianapolis. "We're happy with it - 30-2 is a good vote."
The agreement comes after a week of on-again, off-again negotiations, culminating in a two-day owners meeting.
No work stoppage was imminent - at least for the next two years - but no agreement would have sent teams scrambling to get under a lower salary cap, at $94.5 million. That would have put a number of veterans on the street and limited the amount of money available for other free agents.
Some were already let go, such as Brentson Buckner, a 13-year veteran who was cut by the Carolina Panthers last week to clear about $1.5 million of cap space.
"It was eventually going to happen, they had to get it done," he said. "But it's good because now it gives guys who put in the time to become a big-time free agent, the guys like Edgerrin James, the chance to go out and get what they've earned."
No CBA deal would've led to an uncapped year in 2007.
Now, the salary limit is expected to go up by as much as $10 million with an extension in place.
The real debate was between the owners themselves on the important issue of expanded revenue sharing.
The issue involves low-income teams such as Buffalo, Cincinnati and Indianapolis who say high-revenue teams - Dallas, Washington and Philadelphia, for instance - should contribute proportionately to the player pool because they can earn far more in non-football income.
Those high-revenue teams might contribute only 10 percent of their outside money compared with 50 percent or more for low-revenue teams.
"Moving forward, this new agreement gives us the opportunity to continue our unprecedented success and growth," said Gene Upshaw, the executive director of the NFL Players Association.
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