The 10-year labor deal, which still must be approved by a newly re-certified players union, would split the league’s estimated $9.3 billion in annual revenues fairly evenly. Players would receive just less than a 50 percent share — slightly less than under the previous arrangement — while owners would no longer take a portion up front.
The deal would set new limits on offseason practices, establish a more modest rookie wage system and postpone dealing with ownership’s controversial proposal of an expanded 18-game schedule.
Player representatives spoke by conference call Thursday night to review the owners’ actions but delayed taking a vote. Several representatives and leaders of the NFL Players Association reacted testily to the way the owners passed their resolution, and said the players’ approval of the deal was far from certain.
New Orleans Saints representative Heath Evans, one of the more vocal players, wrote on Twitter that owners had included provisions “that were NEVER agreed” upon.
How rank-and-file players will respond remained unclear, although many have been eager to get back to work.
After months of rancor, with players barred from entering their training facilities and fantasy football draft guides put on indefinite hold, the sides have reached agreement on the major economic issues and the conflict seemed to be nearing its end. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke confidently of the settlement while addressing media in the Atlanta area, where the owners of the league’s 32 franchises had voted.
The commissioner called the new labor deal “an outstanding agreement” that will maintain “the competitive balance of the league,” and he attempted to mend fences with frustrated fans.
“I understand their frustration,” he said, “and I hope they understand that we were working hard to get that agreement that is going to secure the game of football for the future.”
While the league’s offseason was filled with courtroom battles, curbside news conferences and stern pronouncements, it was increasingly likely no regular season games will be missed and no fundamental changes will be made to the league’s schedule.
The NFL, sports analysts said, will immediately settle back into its role as the country’s most popular sports organization.
“Let’s face it: These were not five critical months to [the league],” said David Carter, the executive director of the USC Sports Business Institute. “There’ll be no fewer people painting their faces, no fewer people tailgating, no falloff in attendance or in the attention and notoriety for the league. No barbecues have been canceled, no gameday activities at your favorite tavern have been postponed. None of those important touchpoints for fans have been compromised.”