Tagliabue Has a Proposal for Owners

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 6, 2006; 3:00 PM

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue is scheduled to present a proposed labor settlement to team owners Tuesday in Dallas, and several sources familiar with the deliberations said today they expect the proposal to be delivered with Tagliabue's endorsement as a result of an agreement reached between him and players' union chief Gene Upshaw.

That was denied by the league. An NFL spokesman said that Tagliabue had not agreed to a tentative deal with Upshaw to put before the owners. Greg Aiello, the NFL's vice president of public relations, said the settlement proposal that Tagliabue will present to the owners will be Upshaw's proposal and the commissioner will not offer a recommendation about whether he thinks it should be ratified.

Earlier, three sources said that Upshaw and Tagliabue had reached a tentative agreement regarding Tagliabue's support of the proposed settlement. A participant in the negotiations, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations were ongoing, said that representatives of the owners and the union would spend today putting the terms of the deal into writing and the union had been informed that Tagliabue would give the proposal his backing at the owners' meeting.

The details of the proposed agreement were not immediately available, but the participant in the talks said they might be available later today.

The owner of one NFL team said he had been told there was a tentative agreement between Tagliabue and Upshaw on the proposal that's pending the owners' approval, and a top front-office executive from another club said his team had the same understanding.

Any proposed labor settlement would have to be approved by at least 24 of the 32 NFL teams to go into effect.

The person involved in the talks said the proposed settlement is more complex than is being portrayed in reports that say it would give the players 59.5 percent of an expanded pool of league revenues as compensation. The salary cap figure would fluctuate annually based not only on changes in revenues, the person said, but also on how much money the 32 NFL teams collectively spent above or below the flexible salary cap the previous season.

If the teams collectively spent less than the salary cap allotment in a season, the next season's cap would move upward in the players' favor. If the clubs collectively spent more than the salary cap allotment in a season, the cap would move lower the following season to guarantee the players less money.

In the 12 seasons that the NFL has had a salary cap system, such "cash over cap" expenditures have averaged about 4 percent annually. But the expenditures have been far less during the past five seasons, producing problems for the current negotiators in assessing how much extra money teams will spend in future seasons.

Talks between the league and union broke off Sunday evening. But the night ended with Upshaw saying that the league had agreed to present the union's proposal to the owners Tuesday. The union and league agreed Sunday to postpone the opening of the league's free agent market until 12:01 a.m. Thursday to give the owners time to consider the proposal.

The talks broke off Sunday with the union apparently seeking about 59.5 percent of league revenues under a salary cap system, and the owners apparently offering about 56.5 percent. But that gap perhaps could be bridged by a mechanism to factor "cash over cap" expenditures into the salary cap system.

The owners' meeting is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Tuesday and could spill over into Wednesday.

Upshaw previously has said that any labor settlement would have to be accompanied by an agreement among the owners for the teams to increase the degree to which they share their locally generated revenues. But there are deep divisions among the owners over revenue-sharing issues.

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