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NFL, NFLPA reach agreement on salary cap, increase of $10 million for sixth straight year

The NFL and the players' association are nearing an agreement on the 2019 salary cap. (Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports)

The NFL and the NFL Players Association have reached an agreement on a 2019 salary cap number of $188.2 million, the league informed teams on Friday. The figure represents more than a $10 million increase from the 2018 cap number of $177.2 million, marking the sixth consecutive year the cap has risen by more than $10 million.

A total of $40 million is being allotted to player benefits, meaning that total player costs for 2019 will be $228 million. The benefits number includes pension payments for former players, the Bell-Rozelle pension plans for active players, a player annuity, and health care.

In the meantime, there is optimism that a deal on a collective bargaining extension could be reached as early as this year, according to multiple people involved in the labor discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The current collective bargaining extension expires after the 2020 season.

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There is still a long way to go before an agreement would be reached, and it is unusual for any labor deal in a professional sports league to get done early. There has never been a labor agreement completed a year early in the NFL. But several people with knowledge of the situation say that the relationship between the NFL and the players’ union has improved over the past year.

One reason is the cash spending of NFL teams. In the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, the two sides agreed to a concept called the “minimum spend” — a requirement that each of the 32 NFL teams must pay in cash 89 percent of the salary cap over a four-year period. Every team complied during the first four years of the minimum spend.

The 2018 season marked the third year of the second round of the minimum spend, and the only four teams below the 89 percent threshold — the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts and Buffalo Bills — are expected to be active in signing players this offseason.

With that much money being spent, the feeling among some union leaders is that there is an incentive for players to make a deal rather than enter into an extended labor dispute. The NFL is on the verge of surpassing $15 billion in revenue, with the league’s television deals due to be extended within the next year. Each team received $255 million of shared revenue last year, with most of it coming from television.

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