NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith sent a memo to players and their agents Tuesday, telling them it's likely that no new collective bargaining agreement will be reached and the upcoming season will be played without a salary cap.
In the memo, Smith outlined the union's talks with the league, but he made it clear that he doesn't believe a new deal will occur before the March 5 deadline -- giving the NFL its first uncapped season since 1993.
"While we are doing all that we can to reach a fair agreement with the NFL before the start of the 2010 league year," Smith wrote, "it appears likely that no new CBA will be reached and the 2010 season will be uncapped."
Smith said the union's most recent proposal contains an offer to keep the current capped system for another year to allow both sides to continue negotiations.
"It is our view that obtaining an extension to the CBA prior to the uncapped year is in the best interest of both the players and the owners," Smith wrote. "However, the terms of any CBA extension must allow for players to get their fair share of NFL revenues while at the same time address the owner's issues in such a way as to allow them to continue to grow the game of football."
Smith added that another general bargaining session is scheduled for Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league wouldn't comment on the union's internal memo. Commissioner Roger Goodell said before the Super Bowl that he believed negotiations would lead to a new deal before March 2011, when the CBA expires.
Having no salary cap means richer teams could far outspend others for free agents, while teams not as wealthy might try to cut costs to financially stay afloat. That could affect the number of opportunities the more than 200 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents might have to sign with new teams.
If no deal is reached next season, a work stoppage could occur before the 2011 season. It all puts the future of the league in uncertain territory despite soaring television ratings and an average team value of $1 billion.
"The NFL has made it clear that the league and its clubs remain profitable," Smith wrote. "There has not been any statement, affirmative or suggested, by the NFL that any team is losing money. Moreover, the league has rejected any offer to discuss their profit margins, team profitability or any of their teams' individual financial statements."
Smith said the sides have held 12 general bargaining sessions to discuss issues related to developing a new CBA. He added that there have been more than 30 overall bargaining sessions with the league in the past six months.
"And while we have made progress in some areas," Smith wrote, "we continue to have significant disagreement with the NFL over their desire to have players take an 18 percent reduction in their share of revenues given the NFL's failure to provide meaningful financial data to support the assertion that their costs have increased significantly since the capped system was put into place in 1993.
"Their demand that the players take such an historic pay cut is even more disturbing given the NFL's continuing economic growth despite the worst recession in recent history."
The NFL has said Smith's 18 percent figure is a "misrepresentation of what our proposal is."
Smith closed the memo by asking players and agents to keep the NFLPA updated on their individual contract negotiations because "it will allow us to be informed of the trends in the market for player services.
"With that information, we can then help all players maximize their ability to get the best contracts possible. In the meantime, the NFLPA will continue its efforts to reach agreement with the league on a new CBA."
For more information on NFL labor, visit nfllabor.com
The Associated Press contributed to this report.