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NFL ownership approves terms of potential new CBA

NFL owners approved the terms of a potential new collective bargaining agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association, the league said in a statement following the owners' meeting in New York on Thursday.

The statement read, "Following more than ten months of intensive and thorough negotiations, the NFL Players and clubs have jointly developed a comprehensive set of new and revised terms that will transform the future of the game, provide for players -- past, present, and future -- both on and off the field, and ensure that the NFL's second century is even better and more exciting for the fans.

"The membership voted today to accept the negotiated terms on the principal elements of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Players Association would also need to vote to approve the same terms for there to be a new agreement.

"Since the clubs and players need to have a system in place and know the rules that they will operate under by next week, the membership also approved moving forward under the final year of the 2011 CBA if the players decide not to approve the negotiated terms. Out of respect for the process and our partners at the NFLPA, we will have no further comment at this time."

The players and their representatives will consider the owner-approved CBA proposal in a conference call on Friday, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported. The 32 player reps could vote on the proposed CBA on Friday, and if it passes by a two-thirds majority, the proposal would go to the players for a final vote, where it would need to pass by a simple majority.

"This is a huge 24 hours to potentially lead to 10 years of labor peace," Pelissero reported Thursday.

Ownership convened on Thursday to consider a CBA proposal that among other things would provide the league the option to expand to a 17-game schedule, increase the players' share of total revenue to at least 48 percent and expand the playoff field to 14 teams starting in 2020.

The owners' final vote on the proposal was not unanimous, but good enough to approve the new CBA terms, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported, adding that the owners' approval was the "expected outcome" coming into Thursday.

The CBA, if agreed to by the players, could go into effect in time for the new league year on March 18, potentially altering the salary cap and state of free agency.

Garafolo reports, however, that an expanded playoff field for 2020 is tied to approval of the CBA, so expect a 12-team playoff this year if players don't approve the deal.

One potential notable change would be that teams would only be able to use only one tag (franchise or transition) when the tag window opens on Feb. 25. That change could affect the plans of teams like the Cowboys, Buccaneers and Titans, all of whom are thought to be considering placing both tags on impending free agents.

The new proposal gives the league the option to expand the regular-season schedule to 17 games, Pelissero and NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday. The likeliest time at which that lever would be pulled is in 2022, NFL Network's Michael Silver reported.

Adding a game to the regular-season schedule has been a point of contention between the sides. Some players -- including 49ers receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who played 17 regular-season games this year because of a midseason trade -- have already spoken out strongly against it.

"Seventeen games is something that the veteran players who are a member of that board of representatives do not take lightly," Pelissero said Thursday. "They see the impact that'll have on future generations of players. The fact that once you go to 17 games, you probably can never go back to 16 games. You can expect some spirited discussion of that and other matters, especially because when you look at the macro-economic impact of this proposed deal, it is substantial.

Aside from the 17-game schedule, the central issue throughout negotiations has been the revenue split.

In the new CBA proposal, players would receive an uptick from the 47 percent of total revenue they are currently guaranteed over the full CBA, which was approved in 2011. Pelissero and Rapoport reported that, under the proposed deal, the players' share would increase to 48 percent each year if the league stays at 16 games and to 48.5 percent if or when a 17-game schedule is approved.

If the league keeps a 16-game schedule, the players would enjoy a $2.5 billion to $3 billion shift over a 10-year deal, Pelissero and Rapoport reported. If the lever is pulled for a 17-game schedule, the players would reap a potential shift of over $5 billion.

The union had long hoped to achieve such an increase without adding games, but the league has pushed all along for a lever that would allow them to add games as part of the next TV deal.

In addition to adding a regular-season game and shortening the preseason to three games, as expected, the new proposal would expand the playoff field from 12 teams to 14 teams in 2020. That means only one team per conference would earn a bye.

No change has been made to the number of teams eligible to make the postseason since the playoffs were expanded to 12 teams in 1990.

Other changes include an increase in the performance bonus pool, an increase in benefits, a larger acclimation period for players to start training camp and the following, according to Garafolo, Pelissero and Rapoport:

-- Commissioner Roger Goodell would have authority only over integrity of game matters. Personal conduct violations would go to a neutral arbitrator.

-- Fifth-year options would be fully guaranteed and tied to performance, not draft position.

-- Penalties would be reduced for players who test positive for THC, eliminating any game suspensions strictly for positive tests. The testing window for THC would also be narrowed from four months to two weeks at the start of training camp, and the nanogram limit would be increased from 35 to 150.

"We shall see now if the players do approve the proposal," Garafolo said Thursday. "There is no word on a timeline, but it seems like from this statement and from what we heard, that the owners believe that this will be the final offer until we go forward to next year if the players do not approve this current proposal."

Garafolo also reported the following details from the current CBA proposal Friday morning:

-- Teams would now be able to activate a third player off injured reserve during the season.

-- Teams with nine home games in one season of a 17-game schedule would have eight home games the following year.

-- The 17th game would not be an international game for every team. There would be a cap on the total number of international games.

-- Player discipline for off-field violations would be heard by a neutral arbitrator, but appeals would go to the commissioner, and the league would still conduct its own independent investigations into such matters.

The current CBA between the NFL and the NFLPA expires following the 2020 season.

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