Sources: Deal to end lockout reached
The NFL Players Association and the league's owners have reached agreement on the remaining points needed in their 10-year labor deal, sources from both sides said.
Despite the fact the new agreement will require a majority vote from the players, that part of the deal between the two sides is considered a formality, according to sources.
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The NFL's 130-day labor dispute is set to end after an agreement on the remaining points for a 10-year deal was reached.
Sources say the NFL Players Association's executive committee plans to vote on a collective bargaining agreement Monday, followed by votes from player representatives and eventually players league-wide.
The timeline, according to an ESPN.com source:
• Monday: NFLPA's executive committee votes whether to recommend approval of the CBA approved by owners on Thursday. Then, a player rep from each of the 32 teams votes whether to recommend approval of the CBA.
• Wednesday: Players from some teams report to facilities and vote whether to recertify the NFLPA as a union and accept the proposed CBA.
If the NFLPA has gotten the necessary votes, teams can also start contract talks with their own players, including free agents and draft choices.
• Friday: The remaining players report and vote whether to approve recertification and the CBA. If the NFLPA then receives the necessary 50-percent-plus-one-vote majority in approval, then it recertifies as a union.
• Saturday: Free agency starts and teams can officially sign players.
The NFLPA is making plans for a major press conference Monday. But first the player reps' executive committee was scheduled to fly to Washington, D.C., on Sunday so they can vote Monday.
Just as the NFL would not have called a vote Thursday in Atlanta without knowing it would pass in the way it did -- 31-0 with one abstention -- the NFLPA would also not be going forward without that assurance.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith knows his executive committee, his players reps and the rest of his constituents well enough to know how they will vote.
Plus, no collective bargaining agreement has ever been turned down by the players when approved by leadership.
The executive committee members and the individual team player reps are perhaps the most informed and involved group that any team sport has seen in recent years.
Many of these players were a part of the CBA process in 2006, providing them the knowledge and experience they used in these talks.
Once the players ratify the deal, training camps and free agency are likely to begin the same day, in what would be the equivalent of merging Thanksgiving and Christmas into one holiday.
By rule, training camps can't start until the new league year does.
Major breakthroughs in Saturday discussions set up the timetable for the resolution to the 130-day lockout.
Owners tentatively agreed to a players-recommended plan for the NFLPA to bring players into team facilities starting as early as Wednesday to physically vote on whether to recertify the current trade association as a union, a source told ESPN.com's John Clayton.
The players' executive committee will meet in Washington on Monday, a move that, according to a high-ranking NFLPA official, was not communicated to the NFLPA executive committee until Saturday morning via phone.
Following that, a recommendation has to be made by the 32 player representatives, likely via conference call. As of late Saturday night, no time had been set for that vote, but it is expected to occur Monday after the executive committee votes to recommend approval, according to the high-ranking official.
The executive committee is also expected to vote to recommend recertifying itself as a union, according to the source. A recommendation also has to be made by the 32 player representatives on that count.
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When the executive committee accepts the new CBA, players from certain teams will be granted permission to report to training camps Wednesday and players from other teams will be asked to report to training camps Friday, a source said. The hope from both sides is there are enough votes to recertify the union by as early as Friday.
For that to happen, a 50-percent-plus-one-vote majority of the players have to accept the NFLPA as its union and accept the terms of a CBA.
Much of the confidence in Monday's vote is due in part to the continued working relationship between Smith and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, a source said. The pair have been working with each other directly as the sides near an agreement and continued to do so through the weekend to ensure the remaining issues were resolved, according to a source.
Smith, a source said, has pledged to Goodell that he will also expedite the remaining issues before the first preseason game is played, creating optimism that those games will not be canceled. In that vein, Smith has personally taken on much of the work on the actual CBA-related documents, with his legal team, including NFLPA lawyer Jeffrey Kessler, assisting.
According to the source, Smith took on this responsibility as a show of good faith, because the NFL's management council executive committee had been skeptical due to its prior experience with Kessler as legal counsel.
The NFL announced Thursday it would open its doors to players under contract two days after the NFLPA executive committee accepts the CBA and settlement terms from existing lawsuits. The league also said that free agency would start the day after the union is recertified.
Therefore, under this tentative schedule for recertification, the pre-league year buffer period could start Wednesday.
Under that scenario, teams could potentially open contract talks with their own unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents and draft choices Wednesday. However, no contracts could be signed until Saturday at the earliest. In that scenario, teams would also be able to renegotiate contracts with players from their own team starting as early as Wednesday.
Upon recertification of the union, free agency could start Saturday at 2 p.m. ET and rosters would be allowed to expand to 90 players.
It is still uncertain when teams would be able to sign undrafted free agents.
It was vital for the NFLPA to have enough time for recertification and have a period of time for the renewed union to work out final details of its benefit plans.
Only a union can negotiate benefits for its members and the NFLPA feared a Tuesday deadline to recertify would not leave enough time to properly negotiate changes in the benefits packages. Under terms of the owners' agreement from Thursday, players would have reverted back to the 2010 benefits plan if they didn't make adjustments within a certain time period.
As talks progressed Saturday, the sides removed one roadblock while moving the dial on another.
A league source said San Diego Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson, one of the 10 named plaintiffs in the players' antitrust lawsuit against the NFL, is now willing to release his claim without compensation, meaning no money or lifting of the franchise tag. Jackson was the last of the 10 named plaintiffs unwilling to drop his claim.
The sides also got closer to settling the $4 billion network television insurance case, according to a source. That case, which is in the court of U.S. District Judge David Doty in Minneapolis, involved damages suffered by the players after Doty ruled against the owners.
Adam Schefter is ESPN's NFL Insider. ESPN.com senior NFL writer John Clayton and ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen contributed to this report.
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