National Football League (NFL) club owners voted 30-2 to approve a six-year extension of their agreement with the players' union, a deal including greater revenue sharing among clubs.
A 12-hour meeting on Wednesday following a prior full day of negotiations produced acceptance of a proposal from the NFL Players Association that will spread US$850 million to US$900 million in salary gains for players over six seasons.
"It was really a tremendous effort by owners across the entire spectrum of the league. High revenue, low revenue, everyone came together to reach consensus on a new formula for revenue sharing," NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said. "I'm pleased, and more than pleased. I'm relieved."
Owners decided it was better to live with a higher salary limit rather than face the prospect of no limit at all and a labor showdown in two years.
"We're pleased that this process is finally concluded with an agreement," union executive director Gene Upshaw said in a statement.
"We've acted in the manner the founders intended ... This new agreement gives us the opportunity to continue our unprecedented success and growth," he said.
The deal sets the stage for free agency to resume tomorrow with a salary cap of US$102 million a team next season. Had the deal not been approved, the salary limit would have been US$94.5 million with no cap in 2007, which now will see a US$109 million limit.
Buffalo and Cincinnati, two smaller-revenue clubs, voted against the deal, which will see the league's 15 top-grossing clubs subsidize their 17 rivals. Those making the most money will be the biggest givers.