xml:space="preserve">

A guide to the owner-approved collective bargaining agreement:

HOW LONG WILL THE CBA LAST?

Advertisement

It's a 10-year deal that will go through the 2020 season. Unlike the last deal, neither the owners nor the players can opt out over this decade-long agreement.

WHEN WILL FREE AGENCY BEGIN?

The official start is Wednesday. But there's no such thing as tampering this year. Starting Saturday at 2 p.m., teams can talk to their own free agents, their draft picks, undrafted rookies as well as free agents from other teams.

Here's the catch: teams have to wait until Sunday to begin signing undrafted rookies and have to hold off until Wednesday to strike deals with free agents on other teams. So each team will have a four-day window to retain their own free agents.

The system reverts back to the 2009 one in which players become unrestricted free agents after four NFL seasons. There will still be franchise and transition tags, although salaries will be determined by a percentage of the salary cap instead of the average of the five highest-paid players at their respective position.

HOW MANY GAMES WILL BE PLAYED?

The regular season will remain 16 games for the next three seasons. If the NFL wants to increase the regular season to 18 games after the 2013 season, the NFLPA must approve it.

WHAT ARE THE CHANGES TO THE SALARY CAP?

The salary cap is set at $120.4 million per team, which is $3 million less than the last time the NFL implemented a cap (in 2009). The interesting twist is teams can go over the cap the next two years. Each team may borrow $3 million of cap space this year and borrow up to $1.5 million in 2012, both of which have to be repaid in future years.

Along with a cap, there is also a salary floor. Teams must spend 99 percent of the cap (roughly $119 million) in the 2011 and 2012 seasons. In 2013, each team must spend at least 89 percent of the cap.

HOW WILL THE OFFSEASON BE DIFFERENT?

Player safety won out with a five-week reduction in offseason workouts from 14 to 10. The number of full-contact practices in training camp and the regular season will be cut down. There will no longer be two-a-days (two full-contact practices in one day in training camp).

IS THERE A ROOKIE WAGE SCALE?

Yes, as expected, first-years players had to make the biggest sacrifice. No longer will rookie quarterbacks receive $50 million guaranteed before throwing a pass in the NFL. The savings from rookie salaries will be used to fund retired player benefits and performance-based pay bonuses for veterans.

Advertisement

Another wrinkle is all drafted players will sign four-year contracts. Teams have an option for a fifth-year with first-round picks, but they must exercise it before the players' fourth season begins. It will be a strict system which features "limited contract terms" and "strong anti-holdout rules."

WHEN CAN PLAYERS RETURN TO TEAM HEADQUARTERS?

Teams will unlock the doors to players on Saturday for voluntary training, conditioning and classroom instruction. Training camps can open Wednesday, pending the union's ratification of the CBA. The first day will be limited to physicals, meetings and conditioning. Pads won't be allowed until the fourth day of camp.

To receive breaking Ravens news on your mobile device, text FOOTBALL to 70701 or sign up here.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement