Sources: 48 percent share for players

Among the details NFL commissioner Roger Goodell revealed to owners Tuesday at the league's meeting in Rosemont, Ill., is that in the next proposed agreement players will receive a 48 percent share of "all revenue," without the $1-billion-plus credit off the top that had been a point of contention in earlier negotiations, according to sources familiar with the presentation.

Under the new formula being negotiated, players will receive 48 percent of all revenue and will never dip below a 46.5 percent take of the money, sources said.

In the previous collective bargaining agreement, players received approximately 60 percent of "total revenue" but that did not include $1 billion that was designated as an expense credit off the top of the $9 billion revenue model. Owners initially were seeking another $1 billion in credit only to reduce that amount substantially before exercising the lockout on March 13.

Ultimately, the two sides have decided to simplify the formula, which will eliminate some tedious accounting audits of the credit the players have allowed in the previous deal. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has stated that players were actually receiving around 53 percent of all revenues instead of the much advertised 60 percent.

Owners still will get some expense credits that will allow funding for new stadium construction, sources said.

A rookie wage scale will be part of the new deal but is still being "tweaked," and the much-discussed 18-game regular season will be designated only as a negotiable item with the players and at no point is mandated in a potential agreement.
An expansion of the Thursday night TV package to 16 games beginning in 2014, which could be a source of new revenue for the league, is also being weighed but is not a part of these talks.

Current TV deals make 2014 the target year for an extended Thursday package, not 2012, according to a source.

Goodell said no discussions were held Tuesday on a potential full-season Thursday night TV package. With record ratings last season, the NFL's value to its broadcast partners never has been higher.

As revenues are projected to possibly double by 2016 to $18 billion annually, retired players will benefit from improved health and pension funding that is expected to increase significantly.

Players believe they can justify a 48 percent take because of the projected revenue growth, as well as built-in mechanisms that require teams to spend close to 100 percent of the salary cap, a source told ESPN.com's John Clayton. The mandatory minimum spending increase is an element that concerns lower-revenue clubs, sources say.

For example, if the 2011 salary cap were to be at $120 million, a team would have to have a cash payroll of close to $120 million. In the previous collective bargaining agreement, the team payroll floor was less than 90 percent of the salary cap and was only in cap figures, not cash.

The higher floor proposal could cause some problems for the lower revenue teams such as the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills. Along with the salary cap, teams have to pay an average of about $27 million a year in benefits.

The meeting, which lasted approximately five hours, wrapped up Tuesday afternoon with Goodell calling it a "good discussion." The commissioner said labor was the only topic of the meeting.

He said he couldn't go into details about the ongoing negotiations but said: "I think it's a tremendous positive that the principals are talking."

Goodell said there was still "much work to do" and that the new deal must be done in a way that's fair to the players and the teams.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft concurred that there's "a lot of hard work to do." But he said: "It's good that things are moving in the right direction."

The negotiating teams for the owners and players, led by Goodell and Smith, are expected to return to the table Wednesday and Thursday in Boston, hoping to build off the momentum of three strong weeks of talks under the supervision of a court-appointed mediator, U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan.

Cautious expectations on the two sides reaching an agreement in principle are varied, ranging from one-to-three weeks with the hopes of beginning a new league year (free agency, etc.) by mid-July.

If and when an agreement is reached, all players whose contracts have expired and have four or more years of experience are expected to be unrestricted free agents, sources familiar with the talks told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Certain tags will be retained but that still is being discussed.

Players are willing to commit to at least a 10-year labor agreement if the sides can agree on the terms, sources told Clayton.

Any breakdown in talks could result in the loss of preseason games and threaten the opening of the regular season. The first preseason game, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, is scheduled for Aug. 7.

"This is the season to get a deal," Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said before entering the conference room where representatives from all 32 teams were being updated by Goodell and his negotiating committee. "I think the logic that you're pushing on both sides is saying why get a deal Oct. 1, or whenever, when you could have had July 7, or whatever."

Tuesday marks Day 98 of the lockout, the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987 and the longest in NFL history.

Chris Mortensen is ESPN's senior NFL analyst. Information from ESPN.com senior NFL writer John Clayton, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, ESPN reporter Sal Paolantonio and The Associated Press also was used in this report.