Two more teams have voted unanimously to authorize the NFL Players Association to decertify as a union, if it is deemed necessary next March when the current labor agreement expires, according to a union source.
The Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys joined the New Orleans Saints in the approval process, according to sources.
According to the union source, the league is expected to meet with the Washington Redskins on Friday. The Redskins will then vote on the matter, according to the source.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith visited Cowboys players on Monday to give them an update on the latest talks with the league.
"For a lot of these guys it was only the second or third time they've seen D [Smith] since he's been hired," Cowboys player representative Jason Witten said. "So I think just to hear him and ask questions and be educated more than anything else was good to hear."
NFLPA assistant executive director of external affairs George Attalah said the union still hopes to reach a deal.
"It's important that everyone understands that we will be committed to collective bargaining," Attalah told ESPN on Thursday. "Negotiations remain the best path to a fair and long-term deal."
Smith asked the Saints to vote on the strategic procedure when he met with the team in New Orleans last week.
The union sent a memo to its approximately 1,900 members Monday to inform them of the strategy that is being described as a housekeeping step.
Contacted Saturday by ESPN, Smith downplayed the importance of the Saints' vote and the anticipation that all 32 teams will eventually take the same action.
"To be dead honest, it's purely procedural and I believe it's a non-story until March," Smith said then. "It preserves the best options to protect players in the event there's no deal in place when the CBA expires next March. Instead of scrambling at the 11th hour to get all our players' signatures [for decertification], we'll have everything in order. Our hope is that it's not necessary."
The union expects to complete the process with all 32 teams by Thanksgiving.
Under decertification guidelines established by the National Labor Relations Board, the union would no longer be able to represent the players in collective bargaining.
It is an action the union took that enabled individual players to seek antitrust lawsuits against the NFL and eventually provided the leverage that led to a new era of free agency in 1993.
On the NFL players association website in 2008, NFLPA general counsel Richard Berthelsen warned of the potential union action to prevent the NFL from locking out players in 2011.
"The NFLPA would sooner go out of business as a union," Berthelsen said. "This is not just a threat, it's a reality because we did it once before."
Chris Mortensen is ESPN's senior NFL analyst. Information from ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins was used in this report.