NEW YORK - The NFL and the referees' union have reached a tentative contract agreement, ending an impasse that began in June when the league locked out the officials and used replacements instead.
Commissioner Roger Goodell, who was at the bargaining table for the marathon talks Tuesday and Wednesday, said a crew of regular officials would work the Browns-Ravens game at Baltimore.
The tentative eight-year deal must be ratified by 51 percent of the union's 121 members. They plan to vote Friday and Saturday in Dallas.
Pro Football Talk (PFT) reports that the agreement hinged on working out pension and retirement benefits for the officials, who are part-time employees of the league. The tentative pact calls for their salaries to increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019.
Under the proposed deal, the current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season or until the official earns 20 years' service. The defined benefit plan will then be frozen.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello tweeted "Pleased to report that an agreement has been reached with the NFL Referees Association. Details to follow."
The replacements worked the first three weeks of games, triggering a wave of frustration that threatened to disrupt the rest of the season. After a missed call cost the Green Bay Packers a win on a chaotic final play at Seattle on Monday night, the two sides really got serious.
"Welcome back REFS," Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller tweeted shortly after the news broke.
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