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Patriots.com News Blitz - 03/08/06

Ron Borges of the Boston Globe writes that NFL owners and their top aides met until 10 p.m. last night in a hotel at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport to discuss what they agree is the final proposal from the Players Association to extend the collective bargaining agreement for six more years and thus avoid almost certain labor chaos when the present deal expires in 2008. NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue spent much of the day outlining first the union's offer and then several management proposals concerning the possible sharing of local revenues, an issue that has split the ownership. Although Tagliabue did not publicly endorse the union's plan, several owners said he was adamant about avoiding the labor problems that led to four work stoppages in the years prior to the present CBA and its salary cap.

Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News writes that the NFL must let the NFL Players Association know by 8 p.m. EST today whether it accepts or rejects the proposal. If the league rejects, free agency will start at 12:01 a.m. tomorrow. If the league accepts, free agency will be pushed back until 12:01 a.m. Friday.

Eric McHugh of the Patriot Ledger writes that with the latest deadline fast approaching - free agency is set to begin at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, and teams have until 9 p.m. tomorrow to comply with a $94.5 million salary cap - all 32 NFL owners will meet in Dallas today to review the union's latest proposal, which reportedly will guarantee players 59.5 percent of the league's total revenue. Twenty-four owners must approve the deal for it to pass. That's hardly a given because the owners are divided into low-revenue and high-revenue camps with the former arguing for greater revenue sharing and the latter, including Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots, strongly opposed to it. If the union's offer isn't to the lower-revenue teams' liking, it is believed that they have enough ''no'' votes to kill the deal.

Tom Curran of the Providence Journal writes that the 2006 salary cap will be about $106.6 million per team if the latest proposal from the players union is accepted by NFL owners. Last season, the cap was $85.5 million per team. The cap will be $94.5 million if the deal is rejected.

Don Seeholzer of the Pioneer Press writes that the Minnesota Vikings have bigger free-agent needs than wide receiver, but they are on a short list of possible teams for New England's David Givens. "I've drafted a list of six or seven teams that have a lot of cap room," Givens' agent, Brad Blank, said Tuesday. "Minnesota's one of them. If there's not a new collective bargaining agreement, I'll be calling them." An extension of the collective bargaining agreement, which NFL owners are meeting in Dallas to vote on, could greatly increase the number of teams with money to spend. Either way, there should be a market for Givens, 25, who in four seasons has gone from a seventh-round draft choice to No. 2 receiver and caught a career-high 59 passes for 738 yards and two touchdowns last season.

FoxSports.com offers a mock draft for the first two rounds of this years draft.

USA Today's "Inside Slant" takes a look at which players the Patriots could lose to free agency. What gets lost in the unfathomable prospects of Vinatieri entering free agency and potentially exiting New England, is that the team has a couple other key championship contributors also set to hit the open market. While they may not have historic, Hall of Fame resumes like Vinatieri, it could be argued that wide receiver David Givens and starting right guard Stephen Neal have played nearly as important roles in New England over the last few seasons. Yet, not much attention has been paid to the fact that both players are on the verge of hitting what should be a hectic free agency period along with Vinatieri.

Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes. Reiss also offers his latest Patriots mailbag which focuses on new contracts for wideout David Givens and kicker Adam Vinatieri.

Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes and commentary.

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