It was an uncommon spectacle in professional sports: National Football League team owners and players successfully negotiating a new labor-and-salary agreement that satisfied both sides. The accord for the first time permits unrestricted free agency for players after five seasons and contains a team salary cap for owners, staving off the kind of spending spiral that has weakened professional baseball. The deal also signifies something invaluable to sports fans: no more strike fears. If only pro baseball's bickering, greed- riddled players and owners could function this smoothly.


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