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End of the replacements: NFL, referees reach agreement

The NFL and the NFL Referees Union just announced a new eight-year deal has been agreed to by the two sides. The agreement is subject to ratification by the NFLRA, which will vote Friday or Saturday on the deal.

That is only a formality.

And as there will be a football game tonight between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens Thursday, the regular officials will work that national televised contest.

"Our officials will be back on the field starting tomorrow night," Commissioner Roger Goodell said. "We appreciate the commitment of the NFLRA in working through the issues to reach this important agreement."

Said Scott Green, the president of the NFLRA: "Our Board of Directors has unanimously approved taking this proposed CBA to the membership for a ratification vote. We are glad to be getting back on the field for this week’s games."

The terms of the agreement:

Eight-year term covering the 2012-2019 seasons.

The current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season (or until the official earns 20 years of service). The defined benefit plan will then be frozen.

Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires, and for all officials beginning in 2017, through a defined contribution arrangement, which will have two elements: an annual league contribution made on behalf of each game official that will begin with an average of more than $18,000 per official and increase to more than $23,000 per official in 2019, and a partial match on any additional contribution that an official makes to his 401(k) account.

Apart from their benefit package, the game officials’ compensation will increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019.

Beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option of hiring a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year-round, including on the field.

The NFL will have the option to retain additional officials for training and development purposes, and may assign those additional officials to work NFL games. The number of additional officials will be determined by the NFL.

The end of this labor impasse will be welcomed in most every NFL outpost where talk of the replacements often leaked from the field to the sideline to the locker room.

Most people will be glad to see the replacements go. But don't count Dolphins coach Joe Philbin among their critics.

"I’m sure your jobs are challenging and tough, but officials’ jobs are not easy," Philbin said Wednesday. "Let’s face it. I don’t care how much experience you have, how many years you’ve been in the league. It’s just like coaching. I’ve been doing this 29 years and I certainly don’t profess to have all the answers. I think the guys that have been officiating have been good. They’ve been communicating; I think they’ve been hustling out there, so whatever happens, happens.”