The deal is for a reported eight years and the regular refs will reportedly be ready to work Thursday night's game between the Cleveland Browns and Baltmore Ravens.
Here is the joint statement from the NFL and NFLRA:
The NFL and NFLRA are pleased to announce that they have reached an agreement tonight on an eight-year collective bargaining agreement, subject to ratification by the NFLRA.
“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.”“Our Board of Directors has unanimously approved taking this proposed CBA to the membership for a ratification vote,” said Scott Green, president of the NFLRA. “We are glad to be getting back on the field for this week’s games.
Welcome back REFS," Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller tweeted shortly after the news broke.
The replacements worked the first three weeks of games, triggering a wave of outrage 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.
"We are glad to be getting back on the field for this week's games," referees union president Scott Green said.
The tentative eight-year deal is the longest involving on-field officials in NFL history and was reached with the assistance of two federal mediators. It must be ratified by 51 percent of the union's 121 members, who plan to vote Friday and Saturday in Dallas.
The agreement hinged on working out salary, pension and retirement benefits for the officials, who are part-time employees of the league. Tentatively, it 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 proposal, 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. The annual league contribution made on behalf of each game official will begin with an average of more than $18,000 per official and increase to more than $23,000 per official in 2019.
Beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option to hire a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year round, including on the field. The NFL also will be able to retain additional officials for training and development, and can assign those officials to work games. The number of additional officials will be determined by the league.
"As you know, this has to be ratified and we know very little about it, but we're excited to be back. And ready," referee Ed Hochuli told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "And I think that's the most important message -- that we're ready."
The use of replacement refs isn't new to the NFL. They worked the first week of games in 2001 before a deal was reached. But those officials came from the highest level of college football; the current replacements did not. Their ability to call fast-moving NFL games drew mounting criticism through Week 3, climaxing this past weekend, when ESPN analyst Jon Gruden called their work "tragic and comical."