After weeks of negotiations and postponed deadlines for the start of free agency, NFL owners agreed to the NFL Players Association’s latest proposal on a six-year extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement on Wednesday night.

The vote was approved 30-2, with Buffalo and Cincinnati being the only two owners that voted against the players’ latest proposal for an extension of the CBA.

Tampa Bay was expected to release a few players Wednesday night in an effort to be in compliance with the NFL-mandated salary cap of $94.5 million, but the extension of the CBA will increase the 2006 salary cap to approximately $102 million, which means the Bucs could be in compliance with the cap and have put cuts on hold for now.

“We have been confidant that a deal would get done and we can now begin building on last year’s success under the terms of this extension,” Bucs general manager Bruce Allen said in a statement released by the team on Wednesday night. “The NFL has been the premier sports league in North America for decades, and this new deal should allow us to continue with our unprecedented growth. As for the Buccaneers, we were well positioned to move forward under either scenario, and we are looking forward to using the new CBA parameters to improve our team.”

Allen spent the past two years preparing for life with or without an extension of the CBA. Without a new labor agreement in place in 2006, the 2007 season would have been uncapped.

Had the CBA not been extended Wednesday evening, several teams, including the Bucs, would have had to release players in cap maneuvers. That means quarterback Brian Griese ($7.083 million cap value), linebacker Jeff Gooch ($2.050 million cap value) and guard Matt Stinchcomb ($2.1 million cap value), all of whom were considered candidates to be released on Wednesday, are safe for now.

Fullback Mike Alstott’s chances of re-signing with the Buccaneers significantly increased with the extension of the CBA.

“A CBA extension certainly will help our situation,” Alstott’s agent, Ben Dogra, told on Tuesday. “We are in dialogue with the Bucs and will continue to do so. In the end, we are hopeful that Mike will play for the Bucs in 2007.”

Free agency is tentatively scheduled to begin at 12:01 a.m. ET on Friday.

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