Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

What is actually going on with Roger Goodell's contract extension?

Alex Reimer
November 10, 2017 - 2:07 pm

The best drama this NFL season is unfolding in the boardroom instead of on the field. Roger Goodell’s expected contract extension, which was once considered a mere formality, has become one of the most contentious issues in recent league history. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wants Goodell out, or at the least, to make less money and work under a non-guaranteed contract –– much like the players. This squabble is pitting Jones not just against the commissioner, but an entire slate of owners as well. This ultimate battle of evil may take a couple of casualties before it’s complete. 

What is the issue here?
The compensation committee, which is comprised of Arthur Blank (Falcons), Robert Kraft, Bob McNair (Texans), Clark Hunt (Chiefs), John Mara (Giants) and Art Rooney II (Steelers), wants to extend Goodell’s contract through 2024. Under his previous deal, Goodell was paid an average of $40 million per year. Blank has reportedly told Goodell his obscene salary would remain the same under his new contract.

Enter Jones, who used to sit as a non-voting, ad-hoc member of the committee. The Cowboys owner says he holds grave concerns about the direction of the league under Goodell’s leadership, due to the commissioner’s poor handling of off-field controversies.  It’s also assumed Jones wants to spite Goodell for suspending Ezekiel Elliott six games for domestic violence –– the Columbus Police Department dropped its charges against Elliott in September 2016 –– but the Cowboys owner denies that’s his motivation. 

Why is Jones threatening to sue the league?
The New York Times reported this week Jones has recruited attorney David Boies, who helped serial sexual predator Harvey Weinstein silence his victims, in his efforts to possibly sue the NFL. A lawyer for Jones has already sent the league a letter, saying owners are being misled about the state of Goodell’s negotiations.

In the letter, Jones’ attorney says Blank promised the decision to renew Goodell’s contract would be unanimous. But apparently, the committee isn’t unanimous. Blank is going ahead and trying to complete the deal anyway. 

Jones is also chafed over Goodell’s salary. Blank has reportedly worked out a discretionary bonus plan that would still allow Goodell to make an average of $40 million per year, even if his annual salary drops. According to Jones, this detail was never fully articulated.

How effective has Jones been?
Blank has revoked Jones’s status as an ad-hoc committee member, but that appears to be more symbolic than anything else. Jones is one of the league’s top power-brokers, and has seemingly courted a contingency. ESPN reports there are about 15 owners who want final review of Goodell’s extension before it’s finalized. 

Last month, Jones reportedly held a conference call with 16 other owners who share his concerns about Goodell, citing his mishandling of domestic violence, relocation and the national anthem protests. It’s worth mentioning, of course, Jones orchestrated the Rams’ move to Los Angeles.

What is Kraft’s role?
It’s possible Kraft could be one of the two committee members with reservations about Goodell’s extension, but that wouldn’t jibe with the public votes of confidence he’s given the commissioner. Even at the height of Deflategate, Kraft said Goodell was doing a “very good job.” 

Also, unlike Jones, Kraft doesn’t think players should be mandated to stand for the national anthem.

It’s likely Kraft is supportive of Goodell.

What will happen?
NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said Thursday the league expects Goodell’s extension to be wrapped up soon. Since it would require 24 owners to formally block the suspension, it seems like Jones’ only option to delay or stop the proceedings is to pursue legal action. 

But he’s already made Goodell immensely more uncomfortable, which may be good enough. 

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