The next flashpoint in the Roger Goodell vs. Jerry Jones feud will be Nov. 28 in New York City.
I’m led to believe that the Roger Goodell contract extension through 2024, despite the best efforts of Dallas owner Jerry Jones to derail it, is likely to be signed by Christmas. “If the owners table it to next year,” a source close to the talks tells me, “that’s a win for Jerry. And [the Compensation] Committee does not want to do that for Jerry after the recent events.”
The recent events. Good way to word it—particularly with the Compensation Committee in a legally peacemaking mode right now. Nothing good can come from continuing to joust publicly with Jones, particularly after Jones’s tone in the ESPN.com story Friday in which Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta have him declaring war on Goodell after the Ezekiel Elliott suspension. So even after Jones sent a letter to the committee with an assumption that the committee would put the Goodell contract to full league vote, the six members on Saturday wrote this pointed but non-inflammatory response, as obtained by The MMQB:
“Dear Jerry, We were hoping to avoid the need for further letters, but feel compelled to reiterate our position based on the statements in your November 17 letter. Your letter entirely ignores the May 2017 Resolution, unanimously approved by the owners (including by you), which expressly approved a contract extension with Roger and specifically authorized the Committee to finalize the terms of that extension. As we have stated repeatedly to the full ownership and to each owner individually, the Committee has been working diligently for the past six months to negotiate the terms of the extension and intends to continue to work to fulfill its mandate under the Resolution and to do so in a manner that is fully consistent with the parameters approved by the membership.
“In the interests of full transparency, the Committee intends to continue to review the progress of the negotiations with each owner and to respond to any questions that might be raised. Suffice it to note that the Committee is working in good faith to do the job the ownership directed it to do. And the members of this Committee most assuredly are not ‘trying to subvert the League Constitution’ or ‘attempting to deprive [the ownership] of this opportunity to address the League’s direction.’ Such statements are disappointing and undermine the spirit of partnership that has served our sport so well for so many decades. Sincerely, Arthur Blank, Chairman; Clark Hunt, Robert Kraft, John Mara, Bob McNair, Art Rooney.”
I don’t expect much action this week, in part because of the holiday. There are regularly scheduled NFL committee meetings in New York on Nov. 28 and 29, at which approximately 20 owners/top club officials will gather, with others available via conference call. You can bet there will be some Goodell discussion there. If Jones has a cadre of owners to challenge the Goodell contract, it would be wise for him to have them state their objections at this meeting. The next full league conclave is Dec. 13 on Jones’s home turf—Dallas.
There has been much discussion about the form Goodell’s contract will take. As I explained in part last week (with more details now), here’s the way Goodell’s contract has been explained to the owners:
• A base annual salary of slightly less than $4 million.
• Approximately 88 percent of his compensation, potentially, in bonuses based on league performance in areas such as TV ratings, gross revenue and the new collective bargaining agreement.
One of the problems I hear Jones has with the proposed deal is the potential 88 percent pool would be “very discretionary,” an ownership source said. NFL committees with more than half the current owners on them will all play a part in recommending bonuses for Goodell that the Compensation Committee would be empowered to approve.
The bonus protocol was put in place because Goodell’s old deal was hugely one-sided. There was a provision in that contract that mandated Goodell receive an average of $25 million a year in guaranteed bonuses in a rolling three-year period over the life of the deal. If Goodell did not receive $25 million in bonuses in one year, it would have to be made up over the next two years, and in each three-year period he’d be guaranteed approximately $75 million in bonuses.
Unless some owners besides Jones step up to try to halt the contract between now and the middle of December, Goodell’s contract is likely to get done. The question, then, would be what follows a Goodell extension. Would there be a Jones-led cold war versus the league office and Goodell, the way former Jones mentor Al Davis lived for much of his ownership life with the Raiders? Or would it be followed by Jones being a pragmatic businessman and burying his anger, losing one major battle but realizing he would only be hurting the value of the Cowboys long-term by trying to tear down parts of the league?
I doubt Jones feels like he’s in an equal partnership anymore. And there’s no question he’d like to do something about what he feels is too much of an iron fist wielded by Goodell in player discipline—even beyond Elliott’s six-game ban. But Davis didn’t have his day-to-day existence influenced by how much he could push up the value of his franchise, which is something that’s always on Jones’ mind. Whenever this is over, if Jones loses, I think it’s more likely than not he grits his teeth, takes a deep breath and works within the league structure.
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