NEW YORK – NFL owners voted 31 to 1 on Tuesday to allow the Compensation Commission to open negotiations for a new contract with Commissioner Roger Goodell, but not before two of the league’s strongest owners, Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots. Multiple league and property sources told ESPN that Robert Kraft has been involved in a heated exchange.
Sources said Kraft joined the overwhelming majority in strong support for the measure, with Jones, the only defector at the owners-only session, telling Kraft, “Don’t do it to me.”
Kraft replied: Excuse me?
“Don’t mess with me,” Jones said.
The sources said the measure was subsequently passed. The NFL and a Cowboys spokesperson declined to comment. A Patriots spokesman did not immediately provide any comment from the team.
This isn’t the first time Jones has spoken out and opposed a new contract for Goodell, 63, and sources said his problem remains the same: Goodell’s compensation structure. In 2017, Goodell signed a new five-year contract that differs from his previous agreements. Jones led a charge that restructured the Goodell deal from mostly paid into bonuses mostly based on performance. Several committees made up of owners determine whether they feel Goodell has achieved goals and objectives.
Sources said Jones is concerned that the incentives for Goodell’s bonus proposed in the new contract are too vague and not tied to a strict set of financial goals and metrics without stricter review. “He believes in good corporate governance and wants accountability for the financial goals associated with rewarding Roger,” said a league source familiar with Jones’ thinking. “It’s sensitive to give Roger a big bonus before he performs and earn it.” The source added that Jones had thought in the past that Goodell’s financial goals were “too vague”.
The source denied that Jones’ explosion was linked to any ongoing enmity between Kraft and Jones.
The 31-1 vote indicates that most owners want Goodell, who has been in business since 2006, to continue as commissioner for the foreseeable future — and that they want to continue in that position. One of the owners told ESPN that the commission might consider a two- or three-year deal.
In the years since receiving his latest contract, Goodell helped enter into a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement with the union that added 17 games, helped ensure the NFL didn’t miss a game during the COVID-19 pandemic, and struck long-term broadcast deals with new partners. They are now worth more than $100 billion. The popularity of the NFL is undisputed, despite myriad concerns about the players’ long-term health, a lawsuit from St. Louis over the Rams’ move to Los Angeles that ended in a $790 million settlement, scandals and repeated investigations into Washington captains and owner Dan Snyder.
The New York Times reported last year that Goodell’s total compensation over the two years from 2020 to 2021 was approximately $128 million.
Goodell has said in the past that he doesn’t want to be seen as someone who stays in the job for long. ESPN reported in 2017 that Goodell told some owners he was leaving after his next contract, CBA and rights negotiations. “I’m here for you through it,” Goodell told some of the owners. “Next, you guys should start a conversation.”