NEW YORK — NFL owners voted 31 to 1 on Tuesday to allow their compensation committee to open negotiations for a new contract with commissioner Roger Goodell, but not before two of the league’s most powerful owners, Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots’ Robert Kraft engaged in a heated trade, league and property sources told ESPN.
The sources said Kraft joined overwhelmingly in strong support for the measure, with Jones the only dissenter during the owners-only session, ultimately telling Kraft, “Don’t fuck with me.”
Kraft replied, “Excuse me?”
“Don’t mess with me,” Jones said.
The measure was later passed, sources said.
The NFL and a Cowboys spokesperson declined to comment. A Patriots spokesperson did not immediately provide comment from the team.
This is not the first time Jones has come out openly and opposed a new contract for Goodell, 63, and sources said his issue remains the same: Goodell’s compensation structure. In 2017, Goodell signed a new five-year contract different from previous ones. Jones led a charge that restructured Goodell’s deal from primarily salaried to primarily performance-based bonuses. Several owner committees determine whether they believe Goodell has achieved its goals and targets.
Jones is concerned that the bonus pool triggers Goodell is offering in a new contract are too vague and not tied to a strict set of financial goals and metrics without closer scrutiny, sources said.
“He believes in good corporate governance and wants to be accountable for Roger’s bonus financial goals,” said a league source familiar with Jones’ thinking. “He is sensitive to the idea of awarding a big bonus to Roger before he plays and earns it.”
The source added that, in the past, Jones thought Goodell’s financial goals were too “vague”.
The source denied that Jones’ outburst was related to any lingering animosity between Kraft and Jones.
The 31-to-1 vote signals that most owners want Goodell, who has held the position since 2006, to remain commissioner for the foreseeable future – and that he wants to continue in that role. One owner told ESPN the committee could consider a two- or three-year contract.
In the years since securing his final contract, Goodell helped usher in a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement with the union that added a 17th game, helped ensure the NFL didn’t miss a game during the pandemic of COVID-19 and has landed long-term broadcast deals with new and existing partners worth over $100 billion. The NFL’s popularity is undisputed, despite myriad concerns over the long-term health of players, a lawsuit from St. Louis over the Rams’ move to Los Angeles that ended in a $790 million settlement and repeated scandals and investigations into Washington commanders and owner Dan Snyder.
The New York Times reported last year that Goodell’s total compensation over a two-year period from 2020 to 2021 was nearly $128 million.
Goodell has said in the past that he doesn’t want to be seen as someone who sticks around too long. ESPN reported in 2017 that Goodell had told some owners he would leave after his next contract, CBA and rights negotiations.
“I’m here for you through this,” Goodell told some owners. “After that, you should start having a conversation.”
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