When the NFL convenes for its Dec. 13 meeting in Irving, Texas, there will be an owners-only session that will deal with the impending extension for commissioner Roger Goodell, sources said Thursday.
The session was scheduled after Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones requested a special meeting in front of the full ownership group on Nov. 28 in New York. The Wall Street Journal first reported Jones’ request. The request was denied, but owners will make time for a session in conjunction with the meeting in Irving, sources said.
Jones and the NFL have gone back and forth about the extension talks that have had both sides threatening legal action. He has said he has issues with compensation in the Goodell deal, along with concerns about the escalation of player protests involving the national anthem and how the league has handled them, and he has denied that his objections are tied to Goodell’s decision to suspend Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games over alleged domestic violence.
On Wednesday, The Associated Press obtained a letter sent to Jones from the compensation committee that accused him of “conduct detrimental to the league’s best interest.”
Jones set the table for the special session when, on Wednesday, he distributed the original contract negotiation document with all 32 teams. He acted on his own after his request of the committee to share the information was rejected Tuesday, sources told ESPN.
The document, which the NFL has characterized as outdated, shows the compensation committee on July 25 first proposed a five-year extension for Goodell that included a pay cut of roughly $2.5 million in his average compensation package of $42 million over the past five years.
Goodell’s lawyer countered in early August with a request for an annual package of salary and bonuses totaling $49.05 million, almost $10 million more than the $39.5 million in salary and bonuses that was proposed by the compensation committee. The request drew the lines for the ongoing negotiations that have been unexpectedly contentious and thus far without an agreement, according to a 26-page analysis of the proposals by the committee’s legal and accounting advisers on Aug. 16 and obtained by ESPN.
There have been no additional formal written offers made by either side, sources told ESPN, but the two sides have had numerous discussions in an attempt to complete negotiations on a contract extension for Goodell that would run through March 2023.
Prior to this document being obtained by ESPN, it was believed Goodell currently makes about $30 million per year. An NFL owner told ESPN earlier this week that there are “several owners in this league who don’t make $40 million a year.”
Some owners have said the new pay package being sought by Goodell is “unseemly” and “offensive.” Goodell’s base salary is $3.5 million — and would remain the same under the new contract — but with bonuses from performance incentives, his total compensation package far exceeds the annual salary of the NFL’s highest-paid player.
According to the document, one of the negotiations’ sticking points is the amount of severance that would be paid to Goodell, who intends to retire early after a new collective bargaining agreement is met and new contracts are signed with the NFL’s TV network partners, the document shows. The committee proposes paying Goodell $40 million upon his resignation as commissioner, while he is seeking $62.5 million, according to the document.
The commissioner also has an agreement to serve as a consultant for five years after leaving the NFL for a lump-sum payment of $19 million, the document shows.
In a story Sunday by Peter King of MMQB.com, Goodell was said to be open to a contract with as much as 88 percent in bonuses, saying, “I’m willing to bet on myself.” But in the analysis of both sides’ initial proposals by Daniel J. Ryterband, the chief executive officer of F.W. Cook, Goodell’s counteroffer “includes language that could be interpreted to mitigate the ability of the committee to adjust pay downward (even if performance is poor).”
Chaired by Falcons owner Arthur Blank, members of the compensation committee met Monday via conference call to discuss the latest developments in their negotiations with Goodell. Sources say the contract is moving toward completion despite protestations from Jones, who has threatened to sue several owners and the NFL if Goodell’s contract is approved without the input and final approval of all 32 owners. At the league’s spring meetings in Chicago in May, all 32 owners voted to give the compensation committee the authority to extend Goodell’s deal beyond its expiration date of March 2019.
Under Goodell’s current contract, there is no provision for a non-disparagement clause. But under Goodell’s proposed contract, he asks for a mutual non-disparagement clause. In an analysis of Goodell’s request, the compensation committee’s lawyers wrote, “Is the NFL … willing to provide a mutual non-disparagement which would include owners and executives? Difficult to ‘police’ owners and executives, but could consider limiting it as a requirement to instruct owners and certain executives not to disparage” Goodell.
Goodell has also asked for an “early expiration” of his contract, after the completion of the CBA and media contract negotiations, which he would not exercise until sometime after March 31, 2022, but before the new contract’s expiration two years later. Goodell has asked for a full year’s bonus in the year he leaves early, which could cost the NFL an additional $21.5 million in bonuses, the documents show.
Among other bonuses that Goodell is seeking is a $25 million “performance bonus” for a new CBA with the players’ union and a new round of contracts with the league’s business partners.
Both Jones and the committee’s outside counsel have accused each side of misleading other owners. Sources say Jones believes Blank has not been entirely transparent in communicating the finite details of negotiations when it comes to the incentives and discretionary bonuses. Jones also has complained to other owners that Goodell’s advantage is that he reappointed Blank as the committee chairman to negotiate a contract that was already “one-sided” in favor of the commissioner. Blank has taken affront to the attack, sources said.