Roger Goodell’s job as commissioner involves policing the owners, who are also his bosses, which can lead to some complicated dealings.
As Goodell was considering the discipline for an alleged domestic violence incident that eventually became a six-game suspension for Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott—which has since been put on hold with a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction—Cowboys owner Jerry Jones became involved with the process of the committee of six NFL owners that will decide how much money Goodell receives on his next contract, and he is now reportedly stalling progress on the deal, according to a report by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter.
“If not for Jerry, this deal would be done,” a person familiar with the contract negotiations told Mortensen this weekend.
Jones’s decision to insert himself into the proceedings of the committee—which includes Falcons owner Arthur Blank, Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, Giants co-owner John Mara, Texans owner Bob McNair, Patriots owner Bob Kraft, and Steelers owner Art Rooney II—could certainly be interpreted as a capital “P” Power Move threatening to slash Goodell’s salary or even remove him from the job. Goodell’s current contract is set to expire after the 2018-19 season, and while he has weathered some severe storms as NFL commissioner over the last decade—particularly the league’s handling of domestic violence and player health—a clash with the league’s most powerful owner may be the maelstrom that undoes Goodell.
According to the report, Jones and other owners believe that Goodell’s salary, which pays more than $40 million annually, is far too high. Most NFL fans likely agree. In early August Jones predicted that Elliott would be exonerated by the NFL’s investigation. After Goodell issued the suspension, Jones became uncharacteristically quiet on the matter.
Goodell has come under fire for caving to a powerful owner in the past. The Deflategate saga is viewed by many as Goodell’s attempt to rectify the NFL’s handling of Spygate, which many owners saw as favorable to Bob Kraft after he endorsed Goodell for the commissionership. A Cowboys-friendly decision in Elliott’s case could have been perceived as Goodell caving to Jones to maintain Jones’s support.
As with Deflategate, Goodell is dealing with a star player’s suspension in court. The NFL is committed to making Elliott serve his suspension as soon as possible. On Friday, the league filed an emergency stay in response to U.S. District Court Judge Amos Mazzant III’s preliminary injunction on September 8, which put Elliott’s suspension on hold. If the league’s motion is granted, the move may allow the league to enforce Elliott’s suspension this season after all. That decision could come as soon as this week. Meanwhile, a phone call about the commissioner is scheduled for Wednesday with the compensation committee, and a specific proposal for Goodell’s extension may be produced. Both Goodell and Jones will reportedly be on the call.
Jones seems to have failed at earning a generous ruling on Elliott’s behalf, and he may now have Goodell in his crosshairs.