NEW YORK — NFL owners voted 31-1 on Tuesday to allow their compensation committee to open negotiations on a new contract with commissioner Roger Goodell, but not in front of two of the league’s most powerful owners, Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots . Robert Kraft, involved in a heated exchange, league and ownership sources told ESPN.
The sources said Kraft joined the overwhelming majority in strong support for the measure, with Jones the lone dissenter in the owners-only session, later telling Kraft, “Don’t f— with me.”
Kraft replied, “Excuse me?”
“Don’t mess with me,” Jones said.
The measure then passed, sources said.
The NFL and a Cowboys spokesman declined comment. A Patriots spokesman did not immediately provide comment from the team.
This isn’t the first time Jones has been outspoken and opposed to 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 deal that was different from his previous ones. Jones led a charge that restructured Goodell’s deal from mostly salaried to mostly bonuses based on performance. Several committees composed of owners determine whether they feel Goodell has met goals and objectives.
Jones is concerned that the triggers for Goodell’s proposed bonus in a new contract will be too vague and not tied to a strict set of financial goals and metrics without more rigorous review, sources said.
“He believes in corporate good governance and wants accountability for the financial goals tied to Roger’s bonus,” said a league source familiar with Jones’ thinking. “He’s sensitive about awarding a big bonus to Roger before he performs 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 linked to any lingering animosity between Kraft and Jones.
The 31-1 vote signals that most owners want Goodell, who has been on the job since 2006, to continue as commissioner for the foreseeable future — and that he wants to continue in that role. One owner told ESPN the committee might consider a two- or three-year deal.
In the years since he received his latest 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 any games during the COVID-19 pandemic and has secured long-term broadcast deals with new and existing partners worth more than $100 billion. The popularity of the NFL is indisputable, despite many concerns about the long-term health of players, a lawsuit from St. Louis over the move of the Rams to Los Angeles that ended in a $790 million settlement and repeated scandals and investigations in the 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 does not want to be considered someone who stays on the job too long. ESPN reported in 2017 that Goodell told some owners that he would leave after his upcoming contract, CBA and rights negotiations.
“I’m here for you because of it,” Goodell told some owners. “After that, you guys should start a conversation.”