Goodell's contract reportedly at the center of Jerry Jones vs. Arthur Blank dispute
Jones alleges that Blank has misled other owners about the commissioner's next contract
On Wednesday, it was reported that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones threatened to sue the NFL and some owners over NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's contract negotiations, and hired attorney David Boies to represent him in the matter.
Jones has been attempting to stall negotiations for Goodell's next contract for a while now, and most reports have indicated that Jones' dissatisfaction with Goodell stems from the six-game suspension handed to Ezekiel Elliott for violating the league's personal conduct policy after Elliott was accused of domestic violence. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported in October that "Goodell's new contract is done as a practical matter and that Jerry Jones' effort to 'hijack' the process in a conference call among some owners on Thursday is not feasible."
On Thursday night, a new dynamic emerged in the dispute. According to a report from ESPN's Chris Mortensen, a disagreement between Jones and Falcons owner Arthur Blank over the inner workings and recommendations of the NFL's Compensation Committee (which Blank chairs and from which he recently expunged Jones as a de facto member) is at the center of a larger dispute over Goodell's next contract. Jones sent a letter to the league's other owners detailing the nature of the dispute.
In a letter sent late Wednesday by Cowboys general counsel Jason Cohen to owners on the compensation committee and NFL counsel Brad Karp, Jones claimed he "has discovered a number of very concerning issues" while engaged as a committee member, including that "the Ownership (sp) and Jerry Jones now understand that they have been unquestionably misled" by Blank and that "critical facts" have been misrepresented regarding Goodell's contract.
The letter, which was copied to all NFL owners, alleges that Blank told owners, including Jones, on numerous occasions, that the six-man committee's recommendation would be unanimous. Two ownership sources, however, said the committee is not currently unanimous on Goodell's contract, which is in its final stages. Jones' letter alleges Blank backed off his word there would be "unanimity" on the committee before the extension would be finalized.
Jones also reportedly focused on the money the owners have already paid Goodell, would stand to pay Goodell under a contract extension, and an alleged bonus package included in the contract that was not previously disclosed. Per ESPN, quoting from Jones' letter:
"Commissioner Goodell's contract extension is a substantial commitment by the Owners, as more than $200 million is at stake, on top of the $200 million already paid to him," the letter states. "This is in addition to the unique and largely unfettered power exercised by the Commissioner. Ownership can't have the Chairman let us down again."
Jones alleges in the letter that he has discovered a discretionary bonus plan that was not disclosed, as well as a departure from a working contract proposal that included less guaranteed compensation for Goodell and was largely incentive-based. Jones says in the letter that the compensation committee's consultants called Goodell's previous contract "the most one-sided deal they have ever seen."
Sources said Jones repeatedly complained that Goodell, himself, appointed Blank as compensation committee chairman. Goodell was elected commissioner in 2006 and his contract was extended by Blank's three-man committee, which included Bob McNair of the Houston Texans and Jerry Richardson of the Carolina Panthers. In the letter, Jones said he discovered Goodell's original contract "lacks market-standard employment terms and conditions."
Jones wants to receive "full transparency" from Blank and avoid litigation, the letter also states, according to ESPN. He also reportedly wants to institute changes to the contract proposal, and the letter noted that if those changes are not instituted, he will indeed seek litigation.
Jones has not been shy about expressing his dissatisfaction with Goodell of late, both over his handling of the Elliott domestic violence suspension and subsequent appeal, and his (perceived lack of) response to NFL player protests of policy brutality and systemic racism during the national anthem.
Jones has long held tremendous sway inside the league's group of owners, and is clearly trying to flex his muscles in this latest case. It appears support for his maneuver is fractured, with some owners fully on his side, others on his side but wanting to see him cut down to size, and others against him. How this dispute plays out will have ramifications not only for Goodell, but also for Jones' standing in the league.