NFL owners plan to complete their contract extension with Commissioner Roger Goodell despite the threat by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to file a lawsuit to block the deal, according to multiple people familiar with the situation.
Jones delivered his threat of litigation last week to owners on the compensation committee, which is negotiating Goodell’s pending five-year contract through 2024.
But the committee intends to ignore Jones’s threat and plans to have the deal with Goodell in place either by the owners’ meeting scheduled to be held in Dallas in December or by the annual league meeting in March, according to those people with knowledge of the deliberations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the possibility of litigation.
“He’s going to be extended,” said one person familiar with the deliberations. “Whether it’s in December or in March or whenever it is, he’s going to be extended.”
Those sentiments were echoed by another person familiar with the league’s inner workings.
“The committee has the authority,” that person said. “I don’t think there’s any holes in that.”
Asked about the contract extension being finalized by the December owners’ meeting or the March league meeting, that person said: “That time frame is probably a fair estimate.”
Joe Lockhart, the league’s executive vice president of communications and public affairs, said Thursday he expects the deal to be “wrapped up soon” between Goodell and the owners’ compensation committee.
Lockhart said he was not able to provide a more specific time frame for completion of the extension, which would run through 2024.
Jones and other owners voted, 32-0, at their meeting in May in Chicago to authorize the compensation committee to negotiate the extension with Goodell. According to those with knowledge of league procedures, no further vote of the owners is required for the committee to sign a deal with Goodell, whose current contract expires in 2019.
The chairman of the compensation committee is Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank. He said at the conclusion of the owners’ meeting last month in New York that he expected the extension to be finished.
“It’s not ‘done-done,’ ” Blank said then. “But we’re making good progress that we would expect to make.”
Jones long has advocated that all 32 owners have input into Goodell’s contract. He has pushed for the deal to be incentive-based. Jones worked with the compensation committee as a non-voting member in recent months, although his participation on the committee now has been ended.
Others within the sport say that Jones began working to block the extension with Goodell after the NFL suspended Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games under the personal conduct policy. They describe Jones as being angry over Elliott’s suspension, which federal courts so far have blocked the league from enforcing, and seeking revenge.
Jones’s associates say his opposition to Goodell’s contract is not linked to the Elliott case but is based on Jones’s long-standing beliefs about how the deal should be structured and his insistence that all owners participate in the process. He is not necessarily opposed to the owners retaining Goodell as commissioner for the right contract terms and with the right process, his associates say.
Jones told compensation committee members last week that he had hired prominent attorney David Boies and was prepared to take legal action against the extension if it comes to that.
“He said that he had an attorney drafting papers,” one of those with knowledge of the situation said.
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