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Jerry Jones believes Arthur Blank misled owners about Roger Goodell’s contract extension

Jerry Jones is at odds with the league and other owners about Roger Goodell’s contract extension. (Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)
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Attorneys for Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and the NFL have exchanged sharply worded letters about Jones’s objection to the league’s pending contract extension with Commissioner Roger Goodell.

In a letter dated Wednesday and sent by Jason Cohen, the general counsel for the Cowboys, to an NFL lawyer as well as members of the league’s compensation committee, the Cowboys allege that owners have been misled about negotiations with Goodell by Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, the committee chairman.

The NFL replied to Cohen in a letter from league attorney Brad S. Karp, accusing the Cowboys of either being misinformed or seeking to mislead other owners on the topic themselves.

“Your claims about the substance of the Commissioner’s proposed contract are similarly without foundation,” the NFL’s letter to the Cowboys, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, says. “Indeed, your description of the proposed extension is so at odds with the actual facts that we can only conclude that you are either uninformed or seek deliberately to mislead the other owners.”

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The NFL’s letter acknowledges receipt of the letter from the Cowboys about Goodell’s contract negotiations. Portions of the Cowboys’ letter were read to the Post by a person who received it. Other portions of the letter were described by that person after the delivery of the letter was reported by ESPN, which said that it had obtained a copy.

The letter from Cohen states that Jones and other owners were misled by Blank about the negotiations. It also says that Blank told committee members they would have to be unanimous in recommending an extension for Goodell, but later backed off that contention.

The Cowboys also are maintaining that another vote by the owners is required before an extension with Goodell can go into effect, according to the person who saw the letter. That is in contrast to the NFL’s contention that no further vote of the owners is required after they voted, 32-0, at their spring meeting in Chicago to authorize the compensation committee to negotiate an extension with Goodell.

According to the ESPN report, the Cowboys’ letter says: “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. 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.”

Karp’s response on behalf of the league and obtained by the Post says of the Cowboys’ letter: “We regard its substance to be entirely without merit, contrary to the League’s operating practices and procedures (including the NFL Constitution), and flatly inconsistent with the May 2017 Resolution unanimously adopted by the owners expressly authorizing the Committee to finalize a contract extension with Commissioner Goodell. The work of the Committee over the past six months has been fully consistent with both the letter and the spirit of the Resolution. Moreover, the Committee’s Chair has gone out of his way to be fully transparent with the ownership about the status of the Committee’s work.”

The league’s letter concludes by saying: “Accordingly, having considered the points in your letter, the Committee will continue to work in the best interests of the League and report its work to the full ownership.”

Jones told members of the compensation committee last week that he’d hired attorney David Boies and was prepared to file a lawsuit against Goodell’s extension, according to people familiar with the conversation. The league acknowledged earlier Thursday that Jones had made that threat but said it expects Goodell’s extension to be completed soon.

That was consistent with what several people familiar with the compensation committee’s deliberations said Wednesday, explaining that the deal with Goodell would be completed either by the owners’ meeting in December in Dallas or by the annual league meeting in March.

Some within the league are accusing Jones of having what amounts to a temper tantrum related to the six-game suspension of Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott under the personal conduct policy, which went into effect after a federal appeals court Thursday denied a request by the NFL Players Association on Elliott’s behalf for an injunction.

Associates of Jones say that his opposition to the contract extension is unrelated to the Elliott case. It instead is based on Jones’s long-standing belief, they say, that Goodell’s pay should be tied mostly to incentives and that all owners should participate in the negotiating process.

Jones previously worked with the compensation committee as a nonvoting member but that unofficial stint on the committee has ended.

Jones’s and Blank’s teams will play one another Sunday in Atlanta.

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