All of this has made the NFL owners meetings, held this week on Jones’s home turf, a bit anticlimactic. The owners began gathering at a Dallas-area resort Tuesday for their two-day December meeting that was supposed to be about the attempt being made by Jones, the powerful and outspoken owner of the Cowboys, to block Goodell’s five-year contract extension as NFL commissioner from being completed and enacted.
Instead, the meeting takes place with Goodell’s new deal, which is to pay him as much as about $40 million per year and runs through 2024, already in place. The owners’ compensation committee, led by the Atlanta Falcons’ Arthur Blank, informed fellow owners last week that the contract was done and signed.
Jones still will have his say. There is an owners-only session scheduled for Wednesday at which Goodell’s extension is to be discussed. Fellow owners and others within the sport say they expect Jones to speak at length during that meeting. But it appears that, at this point, Jones will have to settle for talking about the deal he could not stop.
“The contract has been signed and executed,” said Joe Lockhart, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications and public affairs. “As early as right after Thanksgiving, we sent notice around to all the owners and said there would be time during this … meeting to hear from the compensation committee, to answer any questions about the contract and the process. As I think we’ve mentioned, the compensation committee has reported to the ownership, I think, at every meeting over the last year and a half, I think. There’s nothing particularly new about that.
“They have a variety of other issues that they deal with. … This committee also deals with a variety of things like what I get paid, what the employees get paid. So there’s nothing particularly unusual about doing a session, particularly at the special December meeting. It’s been noticed for a while. They’ll make a report and they’ll talk about whatever is on the minds of the owners.”
Other owners appear eager to hear what Jones has to say.
“It should be interesting,” a high-ranking official with one NFL team said Tuesday.
Jones formerly served as an unofficial member of the compensation committee. That ended around the time that he informed members of the committee that he’d retained attorney David Boies and was considering filing a lawsuit against Goodell’s extension.
Letters, accusations and threats were traded. Jones alleged that Blank had misled owners about the negotiations. He contended that paying Goodell so much was inconsistent with the league’s current financial situation.
The compensation committee maintained that Jones’s approach amounted to conduct detrimental to the league, putting him in jeopardy of being disciplined by fellow owners. That could have meant a fine, a suspension or the loss of a draft pick or picks by the Cowboys. There was speculation, although dismissed by people close to the situation as unrealistic, about the possibility of an attempt being made to force Jones to sell the Cowboys, estimated to be worth more than $4 billion.
But Jones rescinded his threat to sue, and now it appears that he will have to be satisfied with voicing his objections behind closed doors and perhaps tweaking the process. Jones has pushed for all owners, not only those on the compensation committee, to have greater input into the commissioner’s salary. About 90 percent of Goodell’s income under his new deal is said to be tied to incentives. The execution of those incentives will involve owners on other committees.