IRVING, Tex. — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell intends to retire by the completion of his newly completed contract extension in 2024, league spokesman Joe Lockhart said Wednesday.
Goodell declined to confirm that plan at the conclusion of a two-day owners’ meeting at a Dallas-area hotel. But two other people familiar with the league’s inner workings said Goodell has told owners that he will usher the league through the upcoming negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement with the players and a new set of television contracts and then step away. It’s possible that could come even before his new contract expires, they said.
“The commissioner has been clear he views this as his final contract,” said Lockhart, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications and public affairs.
Goodell will work with owners of NFL teams to identify and have his successor in place by the time he plans to step away, Lockhart said.
At a news conference later Wednesday, Goodell said: “I haven’t made a determination. This is something that I’m looking forward to. I’m looking forward to the challenges. I think our league is in a great position. But we’ve obviously had challenges, just like any other industry. And I think we’re excited about addressing those as a league, and I think we’re doing that from a position of strength.”
The extension is to pay Goodell about $40 million per year, of which about 90 percent is tied to incentives.
“I know how much Roger Goodell loves the National Football League,” said Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who addressed fellow owners Wednesday after opposing Goodell’s extension. “And he should love it even more right now.”
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, the chairman of the owners’ compensation committee that negotiated the extension with Goodell, said Goodell’s plan to retire at the conclusion of this deal was not part of the deliberations.
“I’m not sure how old he’ll be in March of 2024,” Blank said. “But he’s got a young family. He’s got twin girls that are 16 and they’ll be off. It could be that he and his wife may decide to do some other things. We have no idea. We’re worried about the current situation for the next five years and the vision for the league going forward.”
Goodell will be 65 when the extension expires. He will have served nearly 18 years as commissioner after being elected by the owners in August 2006 to succeed Paul Tagliabue.
“I think there is a limit to how many years you should serve in this position,” Goodell said. “That’s a determination that’s made obviously with the ownership and also by yourself and your family. That’s something that we’ve done and I’m prepared and ready to go.”
Jones had threatened at one point during the negotiation process to sue to block the extension, then rescinded that threat. He pushed for all owners, not only those on the six-member compensation committee, to be involved in setting the commissioner’s salary. He was asked by reporters Wednesday about his opposition to Goodell’s latest contract after expressing strong support for Goodell in the past.
“They have a term in business called a MAC — Material Adverse Circumstances — happened between the time that you shook hands and the time you did the deed,” Jones said. “It’s a very valid change …. Anybody that says we haven’t had some changes since last spring would be an exaggeration …. But more importantly than anything, I really felt that something as explicit, something as sensitive as the owners giving their vote to a group to make these decisions needed to have a … clarity. It needed to have specificity …. I really did think that we had a complaint there.
“I agreed to drop that, and I did. I agreed to not have that decided by somebody other than the owners. So we didn’t do that. But what we did was come up to where we are today.”
Jones gave his own news conference, immediately after Goodell’s, and spoke of the need for changes to the NFL’s constitution, perhaps affecting the power of the commissioner. But Goodell hugged Jones before Jones followed him in speaking to reporters, and Goodell said he hadn’t taken Jones’s opposition to the contract personally.
“Do I look like I take it personally?” Goodell said. “Jerry, do I look like I take it personally? No. … I think people disagreeing, people having the ability to do that within the context of our structure, is something that makes us stronger.”
Under the extension, Goodell’s incentive package will be overseen by owners on other committees as well as those on the compensation committee. Blank said that about 20 owners will have a say into Goodell’s income under the arrangement. But Blank said Jones’s role “was not a factor” in determining the structure of the contract and the package of incentives. Blank stressed that members of the compensation committee were in regular contact with other owners about the negotiations and the details of the contract.
“Under the commissioner’s old contract, essentially a large percentage of it was guaranteed over a period of time,” Blank said. “Under this contract, about 90 percent of it was based on performance. The commissioner was a great listener and responded and was very supportive of doing not only the right thing for himself personally and his position, but thinking about the league, thinking about what owners are expressing. … All of that, I think, was very important to getting this done. But we paid a lot of attention the process.”
According to Blank, owners will consider a proposal at the annual league meeting in March to revise the structure of the compensation committee and how it is chosen. That also could give the entire group of owners more control over the process of negotiating a commissioner’s contract.
According to the league, Goodell’s contract was examined by an independent consultant which determined that it was in line with the negotiating goals of the compensation committee. The contract includes no post-retirement payments to Goodell, according to the league. Goodell would have to pay for any use of a private plane through the league, the NFL said.
The compensation committee at one point informed Jones that it regarded his behavior as constituting conduct detrimental to the league. Such conduct could lead to penalties being imposed on Jones, under league rules. Blank declined to say Wednesday whether he would regard that as appropriate.
“I think that’s beyond the scope of this committee,” Blank said. “I think that’s up to the league and what have you.”
Goodell’s extension will keep him in place to negotiate the next labor agreement with the players’ union. The current deal runs through 2020. The owners locked out the players before the last deal was struck in 2011. Goodell also will oversee the negotiations of the NFL’s next set of TV contracts.
The league has been through a turbulent period with Goodell in charge, with labor strife, courtroom clashes with the NFL Players Association over player discipline and controversies over issues ranging from concussions to bounties to domestic violence to, even, deflated footballs.
This season has been particularly tempestuous. President Trump and many fans have been sharply critical of players protesting during the national anthem and the league’s handling of the matter. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began the players’ protest movement last season, has not been signed and has filed a grievance accusing teams of collusion. Jones’s opposition to Goodell’s contract highlighted rifts within the league, and the NFL has had to deal with declining TV viewership and a series of injuries sidelining star players.