SBJ/April 3-9, 2017/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Goodell still NFL’s No. 1 pick

Renewal talks start with commissioner

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NFL owners want to keep their commissioner off the free agent market.

The NFL has started renewal talks with Roger Goodell, whose employment contract with the league runs through March 2019. “It’s a process and it’s just begun,” said Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, chairman of the owners’ compensation committee.

Goodell and committee member Kraft clashed on Deflategate.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
The committee met with Goodell last week at the league’s annual meeting.

Goodell, 58, is on his third contract, having renewed his original 2006 deal in 2009, and then again in 2012. During that time the league’s revenue has more than doubled, to a projected $14 billion this year, but Goodell has also toiled through a series of controversies, including Deflategate, player misconduct, Bountygate, and now three team relocations in 15 months.

The compensation committee considering Goodell’s next deal looks different from the one that handled the last deal. The panel previously comprised Blank, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson.

Richardson, however, is no longer on the committee, having dropped out of league business after the Los Angeles relocation decision in 2016, which he opposed. A host of other owners now join Kraft and Blank: the Houston Texans’ Bob McNair, New York Giants’ John Mara, Kansas City Chiefs’ Clark Hunt and Pittsburgh Steelers’ Art Rooney II. Mara confirmed the makeup of the committee.

Goodell assigns the members for every committee but the one that deals with his pay. The compensation committee selections are controlled by Blank.

Blank appears to have decided he wanted the owners who are on the influential chairmen’s committee to join him as Goodell’s contract is negotiated. The chairmen’s committee is made up of owners who are chairmen of key committees.

It’s also possible the larger group could dull the influence of Kraft, who remains upset about the Deflategate process and Goodell’s role. A source close to the Patriots said Kraft would consider all of Goodell’s attributes, including his role in what the Patriots consider a grievous error in suspending quarterback Tom Brady.

After Richardson dropped out, only Kraft and Blank remained. Now Kraft is one of six owners on the committee.

Goodell takes the slings and arrows for the owners and is widely vilified in the media, so would he consider leaving?

Asked about that as he left his news conference that wrapped up the annual meeting, he declined to comment.

He has earned hundreds of millions of dollars since taking over his role in 2006, so presumably he is set financially and could want a new chapter in his life. If he takes another NFL contract, it probably precludes him from trying something new.

That could give him some leverage, as could the timing of his contract: It expires just as the league would begin negotiations with the union over a new collective-bargaining agreement and with broadcasters over new TV deals.

His success in that role in 2010 and 2011 enriched the owners, and is largely seen as the main reason they will do what they need to do to keep him happy and intact at 345 Park Ave. They have largely publicly supported their commissioner, so it would come as a surprise if there are voices pushing to move him out.

After signing the 2011 CBA, the owners rewarded Goodell with an early contract renewal, the one that expires after the 2018 season. That contract rewarded him handsomely and led to outrage in the press and Congress over his compensation, which regularly topped $35 million annually.

The league ultimately changed its tax status and so now does not have to disclose his pay.

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