NEW YORK – The NFL expects a five-year contract extension with Commissioner Roger Goodell to be finalized soon, despite a threatened lawsuit by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said Thursday that “our expectation is this will be wrapped up soon, but we can’t project an actual date.”
The extension would carry through 2024. Goodell became commissioner in 2006.
Lockhart added that the league is aware of Jones’ potential lawsuit, which apparently has been sparked by star running back Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension over alleged domestic violence.
“Certainly neither the compensation committee or the league has been made aware of a lawsuit being filed,” he said.
As for reports that Jones and other owners might be balking at the structure and compensation in the new contract, Lockhart noted: “I am saying the reporting about potential holdouts around particular issues has not been accurate. I don’t know where it is coming from?”
All 32 owners voted in May to extend Goodell’s contract and authorized the compensation committee to work out the details. Goodell suspended Elliott in August after a yearlong NFL investigation. Prosecutors in Ohio declined to pursue the domestic violence case.
A federal court on Thursday upheld the suspension, barring Elliott from playing Sunday against Atlanta.
Jones, who is not on the compensation committee but is one of the most powerful owners in the league, has expressed frustration over the NFL’s pursuit of criminal matters with its own investigators.
Regardless, that committee has continued to structure and negotiate contract details with Goodell.
“We feel strongly that the 32-0 vote … gives them the authority to enter into a contract extension,” Lockhart said, “and the committee is moving forward under the assumption they do have that authority.”
Prosecutors in Elliott’s case cited conflicting evidence when deciding not to pursue the case. The NFL’s probe continued for a year after that decision. Jones said his running back has been treated unfairly, and Elliott has denied the allegations of his ex-girlfriend under oath.
“I am very troubled by the swings that we’ve had,” Jones said on his radio program on Oct. 31. “His swing of judgment has been unbelievable from the Ray Rice thing all the way up to one or two games, all the way to the six-game suspension when you’ve truly got a debate. In our legal system it has to be stronger than that for somebody who has done it.”
Goodell’s decision to suspend Elliott prompted weeks of twists and turns in courtrooms from Texas to Louisiana to New York leading to a three-judge panel in New York making its decision Thursday. Elliott, on his third legal reprieve, has played all eight games for the Cowboys.
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