EAGAN, Minn. – The Dan Snyder issue continued to hover above NFL owners during their spring meetings this week, albeit in a different form and fashion with the pending sale of the Washington Commanders hanging in the balance.
It wasn’t too long ago that NFL owners were peppered with questions about whether they would vote the controversial Snyder out of their ranks.
Now it’s about getting the record sale of $6.05 billion to a group headed by Josh Harris to the finish line.
NFL owners were nowhere close to approving the deal that was struck earlier this month, with the league’s finance committee engaged the process of vetting the deal — a process more complex than for most transactions, given the size of the transaction and the number of partners.
No one in the know blinked at the suggestion that it could take months, not weeks.
“It depends on the Harris group,” Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay told reporters. “They know what the rules are.”
Translation: To comply with NFL ownership policies, it will likely take more equity.
“I would anticipate it being done,” contended Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who in 1989 leveraged his family’s fortune to purchase the franchise (now valued at $8 billion by Forbes) for $150 million.
The escalating franchise values are undoubtedly a huge factor, which at some point will likely prompt the NFL to explore accepting more creative financing to seal such deals.
It’s highly doubtful that such a time is now, with sentiment among at least some, if not many, owners that the next partners need to adhere to the same policies that they complied with to get in.
Then again, Snyder has been such a thorn in the side for the league, it is conceivably tempting for fellow owners to bend the rules for the Harris group in order to finally get rid of Snyder.
Speculative is how Jones responded when such a question was asked.
“That is really inappropriate in my mind,” Jones said. “You have a very qualified buyer and you have, by his own admission, Dan and his family wanting to sell. And so, you don’t need to give what-ifs beyond that, and I know enough to know there’s enough qualifying aspects to this thing that this can get done.”
OK, but when?
Jones wouldn’t etch out a timeline for final approval. Irsay, a fellow member of the league’s finance committee, wouldn’t rule out a target for the start of the regular season.
“I think that would be great, to have a new ownership group in by the beginning of the season,” Irsay said. “That would be good. That’s not an impossibility. But there’s work to be done…We’re not there yet.”
Brady’s rich history with the Raiders
Funny how these things can turn out. Tom Brady was a central figure in one of the most controversial heartbreaks in Raiders history – the fumble-that-wasn’t “Tuck Rule” call that enabled the New England Patriots to win the AFC divisional playoff game and remain alive for Brady’s first Super Bowl journey – and now he’s a part-owner of the Raiders.
“Yeah, I got over it,” Raiders owner Mark Davis told USA TODAY Sports. “And I got over it with Franco (Harris) and the Immaculate Deception. In the end, as much as you want to hate them, it wasn’t their fault. That came from the guys in the striped shirts and those guys in New York. But it was tough to get over for our fan base.”
Davis wouldn’t disclose specifics of the ownership stake that Brady acquired.
“I can’t really talk about it because of NDAs and stuff, but I’m absolutely excited,” he said.
Asked whether Brady will have input into football operations, Davis replied, “I can’t talk about that at this point in time. He has a job with Fox. We’ll respect that.”
Beyond the since-abandoned “Tuck Rule,” it’s striking in another sense that Brady has wound up as one of Davis’ partners. On multiple occasions in recent years, reports linked Brady perhaps finishing his brilliant career as a quarterback with the Silver and Black.
“There’s always a lot of rumors going around,” Davis said. “Always smoke. This is real fire.”
Jaguars are prime-time draw…wary of the flex
It has been more than a decade since the Jacksonville Jaguars appeared on”Monday Night Football.” Same for “Sunday Night Football.”
Well, after winning the AFC South title and posting a thrilling comeback victory during the wild-card round of the playoffs last season, the Jaguars are scheduled for both of those prime-time showcases this season. Jacksonville is slated to host the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday, Dec. 4, then the Baltimore Ravens on Dec. 17. The Jaguars will also appear on Amazon with a Thursday night tilt at New Orleans in Week 7.
“We’ve got three prime-time games; I have enough brains to know that at least two of them are in that widow where you can be flexed out,” Jaguars owner Shad Khan told USA TODAY Sports. “We’ll have to perform or else.”
Khan supported the resolution passed this week that allows the NFL to flex late-season Thursday night games on Amazon, which matches up to the option that has existed for years with NBC on Sunday nights. This season, late-season Monday night games on ESPN are also subject to flexible scheduling.
Eight teams voted against the measure, with detractors maintaining that switching games – even with 28 days’ notice for the Amazon games – is a disservice to in-stadium fans.
“You have to respect the fans on TV, the sponsors and the media partners,” Khan said. “They make this possible.”
With a potential superstar in young quarterback Trevor Lawrence now paired with coach Doug Pederson, beginning his second season at the helm, the Jaguars are also poised to become a bigger draw overseas. The Jaguars will also play games in London, the secondary market, in back-to-back weeks.
Break up the Commissioner’s job?
With several NFL owners confirming that Commissioner Roger Goodell is “close” to a contract extension that would run through the 2027 season, Irsay revived talk that whenever Goodell retires (presumably after the next extension, but that’s what was thought before the current extension, which hasn’t happened), the league would explore a structure where a Commissioner for football matters would collaborate with a CEO to drive the business.
Goodell has heard it before. Like each time he’s up for a new contract.
“No doubt it will come up again,” Goodell said. “It’s a healthy discussion to have. The job changes.”
Goodell didn’t indicate whether he would endorse splitting the job, but he didn’t dismiss the idea and realizes that his input to owners could weigh on the future of the role.
Farewell to a legend
The Cleveland Browns are working on details for a public tribute to the late Jim Brown, to be held at FirstEnergy Stadium. Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said it’s possible that the ceremony will be held in early June.
Before Brown died last week at 87, the team planned to place a marker outside the stadium to commemorate the “Cleveland Summit” in 1967 where Brown and other top athletes came together to support ostracized boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Now it appears that the program for the “Summit” will be included in the larger tribute to Brown.
“I think we really want to honor the player and the man for everything he accomplished,” Haslam told USA TODAY Sports. “Also, it’s important for our players – who might not be old enough to know – to understand what a great man he was on top of being a great player.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.