Roger Goodell has signed a five-year contract extension to remain the commissioner of the NFL, with his new deal running through 2023 and worth $200 million over the life of the contract if owners approve all the bonuses and all the incentives are met.
So now what for Goodell, whose new deal had been a contentious issue through the 2017 season? We asked our panel of ESPN NFL insiders to weigh in:
Roger Goodell's No. 1 priority should be ______________.
Dan Graziano, NFL writer: ... finding some common ground with the NFLPA on negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement. At this point, the league doesn't have much to offer the players in negotiations. The players aren't likely to make financial concessions in exchange for give-backs on things like personal conduct policy or marijuana, even though those things get the headlines. The commissioner and owners need to talk to NFLPA leadership and figure out what the major issues are going to be in the next negotiations, then get to work on seeing whether they can get anything done that prevents a work stoppage when this deal runs out in 2020.
Mina Kimes, senior writer: ... player safety. This encompasses a few things: ensuring that current and retired players receive necessary healthcare, examining the viability of Thursday Night Football, developing a consistent rubric for enforcing rules that deters unnecessary violence (while acknowledging that violence is inherent to the sport), and investing in substantive, independent concussion research.
Mike Sando, senior NFL writer: ... be more proactive and less reactive. The league spends so much time and resources covering its butt instead of emphasizing what's great about the game and focusing on how to make it even better. Maybe that's what happens when the league forgets that the "F" in NFL stands for "Football" and not "Financials." The league does not consistently make decisions for the right reasons.
Aaron Schatz, editor-in-chief of Football Outsiders: ... creating a clear standard for player punishment. Frankly, we could use a clear standard for team punishment as well. Goodell's punishments seem entirely arbitrary, a weather vane blown around randomly by the winds of news coverage and public relations. New Orleans fans were mad, New England fans are still mad, Dallas fans (and especially the owner) are super mad. And remember that it could be your team or favorite player next. We need standards to know who loses how many games and how many draft picks for doing what things. (And while the concussion crisis is very important, player punishment is something Goodell affects much more directly.)
Kevin Seifert, national NFL writer: ... brain health. There is no greater threat to the long-term health of players and thus the league itself. Perhaps this a naive take. But if a commissioner doesn't prioritize the most existential threat facing the game, then what's the point of the job?
Seth Wickersham, senior writer: ... a rebuilding of the league's executive staff. The most common complaint you hear from owners is not fallout from Goodell's costly disciplinary matters but a lack of vision coming from the league office -- about what space in the culture the league should occupy, how it will adjust to changing viewer habits, how it will cease to be seen as square and ham-fisted, how it will convince mothers that their kids should be allowed to play football, and how it will expand internationally and capitalize on the likelihood that gambling is legalized, two areas where the NBA is far, far ahead of the NFL. Goodell's executive staff makes tens of millions of dollars to provide owners with those answers, and it's been a long time since owners have been happy.
Field Yates, NFL Insider: ... the health and safety of players. That should always be the commissioner's No. 1 priority. Playing in the NFL affords these athletes uncommon opportunities and allows them to fulfill what has been for virtually all of them a lifelong dream. And while the on-field product is tremendous and the action is thrilling, these players are not machines. Their health and well-being should always be the top focus.