The NFL appears to be in a state of tranquility, with labor harmony, a highly coveted broadcast rights package, and a commissioner who recently agreed to a three-year contract extension.
Nonetheless, the question lingers: What lies ahead for the NFL in terms of a new collective bargaining agreement and broadcast deals, and who will negotiate them once Roger Goodell’s current contract concludes?
While it was widely anticipated that Goodell would secure an extension, NFL team owners are now exploring a succession plan for the commissioner, considering the possibility of a new commissioner by the time Goodell’s contract ends in March 2027.
Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, acknowledged the need for internal discussions and preparations for Goodell’s potential departure: “He’s in great shape, and he’s enthusiastic, and he’s excited about taking the league to newer heights, and I can’t say for sure that in 2027 is definitely the end for him. Maybe it is; maybe that’s when he’s going to want to retire. The owners have to talk about that already and going forward, so we’re ahead of the curve in preparations and having those internal discussions.”
The NFL currently lacks a clear successor to Goodell, either from within the league or externally. As Irsay revealed, there is a growing sentiment within league circles to consider splitting the commissioner’s role into two distinct positions: a commissioner of football and a CEO of business, each with its own set of responsibilities. Numerous qualified candidates exist both within and outside the NFL for these roles.
The idea of dividing the role is not new, dating back to 1989 when Jim Finks declined an offer to be the commissioner of football alongside Paul Tagliabue, who would oversee business operations, ultimately allowing Tagliabue to hold the commissioner title by himself.
Nonetheless, some league insiders oppose the notion of bifurcating the position, with one high-ranking NFL team source calling it the “worst idea” he’s heard. According to the source, football and business are intrinsically linked, and maintaining that balance is fundamental to the commissioner’s job.
Goodell’s current contract runs through the conclusion of the league’s collective bargaining agreement in March 2030, while the TV deals extend through 2033, permitting the NFL to revisit them around the CBA’s expiration. In a continually evolving media landscape and amid the league’s pursuit of new partnerships, the intricacies of managing the NFL’s business operations grow increasingly intricate.
Despite the uncertainty, there are doubts that Goodell’s latest extension will be his final deal. Multiple league sources indicated their skepticism that Goodell would retire when discussing his future. Notably, they pointed to Bob Iger, the former Disney CEO who retired at the age of 70, only to return from retirement a year later to succeed his successor.
Goodell will be 68 years old when his current contract concludes. When asked about his future beyond this extension, Goodell remained focused on the present: “I’m honored to do this job, and it’s not going to change how I do my day-to-day. For the next three years, I’m going to bust my butt.”
This dedication may well motivate Goodell to pursue another term as the commissioner. He is synonymous with the NFL shield and may see himself as the ideal person to guide the league toward the next decade.