For more news and notes from Jason La Canfora, tune into The NFL Today Sunday at noon ET on CBS.
The Raiders lease with the O.co Coliseum expires shortly after the club concludes its final home game of the 2013 season, and quietly, league officials have made several trips to the Bay Area to try to secure a new lease with the outdated facility, according to sources familiar with the process.
The most likely solution to the issue is a short-team lease there -- the Raiders are currently at the conclusion of a three-year extension negotiated in 2010 -- but, the reality exists that come February the Raiders could technically be free agents. That would be a rarity in professional sports much less the NFL.
There has been decidedly little fanfare paid to the issue -- shocking in and of itself -- and Raiders owner Mark Davis, unlike his late father, Al, has taken a very low-key approach to the potentially significant issue. However, the NFL sent officials to Oakland last year to meet with municipal officials to work on the lease issue, and, sources said, did so again about a month ago.
The league office does not seem alarmed by the unusual situation, however, and there is a sense that as a free agent the Raiders would have substantial leverage with the Oakland-Alameda area in their talks on a new lease. Doing any sort of long-term lease at a stadium so short on revenue streams and woefully behind the times is a non-starter, and as much as Davis is pushing for the possibility of getting a new stadium built in the area, numerous sources believe that is a near impossibility given the current state of the economy there and the political climate. Davis has come out against cutting a deal to share the stadium the 49ers are building in Santa Clara -- though many in the league office would love to see just that -- leaving few viable options for the club.
The Raiders have already been in Los Angeles, and there is no sense within the league that any site in the L.A. area is even close to being in play right now, and many league sources doubt Davis would be deemed the owner to land in that market, anyway. The Raiders did agree to play a home game in London in 2014 -- which did not go unnoticed -- and they would have to work language allowing them to forfeit that home game into the new lease with the O.co Coliseum.
Even in a short-term lease, expect the Raiders to be able to pick up and move quickly and easily if need be. Per the terms of the three-year lease extension they signed in 2010, the club would have only had to have paid $5M to break the lease in 2011, just $4M to break the lease in 2012, and would have had to pay just $2.5M to break the lease in 2013 (those figures could often be 10 times as high).
When assessing which teams are most likely to relocate, the biggest issue is always the stadium. The Raiders, Jaguars, Chargers, Bills, Dolphins and Rams are all lacking long-term amenities and facilities considered to be up to par -- two of those teams could end up in L.A. (though that appears a ways off), and another could end up in London (the Rams and Jags have owners who already own soccer teams there). The Bills, already playing regular season games in Toronto, are unlikely to leave the Western New York/Southern Ontario region), and it's hard to imagine the NFL without a team in South Florida as well.