The Raiders haven't been officially approved to move to Las Vegas yet, but don't tell that to owner Mark Davis, because he's already planning to play a few games there.
After the NFL's Fall League Meeting concluded on Wednesday, Davis was asked several questions about the Raiders' possible move to Nevada. In the process of answering those questions, the Raiders owner said that his team will likely be playing at least one preseason game in Vegas in both 2017 and 2018.
"We probably will be playing a preseason game [in Las Vegas] next year, and the following year, I would think," Davis said during an interview televised by NFL Network.
If that happens, the Raiders would play at Sam Boyd Stadium, which Davis referred to as a "nice" place.
However, just because the Raiders plan on playing in Vegas doesn't mean they'll be moving there anytime soon.
Davis admitted that even if his team is approved for relocation, they likely wouldn't end up in Vegas until 2020 at the earliest. The Raiders owner basically said that a 2019 move wouldn't be possible.
"That would be quick, that would be really quick. I don't know if it could be done by then," Davis said of moving to Nevada by 2019.
Although the state of Nevada approved $750 million in public funding for a Vegas stadium this week, construction can't begin until the city knows if an NFL team will actually be playing there. At that point, it sounds like the stadium wouldn't completed until 2020, which is when the Raiders would move.
If Davis doesn't plan on being in Vegas until 2020, he'll have to figure something out for 2019, because the Raiders don't currently have a place to play for that season. In Oakland, the team has a one-year lease that runs through 2016, plus two single-year options that the Raiders can exercise in 2017 and 2018.
Davis said the team would likely stay in Oakland through the end of the lease in 2018.
"We have a one-year lease with two one-year options, so the commitment is there if we want to take it," Davis said. "I think it would be best for the families of our players and the players themselves just to know where they're going to be."
If the Raiders stay in Oakland thru 2018, one of the biggest questions becomes: Will fans in the Bay Area support a team that's on its way to Vegas?
The Browns received almost zero fan support in 1995 during their final lame duck season in Cleveland before moving to Baltimore. However, Davis doesn't think that would happen in Oakland.
"I do," Davis said, when asked if fans in Oakland would still support the Raiders after a Vegas move is potentially approved. "I don't think we used the scorched earth policy. Raiders fans are some of the best in the world. I know there are some that are hurt right now and that are angry, but there's a lot of them that know we've tried everything we could to get something done there."
Although Davis says the Raiders have tried everything, apparently, the NFL hasn't tried everything on their end. Commissioner Roger Goodell said on Wednesday that he's going to do everything in his power to get something done in Oakland.
"We'd love to have the Raiders stay in Oakland. We think that that's a positive thing, we've also been very clear over the past couple years that that requires getting a long-term resolution to their stadium," Goodell said. "We still don't have that solution. Our staff is working with the mayor and officials in the Oakland area to see if there are alternatives out there, but we don't have one yet."
Goodell didn't rule out the possibility of the league stepping and helping to develop the land in Oakland where the Coliseum is currently located.
"I'd be speculating a little bit because there's not a proposal. I think we remain open to any potential solutions that make sense," Goodell said. "We're not developers, we have owners who are developers."
The commissioner also added that the league will continue to try to negotiate with Oakland.
"We are engaging also because we want to support the effort, we want to make sure that there's nothing that we haven't missed," Goodell said. "Mark's expressed his frustration about the lack of progress, we understand that, but we want to be engaged and we want to see if there's a solution with the officials in Oakland."
Basically, it sounds like Goodell wants the Raiders to stay in the Bay Area, which could make for a contentious situation once the owners finally decide to vote on the team's relocation. The Raiders' potential move to Vegas is expected to be voted on sometime in early 2017.