The Oakland Raiders are moving to Las Vegas

The Oakland Raiders are moving to Las Vegas

The Raiders no longer belong to Oakland.

The Silver and Black were given the approval to relocate to Las Vegas on Monday in a vote of NFL ownership at the league meetings in Phoenix.

This wasn’t a surprise. Not one bit.

Approval was expected, and the only owner who voted against the move was Miami's Stephen Ross. ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported the news.

The Raiders worked a sweetheart deal with Las Vegas on a reported $1.7 billion stadium project that includes $750 million in public funds and financing by Bank of America. The public will also pick up the tab on infrastructure improvements.

That option contrasts an Oakland plan slammed by the NFL, which wasn’t considered viable despite Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf's repeated statements to the contrary. The Raiders haven’t participated in East Bay stadium efforts, focusing solely on their Las Vegas project over the past year.

Despite that fact, Raiders owner Mark Davis felt conflicted over Monday's events. Leaving the East Bay was not originally his intended goal. 

"I have mixed feelings, obviously," Davis said. "I love Oakland, I love the fans in Oakland, and I know that there’s going to be disappointment and maybe some anger. I just hope that in the future, as we play in Oakland this year, that they understand that it wasn’t the players, it wasn’t the coaches that made this decision, but it was me that made it, and if they have anybody to talk to about it, it should be me. I will, in the coming days, try to explain to them what went into making this difficult decision."

The Raiders decided to pursue relocation, and built an attractive plan that doesn’t include NFL-adverse attachments to gambling interests. It did with casino magnate Sheldon Adelson was an investor, but they got clear of that when Adelson backed out in February. They lost him and investment firm Goldman Sachs at that time but recovered quickly when BofA hopped on board. Davis acknowledged the project wouldn't have succeeded without Adelson's sway and ability to secure public funds. 

NFL owners discussed the Raiders application to relocate on Monday morning, and it quickly moved toward a vote. A league source said the Raiders met little resistance in the meeting room. The last leg of this year long quest went smooth, with the team having answered most questions about getting a new stadium in a decidedly smaller market. The stadium and finance committees reccomended approval, and the league did so shortly after

The Raiders are the third NFL team to relocate in the last 14 months, which is a bad look for the league.

"We work very hard, and never want to see a relocation of a franchise," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. "That means exhausting our options and doing everything we can to keep a team in its existing market. There is a stadium situation in Oakland that needed to be addressed, and I think our friends in Oakland agreed with that. It’s been an issue for well over a decade."

The Las Vegas move is contingent on a few unresolved items, but there isn’t anything expected to halt this action. A lease between the Raiders and the Las Vegas Stadium Authority isn't complete, though a source said most points have been worked out. The pact should get done in April. 

The Raiders haven't formally announced a stadium site, though a source said the team has an option to buy land just off the Las Vegas Strip, near the Interstate 15 freeway and Russell Rd. to build the stadium. 

While the Raiders were approved to relocate, moving vans won’t line up quite yet. Their new Las Vegas stadium won’t be complete until 2020, and the Raiders plan to play in Oakland the next two seasons. The Raiders have a team option to play at Oakland Coliseum in 2017 and 2018. They’d be in limbo for 2019, though Davis said Monday he hoped to play in the Bay Area that season. They also have options to play in Las Vegas’ Sam Boyd Stadium should the Bay Area turn hostile, though it isn’t NFL ready without renovations and won't be used again after the new stadium is built. The new stadium will host the Raiders and the UNLV football team. 

The Raiders will leave when ready, abandoning Oakland for the second time in 35 seasons. Late owner Al Davis left for Los Angeles in 1982, and returned in 1995 after Oakland offered to expanded Oakland Coliseum. The city is still paying back debt on that renovation. Mayor Schaaf said no public funds would be used for stadium construction, though owner Mark Davis’ major sticking points came over use and control of land on the Coliseum site, what he viewed as poor negotiating tactics and conflicts with the Athletics. The A’s also play at Oakland Coliseum on a lease that runs through 2024, though it has an escape clause had the Raiders locked down a football-only stadium there. Pittsburgh owner Art Rooney said Monday that the Athletics' presence on the Coliseum site was a complicating factor in getting a deal done. 

Schaaf issued a statement decrying the Raiders leaving town. She hoped for a different outcome, and was never able to formulate a plan NFL ownership would accept. 

“I am disappointed that the Raiders and the NFL chose Las Vegas over Oakland when we had a fully-financed, shovel-ready stadium project that would have kept the Raiders in Oakland where they were born and raised.

“I am proud that we stood firm in refusing to use public money to subsidize stadium construction and that we did not capitulate to their unreasonable and unnecessary demand that we choose between our football and baseball franchises. As a lifelong Oaklander, my heart aches today for the Raider Nation. These are the most committed and passionate fans any city or team could hope to have. They deserved better.”

McKenzie, Del Rio ‘unified since Day 1,’ ushering Raiders into next phase

McKenzie, Del Rio ‘unified since Day 1,’ ushering Raiders into next phase

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Jack Del Rio have done three pre-draft press conferences now. They’ve got the routine down, knowing when to deflect questions, when to put people off the scent and, more importantly, how to seem unpredictable.

They were in lockstep again Friday, less than a week before the 2017 NFL Draft.

During their first, McKenzie offered one criticism of his head coach.

“Can you guys get Jack out of my office?” McKenzie said in 2015, with tongue firmly in cheek.

The rhetorical question was answered with a laugh. McKenzie was acknowledging how much Del Rio and staff wanted to support the scouting process. McKenzie ultimately pulls the trigger on draft day, but Del Rio has a loud voice in the room as he looks for players who fit his locker room and his schemes.

McKenzie has open ears, taking advice from the entire coaching staff while arranging his draft board. This time of year especially, coaches and scouts are working together.

“It’s been unified since Day 1,” Del Rio said. “Reggie and I are very unified and much on the same mission and that is to bring a world championship home to this organization. Everything we’re doing is attacking that, adding these impact players where we can.”

The pair was focused on improving a lackluster roster that featured Derek Carr and Khalil Mack but finished 3-13 the year before. Now their partnership is entering Phase II.

They must decide which players to add, and decide which previously drafted players to keep. There are some obvious extensions in the works, with Carr, Mack and Gabe Jackson. They had to let some homegrown talent go in free agency as they attempt to upgrade depth and build a championship roster that can build on last year’s success.

“There’s a whole different phase that we’re about to go through as an organization as you begin to mature, some of those players have to be re-signed or not. Those are decisions you have to make in all of this. This is year three for us working together and I feel like the relationship with the scouts and the coaches and the sharing of information is excellent. We want to continue to work that way.”

Locals among cornerbacks who can help Raiders early in NFL Draft

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AP

Locals among cornerbacks who can help Raiders early in NFL Draft

The Raiders have an opening in their secondary.

Finding a slot cornerback is a top priority with DJ Hayden now in Detroit. TJ Carrie is an option there, but the Raiders could add a young, versatile talent capable of taking a more prominent role down the line.

That’s true despite the fact Sean Smith signed a free-agent deal through 2019 last year and David Amerson received a contract extension through the 2020 season. Those contracts, however, become pay-as-you-go deals after this season.

The dead money goes away, freeing the Raiders to look for long-term upgrades if they see fit.

Head coach Jack Del Rio loves creating competition and depth, especially at such an important position in today’s NFL. The Raiders like larger, physical cornerbacks with ball skills, and there are plenty in this year’s draft.

Many analysts have the Raiders taking a cornerback at No. 24 overall, and that’s a realistic possibility. They could certainly look to help last year’s No. 24-ranked secondary in the early rounds.

Let’s take a look at some top options available in this week’s draft:

Good fits:There are quite a few quality cornerbacks who could be available at No. 24 overall, even if there’s an early run on the position.

Oakland native and Washington alum Kevin King visited the Raiders during the pre-draft process, and certainly fits what the Raiders like in a cornerback. He’s confident and aggressive, unafraid to use great physical traits to make plays on the ball. He’s tall and long and isn’t afraid to tackle.

USC’s Adoree Jackson has the quality ball skills the Raiders like, and is adept high-pointing the ball. Analysts say he can play several coverage techniques and has the agility to make up for mistakes. He can work in the slot, but at 5-foot-10 isn’t as tall as the Raiders like. They’d have to take him in the first round. He may not last beyond that.

San Jose native and Colorado product Chidobe Awuzie is another interesting local defensive back ready to turn pro. He can play outside or in the slot, and analysts say he has excellent one-on-one coverage skills but needs tackling work. He was a solid slot blitzer at Colorado, and could fill an immediate need crucial against so many three and four receiver sets.

Louisiana State’s Tre’Davious White has experience playing the slot, and could help right away there before transferring outside if asked. He can cover extremely well, though analysts say he isn’t much of a tackler. He might be a tweener as far as the Raiders are concerned, not worthy of the No. 24 pick but long gone before the Raiders pick in the second round.

Central Florida’s Shaquill Griffin visited the Raiders this spring, and rightfully so. A willing run defender with good ball skills and tackling ability who could be available in the third round should intrigue them.