Raiders head to NFL owners meetings looking for Las Vegas approval

Raiders head to NFL owners meetings looking for Las Vegas approval

PHOENIX -- All signs point to the Raiders being approved for relocation to Las Vegas. It could happen as early as Monday, when the topic will be discussed at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix. It could be Tuesday. Or in May. Or at any point in a conference call.

The timing is less important than the ultimate outcome. The when is uncertain. The what seems likely, though not guaranteed, at this stage.

The Raiders need 24 of 32 approval votes to relocate and start construction on new digs.

The Raiders have presented a solid application to the NFL, centered on a stadium proposal in Las Vegas that includes $750 million in public funds for stadium construction. Bank of America, who is financing the project, is expected to loan the Raiders money to complete a financing plan that includes the public contribution and $500 million from the team and the NFL.

The Sports Business Journal reported on Sunday that the estimated stadium cost has dropped to $1.7 billion, and will receive $200 million in infrastructure improvements not included in their construction contribution.

League sources continue to say approval is expected. There is great confidence within the Raiders organization a vote will go their way.

Some issues remain, though none are significant roadblocks. A stadium lease hasn’t been finalized and a site hasn’t been formally announced – it’s reportedly set for a spot just off the Las Vegas Strip near Russell Road – so approval would likely come with conditions that could be met in time.

The Raiders worked a sweetheart deal that mines significant money from the public. They don’t have investors with direct ties to gambling. And, as important as anything else, the NFL doesn’t believe Oakland has a viable plan to keep the Raiders in an otherwise attractive, booming market.

That includes the latest proposal from the Oakland and financial partner Fortress Investments announced on Friday that makes certain concessions aimed at getting the Raiders back to the table.

The Silver and Black haven’t worked with East Bay officials in more than as year, as they’ve shifted complete focus to their Las Vegas quest.

The revised Oakland plan didn’t move the needle, a league executive said. That point was made crystal clear in a letter NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent to Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf.

“The material that we reviewed earlier today confirms certain information that had previously been communicated orally, such as a willingness to bring bank financing to a stadium project, and a proposed valuation of the land at the Coliseum site,” Goodell wrote in a letter obtained by Bay Area News Group. “It also confirms that key issues that we have identified as threshold considerations are simply not resolvable in a reasonable time. In that respect, the information sent today does not present a proposal that is clear and specific, actionable in a reasonable timeframe, and free of major contingencies.”

That virtually eliminates the prospect of Oakland planting doubt in NFL owners’ minds heading into a pivotal discussion on the topic Monday at the Arizona Biltmore hotel.

It’s possible the stadium and finance committee will make a formal recommendation on the Raiders application to relocate. That could precede a vote, and generally holds significant weight among undecided owners.

A league source said the new Oakland plan will be a talking point, though it may not be viewed in a flattering light. That’s especially true in light of Goodell’s letter.

“At this date, there remains no certainty regarding how the site will be fully developed, or the specific and contractually-defined nature of the participation by Fortress or other parties,” Goodell wrote. “In addition, the long-term nature of the commitment to the A’s remains a significant complication and the resolution of that issue remains unknown. Other significant uncertainties, which we have previously identified, remain unaddressed. We had hoped that the past two years would have allowed both of us to develop a viable project.”

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.