Raiders president: Las Vegas stadium financing on track

Raiders president: Las Vegas stadium financing on track

LAS VEGAS -- The Oakland Raiders and the board overseeing the proposed NFL stadium in Las Vegas have high hopes for the project despite losing an instrumental supporter, but their plan is still missing hundreds of millions of dollars in financing.

Team leaders and the stadium authority board met publicly Thursday for the first time since casino magnate Sheldon Adelson withdrew a $650 million pledge for the project. Both sides plan to continue to work on a lease agreement, but the team didn't give a definitive answer for the major financial gap.

"The organization remains fully committed to this project," Raiders president Marc Badain told the stadium authority board members. "We are not deterred. Financing will not be an issue."

Badain told the board the team is in discussions with "multiple financial institutions," but declined to elaborate beyond that when asked by The Associated Press. The cost of the 65,000-seat domed stadium is pegged at $1.9 billion.

The meeting in Las Vegas came at a crucial time for the Raiders' proposed relocation: less than two weeks after Adelson pulled out of the project and six weeks before an NFL owners' meeting where they are expected to vote on whether to approve the move.

Badain and stadium authority board members on Thursday expressed confidence in their ability to make significant progress in a proposed lease and use agreement ahead of the owners gathering. A draft of the agreement that the Raiders presented to the stadium authority board last month includes a proposed $1 annual rent for the team.

"We'll work to make it better," board chairman Steve Hill said. "We may make six weeks' worth of progress in the next three or four weeks."

The Raiders paid $3.5 million in rent to play at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in 2016, up from $925,000 for the 2015 season. The team has options to remain at the stadium for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

Adelson and his family had pledged $650 million and the Raiders promised $500 million, with the stadium authority putting up $750 million in Las Vegas tax revenues.

Adelson, the chief executive of Las Vegas Sands Corp. whose holdings include the Venetian and Palazzo resorts on the Las Vegas Strip, played an instrumental role in winning state approval to help fund the stadium with public money.

In withdrawing, he declared that he had been shut out of talks that led to the lease document being presented to the stadium authority.

Another lingering question is location. A site hasn't been picked for the stadium, although a parcel of land near the Las Vegas Strip has emerged as a preferred location.

The stadium authority is a public board whose operations will be funded by the newly approved Las Vegas-area hotel tax increase that's expected to yield $13 million a year. Casinos won't start collecting that until March 1, and money won't flow to the authority until April.

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.