NFL commissioner Goodell makes it clear odds are against Las Vegas

NFL commissioner Goodell makes it clear odds are against Las Vegas

HOUSTON -- Roger Goodell's position on Las Vegas is evolving.

Now he can at least say the city's name without a look of disgust spreading across his face.

Actually, the look may be more of a knowing smile now that the deal to move the Oakland Raiders to Sin City is teetering precariously on the verge of collapse. The sudden withdrawal of casino operator Sheldon Adelson from the grand plan he and Raiders owner Mark Davis hatched to move the team to Las Vegas made it a lot easier for Goodell to evade, er, answer questions about it Wednesday at his annual meeting with the media.

Just why Adelson pulled out his $650 million pledge toward a new stadium depends on who you ask. The multi-billionaire who put together the proposal to lure the Raiders to a new $1.9 billion stadium indicated it was because Davis pulled a fast one by trying to negotiate stadium terms without him, but it could be that he saw both Davis and the league trying to push him to the sidelines.

It's clear that, even in a new age of semi-enlightenment toward sports betting among the major sports leagues, the NFL is still wary about doing business with the people the league has waged war with for more than a half century.

That means no ownership share for a casino owner. It apparently also means no stadium financing by anyone connected to sports betting, either.

"I don't see an ownership position in a team from a casino," Goodell said. "That is not something consistent with our policies. Not likely a stadium either."

That puts Goodell at odds with a few of the higher profile owners in the league, who have all but given their blessing to Las Vegas. Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft don't see a lot wrong with someone in the casino business being involved with a team, though there are some owners who remain rooted against anything that has to do with gambling.

Never mind that the president of the United States is a former casino operator. Or that Goodell himself grudgingly acknowledged that things are changing when it comes to the relationship of sports and gambling.

It's happening today," Goodell said. "It's sponsored by governments. It exists throughout our world. What we have always said is we need to make sure that there's a fine line between team sports gambling and the NFL. We want to protect the integrity of our game, and that's the line we will always do."

Translate that, and it means that even the best stadium deal won't be good enough for the Raiders to move to Las Vegas if there is betting on the team in the gambling city.

Translate that and it likely means Davis either needs to work harder for a new stadium in Oakland or perhaps set his sights on San Diego.

In a way, the looming collapse of the yearlong effort to move the Raiders to Las Vegas isn't terribly surprising. There were always going to be obstacles in the way, especially with Goodell seemingly intent on taking the high moral ground when it comes to sports betting.

The commissioner doesn't hold all the power in a league of 32 owners who all have their own ideas about how things should play out. But, as he showed in going up against Kraft in "Deflategate," he holds enough power to get in the minds of enough owners to block a move to Las Vegas should he choose.

Remember, this is a league so frightened by sports betting that it refused for years to even allow Las Vegas to run a commercial during the Super Bowl. A league headed by a commissioner who has made no secret of his distaste for both betting and Las Vegas.

Davis says he plans to go ahead with his plan to move the team to Las Vegas, though he'll now have to find someone with deep pockets to add to the $750 million the Nevada legislature promised for a stadium just off the glittering Strip. That makes it unlikely the move will be voted on at the owner's meeting next month as originally envisioned by the Raiders, and any delay could unravel the deal quickly.

Indeed, what looked like a done deal when Davis made a formal application to move the team last month now looks no better than a bet on a hard eight on a craps table at Adelson's Venetian casino.

The odds have shifted, and Goodell can't help but smile.

Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster


Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster

The Raiders have a lot of quarterbacks under contract, certainly more than they’ll have come September.

That means the battle to be Derek Carr’s backup should be fierce. EJ Manuel had that title last year, with a shot to retain it after re-signing with the club on Thursday afternoon.

Veteran Josh Johnson signed up Monday, and those two will join third-year man Connor Cook behind Carr on the depth chart.

New head coach Jon Gruden loved Cook coming out of the draft, but the Michigan State alum failed to earn the backup job last season and must make a move up the depth chart to kickstart his career.

Manuel has a strong arm and starting experience, making him a steady and solid backup option. He completed 24-of-43 passes for 265 yards, a touchdown and an interception in two games when Carr was hurt.

Johnson might be a camp arm at this point, though he’ll be given a chance to compete this spring and summer.

Carr has been hurt for at least a small stretch in each of the last two seasons. Having Manuel in that spot might offer stability.

Gruden addressed last year’s backup quarterbacks last month at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Gruden on Manuel: “I think EJ is a young, talented guy,” Gruden said. “He’s been in the facility working out on his own every day. There is a bright upside to him, too, as a young quarterback to keep working with. He’s a free agent, but the Philadelphia Eagles proved that’s a pretty damn important position, isn’t it? Right? So we have to address that and see where we are.”

Gruden on Cook: “I am kind of surprised Connor hasn’t played in two years, other than the playoff game he got in as a rookie. After Derek got hurt last year, they turned the ball to EJ. I don’t know where Connor Cook is. I am frustrated right now that I can’t spend any time with him, but, April 9th (when the Raiders offeseason program starts) will be an exciting day for me and Connor Cook.”

Raiders sign tackle Breno Giacomini


Raiders sign tackle Breno Giacomini

The Raiders need help at right tackle, the lone vacancy along their offensive line. They signed a veteran presence on Thursday afternoon, adding 32-year old Breno Giacomini as the frontrunner to join the starting five.

He has 86 starts in 94 career games, and has been a full-time starter three of the last four years. Giacomini spent 2017 in Houston and the previous three seasons with the New York Jets.

He was a Seattle Seahawk before that, working with Raiders offensive line coach Tom Cable for three of his four years there. Cable gave Giacomini his first chance to start in the second half of 2011, and held the post through 2012.

The bond between the two is clearly strong, considering what Giacomini tweeted shortly after Cable got fired in Seattle.

Coach and player will reunite, hoping to provide steadiness on the right side of the Raiders offensive line.

He’ll compete for a starting spot with Vadal Alexander, second-year pros David Sharpe and Jylan Ware and possibly a drafted player. Giacomini should be considered the favorite unless the Raiders use an early pick on an offensive lineman.

Giacomini has plenty of starts, but his Pro Football Focus numbers aren’t pretty. The analytics says he allowed nine sacks, eight quarterback hits and 64 pressures with Houston last year. He had some decent years under Cable, and a return to that form might push him into the starting lineup for good. Time will tell on that front.