With NHL expanding to Las Vegas, is NFL next?


With NHL expanding to Las Vegas, is NFL next?

In 1999 during my time with the Vancouver Grizzlies we seriously explored Las Vegas as one of our relocation locations along with Anaheim, Louisville and Memphis. Commissioner David Stern was not a fan of putting a team in “Sin City” and our lobbying efforts both in Nevada and NBA headquarters came up snake eyes.

As the speculative talk continues relating to the Oakland Raiders relocation and the NHL awarding an expansion franchise to Las Vegas there are a number of complex considerations that will come into play before any franchise actually plays a full regular season in Nevada.

Size of Market and Demographics:

Las Vegas comes up every time a major professional league considers relocation or expansion. The size of the market and its unique demographic profile presents a significant hurdle for franchise success.

Las Vegas is 28th in population.

Las Vegas is the 42nd largest TV market.

Las Vegas would be the 5th smallest NFL TV market behind Green Bay, Buffalo, Jacksonville and New Orleans with 720,000 TV households.

Las Vegas has a large service industry population whose work hours are nine to five, that’s 9PM to 5AM. Retirees won’t necessarily spend their nest eggs buying seat licenses or tailgating. They may not be interested in attending any night game that doesn’t contain some sort of “Early Bird” special.


The leagues are taking a conservative position on how legalized gaming will work on the perception of their games, their superstar athletes, media scrutiny and overall business positioning.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had these comments on legalized betting:

“I think sports betting may happen sooner than anyone would have thought. But we’ll see. It depends what party is controlling Congress and who the President is. But I think it makes perfect sense especially when all these jurisdictions are in need of tax dollars, with crumbling infrastructure that if people don’t wanna raise taxes over here and if people are going to continue to gamble on sports illegally let’s protect the integrity of the league's, let’s regulate it, let's tax it.”

The NFL has a longstanding opposition to sports betting. That being said it is estimated that $4.2 billion dollars were bet on Super Bowl 50 with 97 percent of the bets made illegally. Legalized gaming might be preferred and present another massive revenue stream.

Commissioner Roger Goodell and several powerful owners may be softening their position based on the Raiders ongoing relocation challenges. With the ongoing controversy of CTE facing the NFL is now the time that they want to take on the multiple issues connected to moving a franchise to Las Vegas?


Whenever the NFL or NHL decides to open their doors in Las Vegas they will be facing a significant amount of competition in a town that embraces mega-events:

- World Championship Boxing

- MMA and UFC

- Entertainment - Want a superstar concert or performance, there’s one every week. Cirque du Soleil and other long running shows don’t have long losing streaks

- Gambling - Oh yeah, that’s why people come to Las Vegas

- “What Happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”- Every General Manager for a team playing in Vegas will have this line memorized and not in a good way.



- UNLV Sports

- College basketball has found a home in Vegas for its postseason basketball tournament success with the Pac-12, WCC (West Coast Conference) WAC (Western Athletic Conference)

If you happen to be a losing franchise playing another bottom feeder up against several mega-events who will be coming to your game? That is going to be a team marketer's nightmare.

NFL Relocation fees:

Mark Davis hasn’t publicly talked about the cost that his fellow owners may decide to bill him for relocating the Silver and Black to the neon lights of Vegas. The speculation is that the fee could be from $250 million to the $550 the Rams paid to move from St. Louis to Los Angeles. Where are the Raiders going to get that relocation money considering they are already $750 million short of what they need to build a stadium in Las Vegas?

Relocation or Expansion:

Let’s say that the NFL decides that Las Vegas should be an expansion market with one other team (maybe London) creating a 34 team league. What if the league decided to wait a few years and make a play for legalized betting on all of their games? They could set a number for Las Vegas and London which would create stratospheric levels never seen before. Let’s say $3 billion dollars expansion fee per city.

Put yourself in position of being an NFL owner and direct depositing 1/32nd of the new pile of revenue from relocation or expansion. Do the simple math. Would you rather take 1/32nd of $250 million or more for a Raider’s relocation or be a bit more patient for 1/32nd of $6 billion dollars wired to your bank?

NHL Expansion:

The NHL has targeted $500 million for an expansion fee and they are planning to add only one team to get to an uneven 31. The Vegas franchise is expected to begin play in the 2017-18 season in the new T-Mobile Arena. The NHL last expanded in 2000 with Minnesota and Columbus who each paid $80 million dollar expansion fees. The Vegas franchise has said that they have 14,000 season ticket deposits. It is hard to understand how this franchise will make money when you add up all the factors plus paying back a half billion dollars for the privilege of being the first of the big four sports franchises to play in las Vegas. The NHL Board of Governors are meeting this week and could decide to spin the Vegas wheel.

Vegas Venues:

Las Vegas is not “State of the Art” sports venue heavy.

The brand new $350 million dollar T-Mobile Arena seating has just opened run by AEG and MGM Resorts.

Thomas & Mack Center-UNLV sports

Orleans Arena

Sam Boyd Stadium-UNLV Football

MGM Grand Garden Arena

Mandalay Bay Events Center

Cashman Field- The only professional team that is currently playing in the neon city is the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s affiliate of the New York Mets.

The Las Vegas Team Burial Ground:


Football - Cowboys, Gladiators, Locomotives, Posse, Outlaws, Sting.

Basketball - Bandits, Prolyms, Rattlers, Silvers, Silver Bandits, Slams, Stars.

Soccer - Dustdevils, Quicksilvers, Stallions, Strikers, Tabagators

Hockey - Thunder, Wranglers

Roller Hockey - Coyotes, Flash

Las Vegas with population of 2.2 million is the largest city in the country without a major sports franchise. If Vegas is such a safe bet how come none of the Big Four sports has rolled the dice and put a team there.

Ladies and gentlemen place your bets.

Raiders well equipped to 'slam the ball with a beast'


Raiders well equipped to 'slam the ball with a beast'

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden needed specific tools to run his running game. He wanted blocking tight ends and a bruising fullback, relics of a bygone offensive era.

“If Marshawn Lynch is the feature back, I think it’d be nice if we serviced him with a fullback,” Gruden said at the combine. … You need a blocking tight end if you’re going to slam the ball with a beast. So, those are two things that I’m looking for.”

Gruden said he wanted to import some old-school elements to help run with brute force.

Enter free-agent fullback Kyle Smith and tight end Derek Carrier. Welcome back, Lee Smith.

Then, on Sunday, Raiders made another vital move in this old school effort. They cut Marshawn Lynch a $1 million check.

The Oakland native’s roster bonus came due and the Raiders had no problem paying it, the clearest sign Lynch will be the Raiders feature back in 2018.

He’ll have a great chance to thrive in that role. The Raiders have a hulking, expensive offensive line (that still needs a right tackle). They have new ancillary blocking elements, and the centerpiece remains in place.

That last part was expected in recent weeks. The coaching staff, offensive line coach Tom Cable especially, wanted Lynch back. NFL Network confirmed those facts, stating Lynch will be around in 2018.

That was the case, even with Doug Martin’s addition. The former Tampa Bay back is expected to be a backup bruiser, someone who might put DeAndre Washington or (less likely) Jalen Richard’s job in jeopardy.

The Raiders can cut Lynch without a cap hit. Lynch is scheduled to make $6 million in salary and bonuses, with another $2 million available in incentives. The Raiders should hope to pay those; it would mean Lynch is running well.

The Raiders have given him a great opportunity to do so. They have solid blocking and a coach in Cable who helped him succeed during dominant days in Seattle.

Lynch proved he’s still got it in 2017’s second half, with 70 of his 891 rushing yards in the final eight games. He struggled early on, and upset some fans by helping the opposition during a scuffle with Kansas City. That mitigated a PR bump the Raiders looked for when signing a popular Oakland native just months after committing to Las Vegas long-term.

Jack Del Rio and staff grew tired of what they perceived as leeway given to Lynch unavailable to others, and probably wouldn’t have kept him on if still gainfully employed.

Gruden seems committed to Lynch this season, though nothing is ever 100 percent with an enigmatic rusher who doesn’t make private thoughts public.

His elusive, rough-and-tumble rushing style fits well with what Gruden wants, though he demands commitment to the team and sport. Sports Illustrated relayed a story of Gruden saying he needed a “full-time Lynch.”

If he gets that, the Raiders run game should thrive.


Raiders roster turning over quickly with Gruden in town


Raiders roster turning over quickly with Gruden in town

The Raiders went quiet during free agency’s first wave. They avoided paying heavy freight for some top talent with name recognition, but came on strong as last week grew late.

Most moves came from Thursday on, with a flurry of activity that radically changed the Raiders roster. There was something for everybody, with a receiver, and critical nuts and bolts of Jon Gruden’s run game. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s starting lineup got upgraded at linebacker and the secondary. A versatile defensive lineman joined the crew. Special teams got a new long snapper and some core coverage guys.

Michael Crabtree got cut. Cordarrelle Patterson was traded. Gruden found an upgrade over one guy, didn’t need the other.

The Raiders signed 10 players through Sunday night virtually guaranteed to make the 53-man roster, and Griff Whalen's got a shot. That’s a roughly 20 percent roster turnover right there – a draft class is also on the way – and the Raiders aren’t done in free agency.

Receiver Ryan Grant’s reportedly due in Alameda on Monday, and he might not leave. The Raiders have Patterson’s money to spare, assuming, of course, Grant passes a physical.

A bargain defensive tackle might be coming down the pike. Maybe. Time will tell on that front.

The Raiders had $20-plus million in salary-cap space entering free agency, but managed to spend smart in an attempt to get quality and quantity.

They’re believed to be close the salary cap after all this activity, but can create space by releasing veterans without guaranteed money. That happened with Sean Smith and the Patterson trade. Others can be cleared easily to import players who fit Gruden’s style and come available late.

Significant roster turnover is common with new coaches, who need fits for new offensive and defensive systems. Gruden was able to move fast in those aims, armed with significant clout in roster construction.

The head coach got hired in January, hired a staff to build schemes and evaluated the roster. The Raiders have some excellent pieces, Derek Carr and Khalil Mack chief among them.

It was also clear Gruden considered the roster lacking on several fronts. He said the Raiders weren’t getting enough from their last three draft classes, an accurate statement to be sure. He purged some productive members of last year’s squad he didn’t consider fits, and those already gone won’t be the last.

Recently signed free agents will take jobs. So will draft picks selected next month, as Gruden works to overhaul a roster and get more out of talent already on the roster.

It’s clear he’s heavily involved in picking these players, and will be responsible for getting the most out of the group, understanding full well it will probably take a few offseasons to get it just right.

Let’s take a look at key free-agents the Raiders have added so far, and what to expect from each guy:

-- WR Jordy Nelson: He’s the offseason’s big fish. The Raiders expect Nelson to be a locker room leader and a steadying on-field presence. They had no problem choosing him over Crabtree as part of a complete makeover at receiver.

-- CB Rashaan Melvin: Pencil him in to start opposite Gareon Conley. Better yet, use pen.

-- LB Tahir Whitehead: He’s a versatile talent with experience at every linebacker position, with success on the weak side. Whitehead can play in the middle, a role he might assume if NaVorro Bowman isn’t re-signed. Bringing Bowman back remains a possibility, however, especially if his market isn’t stout. Whitehead should also help Cory James and Marquel Lee and Nicholas Morrow grow.

-- S Marcus Gilchrist: He isn’t a dynamic playmaker, but is a solid versatile talent who can play either safety spot or in the slot. He should start right away.

-- RB Doug Martin: He’ll be a secondary option to Marshawn Lynch, but should see significant carries. His presence might spell trouble for DeAndre Washington or (less likely) Jalen Richard.

-- FB Keith Smith: Gruden said told the former Cowboy he has big plans for him. The blocking fullback will be integral to this scheme, and he’ll certainly help on special teams.

-- TE Derek Carrier: A blocking tight end can help in the run game, and has versatility required to catch passes. He’ll join Lee Smith in jumbo sets.

-- DE Tank Carradine: A solid run stopper who will compete for time at base defensive end, but believes he can be a better pass rusher than his stats suggest.

-- LB Kyle Wilbur: The Raiders need core special teams players. Wilbur can be one, and could help on defense in a pinch.

-- LS Andrew DePaola: Jon Condo’s replacement.

-- WR Griff Whalen: The Stanford product will compete for a return gig, and a spot as a backup receiver.