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.”

Quarterback drafted by Jon Gruden in 2008 signs with Raiders


Quarterback drafted by Jon Gruden in 2008 signs with Raiders

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden had a hand in drafting Josh Johnson a decade ago. The agile quarterback and Oakland native was a Tampa Bay’s fifth-round pick in 2008, Gruden’s last year as Buccaneers coach.

The pair will reunite in Johnson’s hometown. The well-traveled quarterback signed with the Raiders on Monday, the team announced.

Johnson will compete with Connor Cook to backup starter Derek Carr, and brings a veteran’s influence to the position group. It likely spells the end of EJ Manuel’s short tenure in silver and black. The strong-armed former first-round pick, who started one game last season, remains a free agent after a year with the Raiders.

This move should make Marshawn Lynch happy. He and Johnson are extremely close and together run the Family First Foundation, a charitable organization that does significant work for East Bay kids. Johnson and Lynch also played football together at Oakland Tech High.

Johnson has played 10 NFL teams prior to this Raiders stop, but hasn’t played in a regular-season game for some time.

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 percent 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.