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Talk commences of a possible one-year L.A. delay

At a time when it’s become a foregone conclusion that the NFL will return to Los Angeles in 2016, a possible caveat has emerged

The return might come in 2017.

According to an item from the Editorial board of U-T San Diego, “There is speculation that the owners at the August meeting [to discuss Los Angeles] may delay the entire process for a year to let everything percolate in [Oakland, San Diego, and St. Louis] to see what develops.”

The paper calls it the “best possible outcome” for San Diego, since it would give the local politicians more time to properly pursue a vote regarding the use of taxpayer funds. It also would give both the city and the team cover, if the voters decide to reject the use of public money -- necessarily paving the way for the Chargers to return to the city where the team spent its first season in 1960, the inaugural year of the AFL.

It’s unclear where the speculation came from. It could be something that the Editorial board of U-T San Diego conjured (“yes, there is speculation, started by us”) as a Hail Mary pass to keep an NFL team in town for U-T San Diego to cover. If, of course, a public vote regarding the use of taxpayer money would go against the current national trend against subsidizing billionaires’ ballparks.

Tapping the brakes could have unintended consequences. For example, if one of the three teams linked to L.A. gets too antsy about the situation, it could in theory decide to go rogue, moving without NFL approval and bracing to argue that a group of independent businesses ultimately can’t tell one of those businesses where it should conduct its business without violating the antitrust laws.

It’s also possible (“yes, there is speculation, started by us”) that the owners could decide to green light a return by the Rams to L.A. for 2016, with the question of whether the team’s new stadium in Inglewood would be shared with the Chargers or Raiders unresolved.

No amount of delay will change the fact that L.A. has quickly morphed from luxury to necessity for the NFL, with three teams having unsettled stadium situations and each circling the City of Angels. But if the eventual goal is to put two teams in L.A. and to ensure that the third has a new stadium in its current market, it could be that one more year will allow one of the teams to work out a deal locally, allowing the other two to move.

Under that scenario, it’s unlikely that the Chargers would accept an outcome that puts them in a new San Diego stadium and the Rams and Raiders back up the road in L.A. Delaying the process that would allow the Chargers to grab one of the two seats in Los Angeles increases the likelihood that, when the music stops, three franchises will be clustered into territory in which the Chargers currently enjoy their status as the only NFL show in town.

For that reason alone (and the fact that they’ve been trying for 14 years to bring this situation to a head), the Chargers probably aren’t inclined to wait any longer.