EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Yet another round of NFL owners meetings, with relocation to Los Angeles at the forefront of the agenda, wrapped up on Wednesday afternoon outside of Dallas.
While nothing official was decided about the fates of the St. Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers or Oakland Raiders, or on the status of the Inglewood or Carson projects, there were some important steps taken. It sounds as if we are finally close to a conclusion of this entire saga.
The NFL has set another round of meetings for Jan. 12-13 in Houston. While it's uncertain a decision on Los Angeles will occur then, multiple owners affirmed that it's possible, if not likely.
With that in mind, let's take a look at where things stand as they pertain to the Rams, St. Louis and Inglewood, and some factors that could come into play when the owners reconvene next month:
-- The Dallas meetings had a couple of compelling revelations that prominently involve the Rams and owner Stan Kroenke. Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed that Kroenke sent a letter to the six-owner Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities outlining a plan to allow a second team to be a partner in the Inglewood project. The plan called for a partner to share in the cost and split the project's revenue, though Kroenke would control the stadium's design and the revenue of the surrounding development. For a long time, there has been speculation that such a partnership, namely one involving the Rams and Chargers, could be the NFL's end game. This sort of grand bargain might ultimately make everyone happy, with the Raiders receiving extra money from relocation fees to help build a new stadium in Oakland. But ESPN's Jim Trotter reported on Wednesday that there is "zero chance" of a partnership between Kroenke and Chargers owner Dean Spanos at this point. Previous reports have also indicated a chilly relationship between Kroenke and Spanos.
-- With the Chargers and Raiders already teaming up on the Carson project, Spanos likely has little reason to abandon that partnership for a less certain one in Inglewood. And one could understand why Spanos might be wary of partnering with Kroenke, who has now had two lawsuits filed against him (or his holdings) in the past week -- one over a camera company purchase and the other over a land deal. Spanos and Raiders owner Mark Davis have reportedly grown close throughout this process and have an agreement that they know would be an equal partnership in Carson.
-- Meanwhile, in St. Louis, there is still some important work to do before the league's Dec. 28 deadline for cities to firm up stadium plans. When Goodell spoke to the media on Wednesday, he made it clear the league would like to follow its relocation guidelines. That remains up for debate, but he also went so far as to say that San Diego probably won't be able to have an actionable plan in its home market before the deadline. Essentially, Goodell all but conceded that San Diego isn't going to have a plan in place that can keep the Chargers. Since Oakland doesn't have anything resembling a plan, that leaves St. Louis. Of the home markets, St. Louis has long been the one that seems to have the most viable plan. Well, that's still the case, but the city has to boost financing to a place where it's actionable. That means squaring away the city money. As it stands, the city portion of the funding for the proposed stadium is sitting with the Board of Aldermen's Ways & Means Committee. It's expected the committee will vote to send the proposal to the full board soon, but until that happens, it remains a huge issue.
-- However, even if the aldermen approve the city financing, that guarantees nothing for the proposed downtown stadium. Kroenke has shown little interest in that project, though that could change if he's denied Los Angeles. But boosting the public financing to an actionable place would also give the voting owners pause before relocating the team in the one city that has a real proposal on the table. Goodell didn't deny that a team with a proposal on the table could still be approved to move, but he also again made reference to how teams must meet the guidelines for a move. It sounds like Oakland and San Diego are likely to qualify. St. Louis is less certain. And once again, it's probably best not to pin much belief in a series of guidelines that seem to be more suggestions than anything else.
-- All things considered, it seems that a real decision is finally within sight. If it doesn't happen in January, which might qualify as a surprise, it would probably happen by the end of February. As it stands, there still are many ways this could turn out. Momentum might look to be on Carson's side right now, but that could change over the next month. Even after yet another round of owners meetings this week, the truth remains that anyone projecting the outcome of this whole thing is doing so as an educated guess.