After decades of discussion, will pro football finally return to Los Angeles?
Meeting in Irving, Texas, for this week's December League Meeting, NFL owners laid the groundwork for a pivotal vote on the issue set for Jan. 12-13 in Houston. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league's ownership is making progress toward crafting a clearer picture on potential team relocation to L.A., but cautioned more work lies ahead.
"There has been a great deal of work on the solutions in Los Angeles," Goodell said. "I think the ownership is comfortable with those. I think the debate is, one, how do we address the home markets? Who's going to meet our relocation policies and then let's get to making a decision and move forward. Let's try to get back to Los Angeles in a successful way for those teams that qualify.
"We still have more work to do on that to make sure we understand fully the certainty of those projects and the viability of those projects in those core markets."
Goodell didn't signal an ownership leaning on relocation since the three home markets -- Oakland, San Diego and St. Louis -- have until Dec. 28 to submit their final proposals to the NFL. In addition, relocation proposals by teams can't be submitted until Jan. 4.
Despite this, Colts owner Jim Irsay struck a pessimistic tone about the chances of a team or teams moving to L.A. in 2016.
"It's hard to see one of the proposals as getting 24 votes," Colts owner Jim Irsay told reporters on Wednesday, adding: "I don't think we're extremely close right now."
According to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, teams were lobbying for relocation during this week's meetings.
"The Rams made a big step today toward a potential compromise," Rapoport told NFL Network. "What they officially told the L.A. committee in a letter ... is they are willing to be equal partners with another team in their stadium. Whether (it's) the Chargers or Raiders they did not specify, but that does open the door to a compromise (of) maybe two teams in Inglewood."
Rapoport noted that we "probably will not have a real legitimate answer to that until we get closer to the deadline," adding: "Maybe for one of those teams, that is the only option to solve their stadium solution, and maybe that would make them willing to partner with the Rams."
Goodell said Rams owner Stan Kroenke's offer of equal partnership in his proposed dual-team stadium in Inglewood "was received well by the membership ... that's something they will certainly consider."
Rapoport also reported that a trio of figureheads linked to a Los Angeles relocation -- Kroenke, Raiders owner Mark Davis and Chargers chairman Dean Spanos -- were "all sitting outside" to allow their fellow owners to "have a very frank and real conversation" and "speak more freely" about the future of the NFL in L.A.
Spanos described the meeting to the San Diego Union-Tribune as "good" and that he believed "the league is working towards a resolution."
Here's what else we learned from Wednesday's league meeting:
- More on Los Angeles from Rapoport, who told NFL Network: "When you talk to some of these key owners here, (the Chiefs) Clark Hunt, specifically, yesterday ... we're starting to get a real sense of urgency now where ... people just want answers, especially some of the team personnel involved in making this decision and involved in potentially moving to L.A. or trying to find a stadium solution in their local markets. At this point, there's some conventional wisdom of simply setting a deadline in January, setting a vote and forcing the local markets to put their best options on the table and forcing these owners to get in the room ... and really hash out some of the key issues."
- Rapoport also reported the NFL passed a proposal to trim the anti-tampering period prior to free agency down to two days. Since 2012, teams were given three days to reach out to players and discuss the parameters of potential deals. No contract can be signed during the negotiating period and teams aren't technically allowed to make an offer, but the arrangement has helped grease the skids for a rash of big deals at the launch of the open market.
- Also passed: A proposal that will allow teams to trade compensatory picks beginning in 2017. This was "something that teams are involved in a lot of trades have wanted for some time," Rapoport said, noting that the league believes it "livens things up a little bit" and "gives teams more artillary to complete some of these deals."
- Goodell said the league will continue to "strive toward perfection" in regard to its officiating. Responding to questions about mistakes made by officials during games this season, Goodell said the league is looking at having technology possibly play a greater role in helping referees. In addition, he has asked the NFL's competition committee to take a look at "aspects of our officiating" in order to improve the process. "That includes clarifications of rules, that includes simplifying where we can on rules, the way we train officials, the way we put crews together," Goodell said.