The Oakland Raiders have assured Raider Nation that their days in Oakland are done. What was once unthinkable is the case now: the Silver and Black are gutting the Oakland Raiders and building the Las Vegas Raiders. The Raiders have also sent the clear message that it’s all about money – dollars they don’t have because of the cost of the relocation.
The Raiders under Manager of the General Partner Mark Davis and Head Coach Jon Gruden have made the decision to avoid even trying to pay Amari Cooper what would have been $13,924,000 by 2019.
In effect, the Raiders gave up a special player. Raiders media relations wrote this “A first-round selection (fourth overall) by the Raiders in the 2015 NFL Draft, Cooper started in 47-of-52 career games for the club. Since joining the club, Cooper has tallied 225 receptions for 3,183 yards (14.1 avg.) and 19 touchdowns. A two-time Pro Bowler, Cooper became just the third player in NFL history to record 1,000 receiving yards and 70 receptions in each of his first two seasons (2015-16).”
But, in effect, the Raiders avoided another 2017 Khalil Mack situation, where they faced a $13 million payment to him, and that was not including his considerable market value. Mr. Mack was snapped up by the Chicago Bears, scored a six-year, $141 million, $90 million guaranteed contract, and paid the Raiders a 2019 NFL Draft Pick, in the 1st Round.
So, now, with Amari Cooper, the Raiders find themselves with three picks in the 2019 NFL Draft 1st Round. And given the reason why the Silver and Black parted ways with two key members of the soul of the team, all the chortling about the three new draft picks by General Manager Reggie McKenzie masks the fact that the Raiders are in a financial bind.
“We made a trade today with the Dallas Cowboys,” said McKenzie Monday during a sit-down with the media. “It was an opportunity that I felt I couldn’t pass on. To get a first-round pick, in this business here, I thought was invaluable. It’s something that I felt like I had to do moving forward for this organization. I love Amari. I just felt when I got a call from Stephen Jones this morning, he put it on the table, what he wanted to do, and he wanted the player, and he gave me the pick, and that’s what it came down to.”
But the real story is why do this? The reason is as plain as the Las Vegas Stadium structure going up on I-15 and Russell Road: the relocation expense has sucked money the Raiders would normally have for players and player development.
There are two sides to the revenue model for sports teams, including in the National Football League: stadium and team. On the stadium side, the team can make money primarily from in stadium sponsorships, luxury suite sales, and ticket sales. On the team side, the organization takes in money from primarily from merchandise sales (jerseys and hats) and sponsorship rights fees related to media. There are variations on this structure, one big example being the LA Rams Owner Stan Kronke’s LA Sports and Entertainment Complex in Inglewood, California.
But what happens when the team has to pay money to build a new stadium? For all of the noise about the $750 million subsidy for the Las Vegas Stadium ($650 million of that a bond issue) the building costs north of $2 billion. Since the State of Nevada has said its not spending more than that $750 million, and the Bank of America line of credit of $850 million only ads up to $1.6 million, just less than the guaranteed maximum price of Las Vegas Stadium. If the stadium costs $2.1 billion, then that’s $500 million the Raiders have to come up with. So, the Silver and Black has $200 million from the NFL, and expects $250 million from PSL sales. So far, there’s no indication the Raiders are even close to gaining all of that money, and then more to cover cost overruns.
The point is, the Oakland Raiders are trying to free up more money to make the Las Vegas Stadium Project pencil out – and that means shedding star players including Amari Cooper. But given the Raiders financial situation at present, and the wait for what would logically be casino-related sponsorship deals to happen, why would anyone think the organization would keep all of those picks?
I see the Raiders using them to trade down and add more 2019 picks, and continue the strategy of bottom-feeding: finding players who were once stars but had an injury that caused them to fall in NFL Draft value.
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