When the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers sold for $2 billion last month, you can rest assured that the NFL league office was hearing cash register noises. It has been nearly 20 years since America’s No. 1 professional sports league has occupied the country’s No. 2 media market, but it seems increasingly likely that they’ll get back to the home of The Doors in the next few years. The league’s ventures into London are also starting to bear fruit and the idea of putting a team in the Europe has a lot of influential supporters, including Falcons owner Arthur Blank. And while it’s long-term profitability may be debatable, Toronto looms large as a possible NFL city with the Bills just over the border.
Business is booming, but it’s hard to imagine that the league will expand beyond 32 teams. As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wrote yesterday, there’s already a dearth of capable quarterbacks and that pool will get paper thin in a 34 team league. That leaves relocation as the answer, and Florio ran down the five candidates to go elsewhere.
The Bills, who can’t leave Western New York until after the 2020 season thanks to the work of late owner Ralph Wilson, are the first team listed. Ownership groups from different regions have lined up, including Jon Bon Jovi’s Toronto contingent, but that ironclad contract will keep them in place for some time. The Jaguars are playing in London once per year through 2016, but owner Shad Khan has been vocal about his commitment to Jacksonville. The Raiders could move as soon as after the 2014 season thanks to their stadium situation, though it’s unclear if the league wants owner Mark Davis to take the team out of Oakland. The Chargers have said that they want to remain in San Diego, but Florio still lists them as an L.A. possibility and raises the idea of them doing a Jets/Giants-type split with another tenant. Finally, the Rams‘ lease allows them to leave pretty much whenever they feel like it and the allure of an L.A. return must be strong.
So, if you had to call it now, which team would you say will be on the move first? (If you choose “another team,” let us know which one in the comment section.)