- The Raiders want to retain Latavius Murray, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (on Twitter). But the reporter adds the fifth-year running back will have a market as well. Teams like the Giants, Buccaneers, Vikings and others could be in need of a medium- or long-term backfield solution. Murray may have some additional appeal due to the fact he has less wear and tear than other backs who have entered free agency in recent years. A starting back for barely two years and having missed his entire rookie season due to injury, the 27-year-old Murray only has 543 carries on his odometer. The sides have discussed an extension, and Reggie McKenzie noted Murray’s importance to Oakland’s offense — while acknowledging he may be swayed toward the market — earlier this month.
- Although previous reports have indicated the Raiders‘ plan to relocate to Las Vegas is “dead,” Oakland executive Mark Badain recently told the NFL the club has financial backing from two banks willing to loan the Raiders money for their move, tweets Jason Cole of Bleacher Report. The Raiders last month lost the support of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who was planning to put $650MM towards a Vegas stadium, but reportedly still had “high hopes” of moving to Nevada.
New Raiders offensive coordinator Todd Downing had a year remaining on his deal, but the contract allowed the ex-quarterbacks coach to interview for other clubs’ offensive coordinator vacancies, according to Jerry McDonald of the Oakland Tribune (Twitter link). Without naming any particular team, Downing confirmed previous reports that multiple clubs expressed interest in hiring him as OC. Instead, Oakland parted ways with former play-caller Bill Musgrave and installed Downing as coordinator.
- The Bears have interviewed Bob Bicknell, Ronald Curry, and George McDonald as part of their effort to find a new wide receivers coach, reports Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Bicknell has coached wideouts at the NFL level since 2012, spending time with Buffalo, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Curry, a former NFL wide receiver himself, has worked on the Raiders’ and 49ers’ staffs, while McDonald has spent the past several years in the coaching ranks.
Already under police investigation for an alleged domestic violence incident that took place last Saturday, Raiders pass rusher Aldon Smith is now on the NFL’s radar, writes Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group. “We are looking in to the matter,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told McDonald in an email Tuesday. Smith has been serving a substance abuse suspension since November 2015 and has a chance to gain reinstatement in March, but the league could push back its decision or even hand him an indefinite ban as a result of his latest off-field issue, per McDonald.
Troubled Raiders pass rusher Aldon Smith is under “active” police investigation for an alleged domestic violence incident that took place over the weekend, according to TMZ. Police responded to a phone call placed from a San Francisco home early Saturday morning and took a report after speaking to Smith and the alleged victim. Smith was not arrested.
If anything comes of the police investigation, it could be a death blow to Smith’s NFL career. The 27-year-old has already accrued five arrests since entering the NFL as the 49ers’ first-round pick (No. 7 overall) in 2011. He’s also amid his second suspension, one that cost him a significant portion of the 2015 season and the entire 2016 campaign. Smith’s latest ban came after violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, and he’s currently on track to gain reinstatement in March. But another serious off-field slip-up before then – which this could be – would surely prevent the league from allowing him to return.
While Smith is under Raiders control through next season, team owner Mark Davis has taken a strong stand against domestic violence, as Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News notes (Twitter link). As evidenced in the cases of Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and Josh Brown, all of whom were in the news for domestic violence incidents in recent years, it’s difficult to find work in the league these days with such a black mark on your resume. Like Hardy, Smith has been especially productive on the field. In 59 career regular-season games, Smith has amassed 47.5 sacks and five forced fumbles, though his immense talent has largely gone to waste over the past couple years.
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We learned yesterday that the Raiders were still optimistic about a potential move to Las Vegas, a move that recently encountered several major hurdles when casino magnate Sheldon Adelson withdrew his $650MM pledge for a potential $1.9B, 65,000-seat stadium in Sin City, and investment firm Goldman Sachs declared that it would not help the Raiders finance a stadium without Adelson’s involvement.
But while the Raiders still believe they can make a relocation work, it appears that the bridge with Adelson has been burned for good. Last night, Richard N. Velotta of the Las Vegas Review-Journal passed along a series of comments from Andy Abboud, vice president of government relations and community affairs for casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corp. and a spokesman for the Adelson family. Abboud’s statements are the first from either party regarding stadium development negotiations.
The entire piece is worth a read, but Abboud said Raiders executives changed their minds about certain issues in mid-negotiation, which precipitated Adelson’s decision. Per Abboud, the last straw was the Raiders’ decision to take a proposed stadium lease agreement to the Las Vegas Stadium Authority without telling or involving the Adelsons. Adelson withdrew his support four days after the agreement was presented to the Stadium Authority.
Abboud said of the lease, “The concern that we had and the concern that everybody has in hindsight is the 117-page proposed lease agreement that did not reflect the commitments that the Adelson family made to the Raiders and that the Raiders had made to the Adelson family. It did not reflect the commitments that were made to UNLV. It did not make the commitments that were promised to the community, and it was in no way reflective of the months of [Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee] meetings and reflective of what it took to get the members of the Legislature to vote for the funding.”
Abboud added that the two sides negotiated over such issues as stadium naming rights, sponsorships, revenue from stadium contractors, parking, signage, and use by UNLV, but whenever Adelson’s team believed they had struck an accord, the Raiders would change their minds again.
Abboud said the team was demanding more and more as the negotiations wore on, and that Adelson “was willing to share revenues and make it financially mutually beneficial, but [the Raiders] were picking his pocket. I think that they felt they were asking to be entitled to revenue streams and things that simply made the deal unworkable. It was never about the financial return for the Adelsons, but the Adelson family wasn’t going to have their pocket picked, by the Raiders or by the NFL or anybody.”
Needless to say, this report presents just one side of the story, as Raiders President Marc Badain told Velotta several days ago that the team would not comment on the negotiations. Further, the Las Vegas Review-Journal is owned by Adelson’s family, so all of this should be taken with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, it does provide an interesting glimpse into the negotiations that once seemed destined to bring the NFL to Las Vegas but that now appear to be completely dead.
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Despite a number of setbacks, the Raiders are not discouraged regarding a potential move to Las Vegas. In early January, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson withdrew his $650MM pledge for a potential $1.9B, 65,000-seat stadium in Sin City. Following those reports, there wasn’t much optimism that the organization could get the necessary financial backing in time for the NFL owners’ meeting in six weeks. However, a recent report by Regina Garcia Cano of SFGate.com noted that the Raiders still have “high hopes for the project.”
Members of the organization met with the stadium authority board this past week for the first time since Adelson bailed from the plan. The two sides are still optimistic that they can still find a suitable lease agreement, and the team is reportedly in discussions with “multiple financial institutions” to make up for the monetary discrepancy.
“We’re in an industry where we’re used to plugging along, and we’re used to having starts and stops,” Raiders president Marc Badain said on Thursday (via ESPN.com’s Paul Gutierrez). “[Raiders owner] Mark Davis made a commitment to [Nevada] Governor [Brian] Sandoval, and we intend to see that through.”
The Raiders seemingly thought they’d have the money for a new stadium, with Adelson committing $650MM, the organization promising $500MM, and the stadium authority paying $750MM in tax revenues. However, Adelson’s withdrawal clearly threw a wrench in this plan. The Raiders were apparently hoping for financial assistance from Goldman Sachs, but a recent report implied that they have bailed on the project, as well.
The Raiders are running out of time, as owners would presumably vote on the move during their meeting in late March. Besides accounting for the necessary finances, the organization also has to determine a worthy location for the proposed stadium. Cano writes that a “parcel of land” near the Las Vegas Strip is currently the ideal landing spot. The Raiders would reportedly be sharing their new stadium with UNLV.
“The organization remains fully committed to this project,” Badain said. “We are not deterred. Financing will not be an issue.”
For what it’s worth, commissioner Roger Goodell said last week that investors affiliated with casinos may not be the best choice for the Raiders.
“I don’t see an ownership position in a team from a casino,” Goodell said. “That is not something that is consistent with our policies … not likely a stadium, either.”
- Speaking on 97.5 The Game, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie sounded interested in re-signing running back Latavius Murray, but admitted Oakland could get priced out of the picture. “He’s one of those kinds that don’t come around too often when you talk about size,” said McKenzie. “I’m always in position to want to re-sign our own players, but the finances of it always will play a part. You never know there’s 31 other teams out there who may be communicating to his representatives.”
“The Raiders have torn up Jack Del Rio’s original contract and rewarded him with a new four-year deal,” said Raiders owner Mark Davis in a written statement. “We are excited to continue building on the strong foundation that has been established and this is a significant step in achieving that goal.”
As Davis notes, this is a completely new contract for Del Rio, who was already signed through the 2018 season. Reports last month indicated Oakland intended to start negotiations with Del Rio, who just completed his second season as head coach, soon. Del Rio led the Raiders to a four-win improvement during his first go-round as coach in 2015, then took the Raiders back to the postseason for the first time in 14 years this January.
The 53-year-old Del Rio won 12 games for the second time in his career, and although he has yet to win a division title in 10 years as a head coach, the Raiders came close to accomplishing that this season after failing to sniff such a perch in years.
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