Some viewed the recent decision of AEG’s Tim Leiweke to list five teams other than the Buffalo Bills as candidates for a purchase-and-pack-it-up transaction as a reason to believe that the Bills won’t be targeted for relocation to Los Angeles. Count Jerry Sullivan of the Buffalo News as among those who view the development as a good sign.
There’s a good chance, however, that the glass is in reality much more than half empty. With Albert Breer of NFL Network pointing out that, in reality, AEG has been communicating regularly with more than five teams, the Bills become the odds-on favorite for the role of Team No. 6.
And No. 6 could be No. 1. Leiweke isn’t stupid enough to publicly out the teams that he believes are the best candidates to be available to be bought and then moved. Instead, it’s more likely that Leiweke’s list consists of teams that he knows AEG won’t be buying and moving; thus, he had no qualms about putting those five franchises in a delicate position in their current homes.
Indeed, the latest tweak introduced by Leiweke — AEG owner Philip Anschutz’s desire to acquire majority interest in the team that moves to L.A. — reduces dramatically the potential universe of franchises that could be moved, since the first hurdle would be a willingness by the current owners to sell. So if the Raiders and Chargers and Rams and Jaguars and Vikings aren’t for sale, then they won’t be the first tenants of the stadium that has a name but at this point not much more.
The Bills, on the other hand, eventually will meet both of the primary criteria for landing in L.A..
“When [92-year-old owner Ralph] Wilson is gone, all bets are off,” Sullivan writes. “If he dies, the Bills would be at or near the top of any list for possible relocation. Wilson has no known succession plan. He plans to have the team auctioned to the highest bidder. It’s hard to imagine the top bid coming from someone who intends to keep the Bills in this market.”
Even if the highest bidder has Buffalo roots, long-term earning potential will be much greater in Los Angeles. Thus, the best hope for Bills fans would be a willingness to support a full-time move to Toronto, with maybe a game or two per year played in Buffalo.
That strategy presents two possible problems. First, if the Bills are going to leave Buffalo, most fans would prefer that they leave. If a guy is going to lose his wife, he’d prefer that she move in with a man who lives in another state, not in another house in the same neighborhood. Second, Toronto will want its own team, not one to which the folks in Buffalo can claim partial ownership.
Regardless, unless and until someone steps up with a willingness to buy the Bills and a stubborn belief that the numbers will work in a shrinking market, the Bills will be one of the most likely teams to be targeted by AEG. The fact that Leiweke specifically avoided opening a Western New York can of worms when trying to build some buzz in his backyard should make folks in Buffalo even more skittish about how this could eventually play out.