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10 things to know about the Vikings stadium situation

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With the situation in Minnesota going from simmer to full boil over the past few days, and with Commissioner Roger Goodell and Steelers owner Art Rooney II, chair of the league’s stadium committee, planning to meet with legislative leaders on Friday, now is as good a time as any to get up to speed regarding a controversy that could result in a relocation of the Vikings, only a year after the 50th anniversary of their arrival to the NFL.

So here are 10 things to know, in a question-and-answer format.  (Why do it that way?  Because we want to.)

What’s wrong with the Metrodome?

It has been regarded as a given for years that the Metrodome is outdated, and that it can’t be modernized in a manner that unlocks the high-end revenue streams that will keep the Vikings competitive with other franchises.  Even though the Vikings have used the 30-year-old stadium roughly 300 times, the team believes that renovation isn’t an option.  No effort to contradict that claim has ever gained any serious traction in Minnesota.

Didn’t I read last month about a deal to build a new stadium?

You did.  But the agreement for a “People’s Stadium” represented only an understanding between the team, Governor Mark Dayton, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, and legislative leaders.  The deal calls for a $975 million facility, which would be built with $398 million from the state, $150 million from Minneapolis, and $427 million from the Vikings.  It still needs to be approved by the Legislature, and by the Minneapolis City Council.  For now, the proposed stadium bill died in a House committee on Monday night, and it has seen no progress at all in the Minnesota Senate.

The Vikings’ reaction to the current failure of the bill to even get a full legislative vote — the team says “there is no next year” — and the NFL’s direct involvement in negotiations represent a last-ditch effort to revive the deal that previously was reached.

What are the Vikings’ options?

If the stadium bill fails, the Vikings have to decide whether to try again, perhaps with a greater private contribution and/or a cheaper stadium.  If, as it appears, they aren’t inclined to try, owner Zygi Wilf can then try to move the team to a new city, sell the team to someone who would later apply for permission to move the team, or sell the team to someone who would keep the team in Minnesota.

Relocation could occur, with league approval, because the Vikings currently have no lease at the Metrodome.  In fact, if a decision to relocate after 2012 comes soon, the impact on the relationship between Minnesota and the Vikings could make it difficult for the Vikings and the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission to work out a one-year lease.  And no one at this point knows what would happen next.

Since there’s no lease, can the Vikings just pick up and move?

No.  Art Modell tried that in 1995, creating a huge mess that resulted in the Browns names and colors and records being left in Cleveland and a commitment to an expansion franchise.  The Vikings already are following the steps outlined in the league’s relocation policy, which requires a team to “diligently [engage] in good faith efforts” to “obtain a satisfactory resolution of its stadium needs” before informing the league of the existence of a “stalemate.”

The fact that the league directly is involved in the negotiations suggests that the Vikings have indeed informed the league that a “stalemate” exists.  If the situation can’t be resolved, the Vikings can then provide formal notice of an intention to relocate, sparking a process that could eventually culminate in a vote by the full ownership.  If 24 of the 32 owners agree, the move will be approved.

Along the way, the other owners would impose a transfer fee on the Vikings, which would be recommended by the Commissioner based on factors like the income streams in the new location, the income streams in the old location, the expenses in the new and old location, the differences between the new and old stadium, the demographics of the new and old markets.  It’s believed that a relocation to Los Angeles would result in a nine-figure transfer fee.

Would the Vikings leave behind the team name, logos, colors, and records?

Probably not.  As mentioned above, the deal to keep the Browns in Cleveland resulted from Art Modell’s unconventional, unilateral effort to move.  Also, the NFL planned to expand from 30 to 32 teams at the time the Browns moves to Baltimore.  The NFL currently doesn’t plan to expand, especially not in North America.

Most important, Minnesota wouldn’t get an expansion team without a new stadium.  And the reluctance to build a new stadium is what could cause the Vikings to leave.  So if they’re not going to build a new stadium now, there’s no reason to think they’ll do it later.

In other words, no matter how poorly the nickname may fit with the team’s next location, the Vikings will most likely remain the Vikings.

Why have the Vikings suddenly become so aggressive about possibly moving?

The Vikings had practiced patience for years.  Some think that the “Minnesota Nice” approach was selected under the theory that it would work better than a more blunt, matter-of-fact, anti-Field of Dreams “if you don’t build it, we will leave” strategy.  Others believe the Vikings simply wanted the media to do the team’s dirty work, reading the tea leaves and supplying the “or else” without the team having to do it.

The truth is that the language of the relocation policy, which expressly requires good-faith efforts to resolve the situation, forced the Vikings to try to get a new stadium deal without making threats or being unreasonable.  But to the extent that folks in Minnesota government believe that the Vikings haven’t taken a strong stand because they’ll eventually kick more and more (and more) money onto the table until the two circles of the Venn diagram kiss, a league source with knowledge of the dynamics explained to PFT on Thursday that Zygi Wilf, a successful real estate developer, can’t afford to cave when dealing with a public body; if he does, the public bodies with whom he routinely deals in other contexts will pounce on that high-profile show of weakness.

Why does the NFL build new stadiums with public money?

Because it can.

Some call it leverage.  Others call it extortion.  As NFL executive V.P. Eric Grubman told PFT Live on Thursday, the league regards it as competition.

Regardless, if one place won’t kick in significant public money to keep the NFL, someone else will kick in significant public money to get the NFL, either directly through cash contributions or indirectly through tax credits and other incentives.  Or through that Private Seat Licenses and/or higher ticket prices that a larger metropolitan area has the population density (i.e., enough really rich people) to support.

Notwithstanding the label applied, it’s a basic business reality of dealing with the most popular sports league in America.  With 32 teams and little or no chances at expansion, places that don’t have an NFL team but that want an NFL team will have to target an NFL team that already has a home.

Should public money be used to build NFL stadiums?

That’s for the people of a given city/state and their elected representatives to decide.  Public money gets spent on all sorts of things.  Sometimes, it’s a good investment.  Sometimes, it isn’t.

The presence of the NFL carries with it prestige and national legitimacy, along with an influx in local hotel, parking, and restaurant revenue on game days.  If that’s important to a given area and public money is necessary to make that happen, then the use of public money can be justified — especially if the facility will attract non-football events like concerts and conventions and a Final Four and other major activities.

Would a new Vikings stadium host a Super Bowl?

Probably, but the NFL can’t commit to that in advance.  Only the owners can award Super Bowls; that said, a habit has emerged over the past 35 years.  A new domed stadium (or an open-air venue in a warm-weather location . . . or New Jersey) results in a Super Bowl, if the city otherwise has the infrastructure to host the event (or, in the case of Jacksonville, even if it doesn’t).  The Metrodome hosted Super Bowl XXVI, the Silverdome and Ford Field in Detroit each got a Super Bowl.  Most recently, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis hosted Super Bowl XLVI.

The money and the prestige coming from the hosting of a Super Bowl would help justify a large chunk of the public money devoted to the project, if the people in Minnesota choose to do that.

Where is this heading?

At this point, it’s unclear.  But the NFL and the Vikings will push for an answer now, before the current legislative sessions ends.  And the league and the team are prepared to interpret no answer as a “no” answer.

The biggest problem with the current deal arises from the effort to avoid the Minneapolis City Charter, which requires a public vote for any contribution in excess of $10 million to a sports facility.  The House committee that recently killed the deal was troubled by the apparent circumvention of the charter provision.  Even if the stadium bill becomes law and the Minneapolis City Council officially signs off on the plan, any taxpayer in Minneapolis could challenge in court the funding mechanism as a failure to comply with the charter.

And so, just as the Governor and the Mayor of Minneapolis and the legislative leaders underestimated the willingness of the Legislature to reject their deal now, the folks who came up with this plan possibly have given too little consideration to the possibility that a judge could kill it later.

The simple reality seems to be that the people in Minnesota either don’t want to kick in enough money to get it done, or they don’t realize that the NFL is serious about leaving.  If it’s the former, that’s their prerogative.  If it’s the latter, they need to wake up, now.

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Roger Goodell gets loudly booed, league exec pushes back

AP

The good news about having 80,000 people show up for the draft is that it makes the event seem bigger than ever. The bad news is all more voices to boo Roger Goodell with.

Boo Goodell they did in Philadelphia. He played it off as well as he as he could, welcoming the crowd to bring it on with a forced smile. They responded with even more volume.

But while Goodell tried to put a happy face on the situation, long-time NFL executive Greg Aiello bristled a bit.

Aiello is right, but this isn’t a time for logic. Booing the Commissioner has become part of the draft experience. Wherever it goes, whoever shows up will boo Goodell. And when he walks to the crowd they’ll clamor to shake his hand.

But when he goes to the podium, they’ll boo.

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49ers take Solomon Thomas after trading down to the third spot

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The 49ers were among the draft’s early winners, before they even took a pick.

After trading down one spot, the 49ers used the third overall selection to take Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.

He adds to a line which has seen big investments lately. They’ve used their last two first-rounders on DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead.

Along with the picks they added, it gives them a solid foundation from which to build this year.

The 49ers were initially second in order, but the Bears were desperate to move up to take quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. So the 49ers gained Chicago’s third- and fourth-rounders this year and next year’s third to move down a spot.

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Bears trade up to No. 2, take Mitchell Trubisky

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The Bears had the third pick in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, but they didn’t want to wait that long to get on the clock.

Mike Glennon may not be long for the Bears’ starting quarterback job.

The Bears traded up one spot to leapfrog the 49ers and select North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. The Bears sent the 3rd overall pick, a 2017 third-round pick (No. 67), a 2017 fourth-round pick (No. 111 overall) and a 2018 third-round pick.

Trubisky joins Glennon, who signed with the Bears as a free agent this offseason on a deal that only has $2.5 million in guaranteed money next season. Trubisky was widely projected to be the first quarterback to be selected on Thursday night, but there weren’t many people banking on him going to Chicago. It’s a bold move by General Manager Ryan Pace and one that will likely wind up defining his tenure one way or another.

We’ll likely hear more about the machinations that led to the deal, but it’s fair to assume that 49ers General Manager John Lynch let them know that another team was coming up to take Trubisky or that they would be taking him themselves. The haul is a useful one for Lynch as he works to build a winner in his first season in his new job.

 

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Browns take Myles Garrett, as expected

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Warren Sapp be damned, the Browns took the consensus best player in the draft.

With the first overall selection, the Cleveland Browns selected Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett. It’s hardly a surprise, despite the best efforts of some to inject doubt into the process regarding the possible selection of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

Garrett has all the measurables, but some (including Sapp) have argued that he’s not sufficiently dominant to justify the selection. But if not him, then who?

That question was never fully answered. In a few minutes, it will be, as the 49ers Bears move into the driver’s seat.

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Coach of team in top 10 says it “could get crazy”

AP

You wanna get nuts? Let’s get nuts. Hopefully.

As the draft approaches, a coach of a team picking in the top 10 had this to say: “Could get nuts.”

Nearly every year, something happens that isn’t expected. Last year, it was a gas-mask bong video. This year, who knows?

Here’s what we do know: The Browns will be on the clock soon.

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Report: Chiefs “making most noise” about moving up in first round

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The start of the draft is almost upon us and we’ll find out the answers to a multitude of questions, including which teams will move up in the first round to grab a player they covet.

One team to watch may be the Chiefs. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that they are “making the most noise” about moving up from the No. 27 pick. Rapoport adds that they may be looking to move up as high as the top 10 to grab the apple of their eye.

Almost every time a team makes an aggressive move up, the thought is that they want to add a quarterback. The Chiefs have been mentioned as a landing spot for a quarterback and they were a stop on the rounds that this year’s top prospects made leading up to Thursday night.

A jump from No. 27 to the top 10 would likely carry a big price tag. The Chiefs currently have 10 picks at their disposal with four of them coming in the first three rounds.

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Look for Jarrad Davis to be gone by pick No. 22

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If linebacker Jarrad Davis is still on the board when the Dolphins go on the clock, chances are Davis won’t be on the board much longer. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the floor for Davis is believed to be pick No. 22, Miami.

The ceiling isn’t quite clear. The 2017 PFT Worst Mock Draft Ever has Davis going to Washington at No. 17. The Lions at No. 21 also are a possibility.

Davis, who played at Florida, is expected to compete immediately for the starting job as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme.

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Deshaun Watson: Mitchell Trubisky over me would be a slap in the face

AP

Former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson will not be happy if he’s not the first quarterback drafted tonight.

Watson says that if North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky is the first quarterback off the board, he’ll take it as a personal affront.

“It’s like a slap in the face, to be honest,” Watson told Josina Anderson of ESPN. “You see all the things I’ve accomplished, it’s a long list, and they want to talk about the little negatives I have and bring somebody else up? It’s a little disrespectful.”

No one would dispute that Watson had the superior college career to Trubisky, but some would argue that Trubisky has more of the tools that NFL teams look for in pro-style passers. That’s not necessarily a knock on Watson, but if he takes it that way, it’s hard to blame him.

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Cowboys make sense for Gareon Conley, for one specific reason

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The sudden cloud that emerged over cornerback Gareon Conley’s draft stock earlier this week seemed to instantly knock him out of round one. As the hours have passed, however, teams have had time to learn more about the situation. Most have the resources to talk to the witnesses and/or to have off-the-record conversations with law enforcement in Cleveland to find out what’s really going on.

Still, the risk for any team that considers Conley in round one, where he definitely would have been drafted but for this incident, flows from the possibility that he’ll eventually be charged with rape. If that happens, the G.M. that made the recommendation to ownership would instantly have a major, major problem.

Except in Dallas, where the G.M. and the owner are the same person.

It should surprise no one if the Cowboys put Conley’s name on a draft card tonight. Jerry Jones is riding a wave of acclimations and influence, a Hall of Famer and a relocation dealmaker who has been dubbed the “shadow commissioner” by ESPN The Magazine. The dice have been fairly hot for him lately, starting with the chance he took two years ago on La’El Collins as an undrafted free agent.

OK, it hasn’t been an unblemished run. Greg Hardy was a mistake, as was Randy Gregory. But Jones has the urgency to get back to the Super Bowl and win it with a team he can claim credit for building (even if others in the building and/or family deserve a lot of the credit, too), and if Jones can get a guy who would have been gone by the middle of the round at No. 28, that’s a major bonus.

Given that the team had two key cornerbacks leave during free agency (along with other defensive defections), the need is there. And the fear of repercussions won’t be, because Jones the owner ain’t firing Jones the G.M., no matter what.

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Gareon Conley to give DNA sample, interview with police Monday

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Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley will speak to Cleveland police about the sexual assault allegations made against him on Monday.

That was the word from Conley’s attorney Kevin Spellacy on Thursday, a few hours ahead of the start of the first round of the NFL Draft. Conley, who has not been charged with any crime, was considered to be a likely pick during that round before the allegations surfaced, but the uncertainty could leave him on the board until Friday.

Spellacy also told Cleveland.com that his client will provide a DNA sample to authorities and that he is trying to get video footage from the hotel where the alleged incident took place. Conley called the allegations “untrue, wrongful and malicious” in a statement released on Wednesday.

Conley was initially scheduled to attend the draft in Philadelphia, but changed those plans after the allegations went public earlier this week.

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Report: Browns will pick Myles Garrett first overall

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With the first overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns will select Myles Garrett, defensive end from Texas A&M.

That’s the word from Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, who reports that the Browns’ decision makers had one last meeting this afternoon and solidified the decision to draft Garrett.

Garrett has been the favorite to be the first overall pick for months, but in the last couple of days a slew of reports have suggested that the Browns could go with North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky instead.

It’s still possible that Trubisky could land in Cleveland, as the Browns also own the 12th overall pick and might move up to get the quarterback they want. But with the first pick, they’re going with Garrett, just as everyone thought they would all along.

And with that, the San Francisco 49ers are on the clock at No. 2.

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Cowboys waive suspended wideout Shaquelle Evans

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Wide receiver Shaquelle Evans will serve a four-game suspension to start the 2017 season, but he won’t have a chance to show the Cowboys he’s worth keeping around until he’s eligible to play.

The Cowboys announced Thursday that they have waived Evans off of their 90-man roster. The league announced Evans was suspended for violating the substance-abuse policy last Friday.

Evans was drafted by the Jets in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, but spent his rookie year on injured reserve and was waived coming out of the preseason in 2015. He spent time on the Jaguars and Patriots practice squads before landing with the Cowboys and has never seen any regular season action.

The Cowboys already had enough space on their roster to fit in all of their draft picks, but Evans’ departure opens up a spot they can fill with an undrafted free agent when that signing frenzy takes place after the end of the seventh round on Saturday.

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Cowboys still showing interest in Gareon Conley

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Two years ago, the Cowboys signed La’El Collins after he fell all the way from the first round to undrafted when he was falsely suspected of being involved in the murder of his ex-girlfriend. Now the Cowboys may think they can get another bargain on a prospect who is under criminal investigation.

The Cowboys are still showing interest in Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley and called him yesterday, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today. Conley previously took a pre-draft visit to Dallas.

Conley, the Ohio State cornerback who was expected to be drafted in the first round, was named this week as a suspect in a rape investigation. He has professed his innocence and has not been charged.

Unlike Collins, Conley is still expected to be drafted, and there is still an outside chance he could be drafted tonight.

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Report: Falcons could trade up in first round

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We’ve heard a lot this week about teams drafting early that would like to trade down in the first round and the lack of interest from buyers, but there are some teams that are reportedly open to such a move.

The Broncos are reportedly looking to move up from No. 20 and the 2016 NFC champions may be joining them in that pursuit. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the Falcons are “plotting a potential move” during the first round on Thursday.

Any move up wouldn’t be done just for the sake of picking earlier in the process, so any deal will almost certainly be contingent on a player the Falcons want being available at the right spot. It’s not clear who that player would be, but pass rusher and guard would be two spots where an addition would make sense.

Unless they are planning something similar to the trade that netted them the pick they used to select Julio Jones, that would seem likely to be somewhere near the end of the round as moving way up from No. 31 would cost Atlanta a lot.

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Report: Broncos looking to trade up

AP

At a time when plenty of teams in the first round would like to trade down, there’s not an overabundance looking to trade up. One franchise exploring it, according to Adam “Stella Liebeck” Schefter of ESPN is the Broncos.

Denver currently sits at No. 20. If they’re looking to move up, it’s not because they generally want a higher position; it’s because they have a specific player or two in mind.

One could be local product Christian McCaffrey, the son of former Broncos receiver Ed. Earlier this week, Broncos G.M. John Elway laughed off the team’s pre-draft meeting with McCaffrey.

“He was close and it was free,” Elway said, laughing. “And we wanted to meet with him. He’s a great kid. We like Christian a lot and we wanted to bring him in. It was one of those [where] he was in the area, so we wanted to take advantage of that to get to see him again. He’s a great kid.”

With McCaffrey expected to go between No. 5 and No. 15, the Broncos could possibly get him without having to go up very far.

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