As the NFL’s effort to figure out which of three interested teams will get the golden ticket to L.A. (along with the privilege of paying dearly for it through relocation fees), the process is quickly getting uglier, with members of the league’s Los Angeles committee making promises to St. Louis in an effort to keep the Rams there and publicly trashing San Diego in an effort to get the Chargers out.
It’s careening toward a potential free-for-all on January 12 and 13, when the owners get together with the goal of putting at least one team in Los Angeles, possibly two. From that chaos a variety of potential solutions can emerge. One solution that was mentioned on Thursday as an outside-the-box/beyond-the-boundaries-of-sanity suggestion could, surprisingly, gain traction.
Indeed, it ultimately could be the only way out of this mess.
In 1972, Carroll Rosenbloom and Robert Irsay swapped the Colts and the Rams. Ultimately, a swap of the Chargers and the Rams could be the cleanest way out of the league’s sudden L.A. clusterfudge.
As one source with knowledge of the current league dynamics said in response to the possibility of a franchise swap, “It’s not a bad idea.”
Good or bad, it may be the only way to placate everyone involved.
With folks like Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and Texans owner Bob McNair, two of six members of the L.A. committee, campaigning openly for the Chargers to move to L.A. and for the Rams to stay put in St. Louis, giving the Chargers to Stan Kroenke (who would move them to L.A.) and the Rams to Dean Spanos (who would keep them in Missouri) would allow Kroenke to build his own venue in Inglewood, at a site that many believe is better — and more potentially profitable — than the proposed Chargers/Raiders location in Carson.
Making Inglewood even more attractive is talk of Kroenke building new studio space for NFL Network there, which would be available to the league for the right price: Free. And even though the jury remains out on whether FAA concerns regarding an Inglewood stadium would keep the thing from being built, the Carson site has issues, too.
“Most of that site was a former landfill. It’s contaminated land,” Carson mayor Albert Robles acknowledged earlier this year. “There is a strip, about 11 acres, that was never a landfill.” With the total site at 168 acres, the simple math (which is the only math I understand) is that 157 acres was a landfill.
And while Spanos, who will be reluctant to leave Southern California, the numbers quickly will pile up in his favor if he’d trade the Chargers for the Rams.
First, Spanos would incur no relocation fee.
Second, Spanos would surely secure extra money from Kroenke in a Chargers-Rams trade, given that Kroenke would then take the Chargers to L.A. It becomes, as a practical matter, a private relocation fee paid directly to Spanos. The extra amount paid to Spanos for the Chargers could persuade the league at large to insist on less from Kroenke to take the Chargers on a relatively short trip up the road.
Third, Spanos would cash in with the Rams, getting the new stadium he covets and filling it up with a fan base both relieved and invigorated by the fact that the team is staying put. Consider the bump the Buffalo Bills realized when, after months of uncertainty regarding the future location of the team, Terry and Kim Pegula purchased the franchise and renewed the vows with Western New York. A similar outcome in St. Louis would make Spanos an instant hero there, with corresponding dollars flowing into the team’s coffers. (Kroenke, a Missouri native named for Cardinals legends Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter, also would salvage a bit of his image and legacy there, since he will have found a way to leave while also leaving the team behind.)
If the possibility of a swap ever makes its way into the meeting room, the question becomes how much money would Spanos need (in addition to getting the Rams) to pull the trigger on a trade. Surely, there’s a sufficiently large number that would get him to do it. The question is whether that’s a number Kroenke would offer — and whether the rest of the owners would work with Kroenke and Spanos to make it happen by not putting any thumbs on the relocation-fee scale.
Is it a perfect solution? Far from it. But it may be the only thing that works at a time when: (1) plenty of owners think Spanos deserves to get out of San Diego; (2) plenty of owners think the Rams should stay in St. Louis; (3) Kroenke has plenty of money to make everyone happy and still get what he wants — a team in L.A.; and (4) nothing will get approved without 24 votes.
The deeper question is whether owners like Richardson and McNair would be willing to work with Kroenke to let him get to L.A. with a different team, or whether their opposition to a Rams move is less about keeping the team in St. Louis and more about pushing back against Kroenke, who has behaved to date in a way that has rubbed plenty of his partners the wrong way.