It has been nearly two decades since the Raiders and Rams left Los Angeles. In recent years any team that has been in a squabble with their hometown about facilities or support has been rumored to be considering their options in regards to relocating their franchise.
Last week Texas governor Rick Perry told UT San Diego that if the Chargers faced major problems at home, San Antonio would love to have them. While LA still has no facility for an NFL team to move into, speculation continues that much like the Staples Center, a stadium to house multiple teams could be constructed. If the City of Angels is on the market for a team or two, and San Antonio wants a franchise, unless the NFL expands, where will these teams relocate from?
The three oldest stadiums in the league are non-starters when it comes to a franchise moving. Soldier Field was renovated 10 years ago and the Bears are not leaving Chicago. The Packers are owned by Green Bay residents, Lambeau Field is historic in every way and has been upgraded recently, plus their support is as great as any team in the league. Candlestick Park has been a dump since it opened in 1960, but it does not matter since the 49ers are moving into a new stadium south of San Francisco in 2014.
Seventeen NFL stadiums have been built since 1997. The group includes new facilities in Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Baltimore. They are three cities that know something about franchise relocation. That trio of teams is a clear warning sign to other fan bases, if your owner has a wondering eye, and you don't step up to the plate, your team can move, sometimes under the cover of darkness in the middle of the night.
If we take Carolina and Minneapolis off our possible list of departing teams since each city recently committed to spend enough cash to keep their franchises, the list of squads poised to move narrows to nine. Kansas City has supported a mediocre franchise for a long time, and improvements to Arrowhead Stadium ensure that the Chiefs will remain in Missouri. That leaves three domes that need work, four old stadiums in dire need of improvements, and the Jaguars who need support.
New Orleans, St. Louis, and Atlanta all have out-of-date domes. The Superdome is the oldest and in the most need of repair (did you watch the Superbowl?). The Edward Jones Dome seems closest to replacing though political squabbles in St. Louis continue. The Falcons seem somewhat happy with the Georgia Dome and the stadium's owner has begun to look at the possibility of rebuilding it.
Two Florida teams, Miami and Jacksonville, have issues. The Dolphins problem is a franchise that has consistently struggled since Dan Marino retired in 1999, and the largest upper bowl of any NFL stadium. Having a lot of non-premium seats and a mediocre product is not good in a 25 year old stadium. The Jags have also been weak on the field, the fan base seems apathetic, and when the Super Bowl was held there in 2005 there was widespread criticism of the city.
Three old AFL teams also need a new home. Buffalo, San Diego, and Oakland have all been well supported at one time or another, but have problems. All three are in smaller NFL markets, each team has had success but not recently, and they all play in old out-of-date facilities. They are ripe for the picking. Each has been rumored to be on the move, and any or all could depart.
Of the eight possibilities, some of the cities will step up and support a new stadium. Others will wait out the life span of an aging owner, or hope to hit the lottery with a player that brings life to the team and brings the fans back to fully support the franchise. Cities that do not step up will continue to be vulnerable to Los Angeles, San Antonio, or somebody else swooping in and luring their team to a new city.