All Signs Point to the Rams as the NFL’s New Los Angeles Team

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Warning: What follows is some reasonable conjecture. This is not a statement that the Rams will be leaving St. Louis, or that they are destined to reprise their role as the Los Angeles NFL team once again. No one knows for sure, and our fortune teller is being decidedly murky on that front. That disclaimer applied, it feels like there is a lot more evidence (albeit circumstantial) for the Rams becoming the newest LA team than any other franchise in the league.

For one thing, the Rams’ owner, Stan Kroenke, is finally using the 60 acres of Los Angeles property he bought last February. How is Kroenke planning on using it? In early January 2015, the announcement came that he would be using it in conjunction with the nearly 300 acres associated with the Hollywood Park project to build an NFL Stadium in LA. The NFL, as you might have gathered, doesn’t embark on these sort of things just for the sake of it — nearly every new football stadium that’s been build has been publicly funded, which is how the league prefers to operate. The fact that they’re willing to pony up some of their own resources to ensure that the currently undisclosed team will have a state-of-the-art arena shows how factual a Los Angeles-based team is becoming.

Of course, it’s worth repeating that none of this will take place before 2016, per league commissioner Roger Goodell. While teams can apply for relocation each year, the Ginger Hammer (Deadspin’s spectacular nickname for Goodell) put the 86 on any moves for 2015. This is one of the things he can do. But why the Rams, rather than the Raiders or the Chargers?

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Well, mostly, it’s the involvement of Stan Kroenke. The Raiders and the Rams are both on yearly leases with their arenas — the O.co and the Edward Jones Arena, respectively — and while Oakland is also dealing with the Athletics in any potential move or reexamination of a new stadium in the Bay Area, the Rams are alone in their arena adventures. So, from an ease of exit point of view, the Rams have the edge on the Raiders (as well as the Chargers, who would have to incur an early termination fee on their lease if they wanted to leave in 2016). There’s also the fact that Oakland wants to keep their teams, and are arguing that the squads should at least make a good faith effort to stay.

The Rams, though, are looking at a very favorable exit scenario. The Edward Jones arena (publicly funded, natch) is facing some questions about where the money for renovations is going to come from, and the Rams already have some history to go back to from their previous stint as a Los Angeles football team (although, obviously, the Raiders do as well). It is impossible to say with 100% certainty that the Rams will be headed to LA in 2016, but there is an NFL stadium being built in LA by the owner of the former LA Rams, who are on a very tenuous lease in their current St. Louis home.