The Bills will be in Buffalo for seven more years at least… likely. That is if Mr. Moneybags doesn't swoop in and dole out the required $400 million to move the team before that part of the agreement is completed.
It's a time for praise, right?
Well, sure. For right now, anyway.
A lot can happen over the course of seven years. Other franchises can fall out of favor in their respective cities, teams can be sold and the Los Angeles situation could all be wrapped up by the time it's done.
At this point, Bills fans are banking on that specific facet of uncertainty in the future. For a large part over the past five years, that very uncertainty is what led to fears of a potential relocation once the previous lease ran out.
Now that there is a tiny bit of definition for Buffalo, safety is likely guaranteed for the relatively near-future. And that's fine if you're in to the here and now, but it's hard to ignore what the bell tolls seven years from now.
I'm of the full belief that the men that spoke at today's press conference -- Governor Andrew Cuomo, Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Bills CEO Russ Brandon -- all want the same thing.
They want the Bills to stay in Buffalo for the long-term.
However, the fact that an opt-out clause after the seventh year for a paltry (by NFL standards) $28,363,500 was worked in, and that it was mentioned briefly at best during the press conference, it should be a tiny cause of concern to Bills fans looking for long-term security for their favorite football team.
Don't get the message twisted. This is a good day for Buffalo. The fact that western New York will keep an economic juggernaut in the area for seven years is a huge win for the local landscape.
To put blind faith in the long-term plan to keep the organization in the area past those seven years, however, is a little short-sighted in my opinion. There were legitimate concerns and questions about the small buyout number, after the seventh year, that were quickly thwarted when it was brought up by the press.
As a reporter adeptly pointed out, $28 million is not a lot of money in today's NFL, and it especially won't be seven years from now. To put it in perspective, Mario Williams was guaranteed almost double that just to come play football in Orchard Park. $28 million is minuscule by the league's standards.
County Executive Poloncarz pointed out the Bills could have left already for far less.
"Last year, they could have left this community for two million dollars based on the prior lease," he said. "I know we have a strong commitment from Mr. Wilson and the Bills organization. As Russ has noted, if they wanted to leave they could have left for peanuts in the last few years. They have been committed to this community and continue to be committed to this community through the life of this agreement."
Although accurate, it leaves out the core variable that has crippled Bills fans for years -- way before this agreement was ever struck. Ralph Wilson is committed to Buffalo, but what happens when he passes away?
This fancy new seven-year pact does not address that key concern. As long as Wilson is alive, the Bills are not in jeopardy of leaving Buffalo. The unknown of the future past him, however, looms.
Who's to say that the new owner, or ownership group, will fall in love with the charm of the notoriously underdog city as Wilson did? They're essentially asking for an implicit trust that they won't go anywhere, despite making it fairly easy for a potential cash-grabbing new owner to get out of the lease agreement and fly the coup with the Bills in tow.
To make matters even more interesting, the first time the $28 million clause was brought up during the question and answer portion of the program, the idea of a new stadium was publicly acknowledged as a working plan. Friday marked the first time that those involved directly with the future of the organization unsolicitedly brought up the idea of a new stadium in Buffalo for the Bills.
"In year eight or at the end of year seven for the beginning of year eight, the organization would have an option if they so choose to buy out the last three years at a $28 million cost," Poloncarz said. "What I will note though as people are talking that this is only seven years. As Russ (Brandon) just noted, we are putting together a team to analyze whether a new stadium should be built."
So, let's get this straight:
For many years on end, it's been about the idea to make Ralph Wilson Stadium in to the Fenway Park of the National Football League. The idea of a new stadium hasn't gone as far as being ridiculed, but,was continually dismissed within seconds of the question being asked.
Now, with the negative news that all it will take is for a new owner to pay $28 million to get out of the county lease in seven years, a new stadium is suddenly on the table. Granted, it was mentioned after the Bills talked about wanting to focus on the upcoming renovations, but you get the point.
I'm not saying it was a ploy by any stretch of the imagination. However, the sudden change of heart on such a polarizing topic is alarming and was the most intriguing part of the day's discussion.
With all that said, is the future of the Bills in Buffalo etched in stone? That's what people really want to know. No, but the news of the day certainly helps for the short-term.
Brandon knew the inevitable question regarding the succession plan was on the way at some point of Friday's press conference. Armed with the answer, he had to crack an internal smile when it was brought up on the announced final question of the day.
"I focus on the here and now," Brandon said. "Ralph Wilson is the Hall of Fame owner of the Buffalo Bills. The question becomes tiresome. I understand it, but it becomes tiresome. Mr. Wilson’s loyalty is unmatched as any owner in professional sports. I think we should be here today to applaud him."
Somewhere, the world's most illustrious rappers were waiting for the Bills CEO to drop the mic in celebration of his verbal victory.
Just as most understand where Brandon is coming from it being tedious and tiresome to continue to field those questions while paying respect to the team's longtime owner, he must understand that fans just want a secure and firm answer as to what happens when Ralph Wilson passes away.
At this point, it remains a mystery.
Until that hanging variable comes to fruition, however, Bills fans will continue to wonder what will happen to this team despite the new lease agreement.
So for seven years, the Bills are seemingly safe. At least the fans can celebrate having their favorite football team in town through the teens of the 21st century.
After that, who knows.