Bills relocation talk churns again

April, 29, 2014
Apr 29
10:30
AM ET
The extra two weeks before the draft provides some more time to talk about the draft ... and the Buffalo Bills' future.

That topic came onto the radar Monday evening when the Toronto Sun reported that the Bills' lease with Erie County, specifically its non-relocation document, prevented sale of the team to any party intent on relocating.

It's worth noting that the full non-relocation agreement has been available on the Erie County website for anyone with an appetite for some legalese.

Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz, who sat down for an extended interview with ESPN earlier this month, appeared on WGR 550 on Tuesday morning to respond to the Toronto Sun's report.

Poloncarz stressed that the non-relocation agreement only prohibits the sale of the team to a party that would relocate during the terms of the agreement. That does not include a small buyout window in 2020, after the seventh year of the lease, when the lease can legally be terminated for $28 million.

In other words, the team could legally be sold to a group that says they wouldn't move the team until 2020. Since that would lead to several lame-duck seasons at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the more likely scenario for any group wanting to relocate would be to shroud their intentions until 2018 or 2019.

For example, a group from Toronto would be able to buy the team in 2014 or 2015 and say that they will "evaluate all possibilities," or something similarly vague. They would continue to play games in Orchard Park but it wouldn't prevent the team from moving to Toronto in 2020.

As far as any efforts to relocate the Bills prior to 2020, the facts remain the same: doing so would violate the terms of the lease and Erie County would take the team to county court. In order to move before 2020, the Bills would have to win in court and pay $400 million in damages. Poloncarz says that wouldn't be impossible but highly unlikely.

It's also worth noting that whoever buys the Bills would have no obligation to negotiate a longer lease at Ralph Wilson Stadium -- or cooperate with efforts to build a new stadium -- and would legally be free to move the team once the lease expires in 2023.

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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