NFC North: Lester Bagley

Vikings: Brand-building in London

September, 13, 2013
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings gathered people from across the organization, including team vice president Lester Bagley and general manager Rick Spielman, on Friday to talk about all the preparations for their trip to London this month.

There were plenty of interesting factoids about plans for the trip (the Gjallarhorn is coming, as are some American TV channels for players' hotel rooms and training table staples like Southern spices and Bisquick for breakfast biscuits; the inflatable Viking ship is staying home). But I wanted to focus briefly on a question that some of you have been asking today, and one I had a chance to talk with Bagley about after the presentation: Why are the Vikings giving up a home game in the first place if their share of game revenues won't exceed what they'd make at the Metrodome?

Bagley dispelled the notion on Friday that the trip will be a financial windfall for the team, pointing out that the game is technically a NFL event, and the league will reimburse the team for its average revenue for one game this season. But the appeal of a trip like this, from a business perspective, stems more from the marketing opportunities than the direct cash the team will make from the game.

According to Bagley, the Vikings have sold more tickets than any team in the seven-year history of the NFL's International Series, and as the home team, they've produced a 10-episode series on Sky Sports (the British network that will air the game) introducing British fans to the team. It's tough for the Vikings to get much more popular in Minnesota, but if they have a chance to woo some fans in a new (and affluent) market, it could give them a boost -- especially heading into two years where they might see a dip in their revenues playing at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus.

"It's an opportunity to expand our brand, and to provide a great experience for our fans," Bagley said, "and to be a team player for the NFL (by hosting a game in the series)."

The teams that have played home games in London in recent years -- St. Louis, Jacksonville, San Diego, etc. -- have largely been ones whose home-game revenues likely aren't as high as other teams in the league; in other words, they're teams with less to lose by moving a game overseas. Bagley didn't necessarily support that theory when I floated it by him today, but he did reiterate that the Vikings were in talks with the NFL about a deal to play games in London for three straight years, and wound up revising it to a one-year deal when the Jaguars agreed to move a home game to Wembley Stadium for each of the next four seasons.

The Vikings will have the opportunity to go back to London the next two seasons while they're at TCF Bank Stadium, though they'll have to make the decision whether the trip is worth it from a financial, logistical and competitive perspective. But if you're looking for a business incentive behind this trip, focus more on the marketing potential than the direct boost to the Vikings' bottom line from the game.
In perusing your comments and my Twitter mentions, it seems your interest in the Minnesota Vikings' latest stadium delay is twofold:
  1. Is the 2012 stadium agreement in jeopardy, putting the team back in play to move to Los Angeles?
  2. Could the delay push back the projected stadium debut in August 2016?

Based on my understanding of the situation as it stands now, there is no reason to believe the agreement will unravel or even be put up for re-negotiation. State leaders are acting as if they are nervous about the outcome of a New Jersey civil case involving the Wilf family, but in reality all they have done is ask for a certification of the financing behind the Vikings' $477 million commitment to the project.

The second issue is a bit more complicated. Groundbreaking is tentatively scheduled for late October or early November, and disassembly of the Metrodome will begin no later than February 2014. Once that is complete, there is a 30-month timetable for construction of the new stadium.

The chairwoman of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority has said the review and certification of the Wilfs' finances will take a matter of weeks. If that's the case, my understanding is that the stadium opening won't be impacted. But if it takes longer, the question becomes more difficult to address.

Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president of public affairs and stadium development, wouldn't comment on the tight timetable but reiterated the team has asked the authority to proceed with stadium work during the inquiry.

"If we delay [too long]," Bagley said, "this thing will end up costing everybody more money."

For now, at least, this episode appears to be more a matter of politics and base-covering than one of substance.
News of Matthew Stafford's contract extension broke about 20 minutes into Tuesday's SportsNation chat, forcing an audible that allowed us to resume chatting on the blog after I gathered some thoughts. But during our short time over at SportsNation, we touched on at least one topic that merits further discussion and clarification:

Robert (London (already tailgating)

As a season ticket holder, I'm a little peeved at losing a home game this year. 1) Are the Vikings expected to play annual London games until the new stadium is open? 2) Do you see overseas games as a good marketing tool for the Vikings?

Kevin Seifert (2:09 PM)

I would expect more than this year's game in London. The Vikings will have reduced revenues while playing at TCF Bank Stadium in 2014 and 2015, so it makes them prime candidates to seek new revenues elsewhere. It would be a big surprise if they continue international games once the new stadium opens in 2016.

To clarify, Vikings vice president Lester Bagley has told media outlets that the team plans first to evaluate its 2013 game in London, against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 4, before making further plans. But Bagley did not rule out games there in 2014 and/or 2015. Frankly, it makes too much financial sense to assume the Vikings will do anything but push for at least one more appearance in the International Series before their new stadium opens in 2016.

Playing in London does offer the Vikings a chance to market themselves to a new fan base. But the real issue is they won't lose much, if anything, by giving up a home game at the Metrodome and TCF Bank Stadium. NFL teams keep local revenues generated by club seats and luxury boxes, but both stadiums offer relatively little revenue for the Vikings in that regard and, based on what we heard last fall, can more than be made up for through other streams in London.

The NFL needs willing teams to populate its International Series, and the Vikings are among the franchises that would be hurt the least -- financially, anyway -- by playing across the pond. It's true that the Vikings lose the advantage of a true home game, and their fans will see seven regular-season games instead of eight, but, well, so it goes.
In 2003, the NFL scheduled the Minnesota Vikings as the Green Bay Packers' first opponent in the renovated Lambeau Field. So naturally, the Vikings are expecting the league to return the favor 13 years later.

Nothing will be official for a while, but the Vikings' top stadium executive suggested to multiple media outlets over the weekend that the Packers likely will be the first regular-season opponent in the Vikings' new stadium, scheduled to open in time for the 2016 season.

Responding to a question about jabs from Packers fans on the stadium's design, Vikings vice president Lester Bagley told KARE-Ch. 11 that "we can't wait" to play the Packers there.

"The way the league is structured … our very first regular-season game will likely be against the Green Bay Packers," Bagley said. "So it will be good to see Adrian Peterson break loose and score the first touchdown in the new stadium and run over Clay Matthews on his way to the end zone. We'll see. Hopefully we'll have the last word when we get to opening day in [September] 2016."

(The answer starts around the 14:30 mark.)

The Vikings defeated the Packers 30-25 in that 2003 game, intercepting quarterback Brett Favre four times. Of course, the Packers gained the final word that season by clinching the NFC North in Week 17.

There are multiple variables that go into scheduling out a season, but the Packers will have to play at the new stadium at some point during the 2016 season. So the only real obstacles to the Week 1 matchup is if the NFL opts against it or a television network wants it for later in the season.

BBAO: Friday is upon us!

May, 17, 2013
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Good mid-Friday morning and let's get straight to our morning tour:
  • Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune answers several questions about Chicago Bears guard Kyle Long in his weekly mailbag.
  • The Bears promoted Mark Sadowski to the position of senior national scout, notes Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Former Bears quarterback Jim Miller has taken a communications position with the team, according to Matt Charboneau of the Detroit News.
  • The mother of Titus Young's son has filed a restraining order against the former Detroit Lions receiver, according to the Associated Press.
  • Hall of Fame defensive lineman Mean Joe Greene on the Detroit Lions' Ndamukong Suh, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press: "He is a powerful man. Unfortunately for him is that he's letting some of this notoriety and publicity get in his head a little bit. By that I mean it changes the way he approaches the game, cause if he changes that he's not Ndamukong anymore. And you need an edge to play in the pit. Anybody that talks about what you shouldn't do hasn't been in there. I think you have to play the game the way he does, but not go over the edge. A couple times he went over the edge, and he shouldn't be afraid of that."
  • The Lions' defense is gearing up to take on four quarterbacks who threw for at least 4,000 yards last season, notes Anwar S. Richardson of
  • Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette is outraged that someone would question the job security of Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy.
  • Rob Demovsky of the Press-Gazette talks to former Packers running back Paul Hornung about "Titletown Five," a horse that will run in this weekend's Preakness in Baltimore.
  • Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed a cigarette tax to cover shortfalls in public revenues to build the Minnesota Vikings' new stadium. Jim Ragsdale of the Star Tribune explains.
  • The roof of the Vikings' new stadium is "self-cleaning," Vikings executive Lester Bagley told Bob Sansevere of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

NFC North links: Matthews in line for raise

February, 19, 2013
Chicago Bears

Creating additional salary-cap space can be accomplished by re-structuring Julius Peppers' contract, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.

Joe DeCamillis is pleased that the Bears will stick with their base 4-3 defense.

Detroit Lions

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock says Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones would be a good fit for the Lions. Mayock: "If he checks out medically, he's a top-10 player, and hopefully an impact player. So he's a guy that could make a whole lot of sense in Detroit."

Wide receiver Nate Burleson has made his pitch to help get running back Reggie Bush to Detroit.

Green Bay Packers

Linebacker Clay Matthews is already in line for a hefty raise heading into the 2013 season.

By releasing center Jeff Saturday on Monday, the Packers cleared $3.75 million in salary-cap space.

Minnesota Vikings

The Pioneer Press' Bob Sansevere on Monday talked with Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president of public affairs and stadium development, about the latest developments in the team's new stadium.

Dan Wiederer of the Star Tribune examines the Vikings' six offensive free agents and projects how things might play out.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Reactions to the Green Bay Packers' record-setting operating profit of $42.7 million, announced Tuesday, have been interesting.

Off the top, it's worth noting that the profit was calculated separately from the $64 million raised through a stock sale this winter. That money is required to be used for renovations currently underway at Lambeau Field. As we discussed at the time, the stock sale essentially took the place of public fees revenues that NFL teams normally seek in such situations.

Then, of course, there is the football side of the equation. As ESPN business analyst Andrew Brandt noted, those unprecedented revenues and profits will be a bargaining chip for agents of players seeking contract extensions. While the salary cap will always limit the Packers' ability to spend money, there is still a difference between what a high-revenue team might spend on its roster in pure cash terms and what a low-revenue team could spend.

Good luck to general manager Ted Thompson and his contract negotiator, Russ Ball.

Continuing around the NFC North:
Good morning to all. As we suggested late Wednesday night, Minnesota lawmakers did indeed work through the night to continue pushing the Minnesota Vikings' stadium bill to completion. In the end, it looks like the Vikings will get final resolution on their decade-long quest for a new facility by the end of Thursday.

Here's what happened between the time we signed off and now:
  • Critically, the Vikings agreed to increase the private contribution to the project from $427 million to $477 million, a $50 million raise that lawmakers put into the final merged bill. My guess is the Vikings knew all along that this might happen at the final moments and budgeted accordingly, but in the end, as team spokesman Lester Bagley said: "The Vikings and [owning family the] Wilfs have stepped up. The Wilfs have stepped up and made a huge commitment to Minnesota and a huge commitment to Vikings fans."
  • The House of Representatives approved the bill after hours of debate at about 4:30 a.m. ET. The final vote was 71-60.

That leaves two final steps, both of which are expected today. The Minnesota Senate will take up debate and voting at some point Thursday morning. If the bill passes, as expected, it will be sent off to Gov. Mark Dayton for his signature and the legislature will adjourn for the year.

"We're not quite there yet, but this was a big day," Bagley said Thursday morning. Referring to the upcoming Senate vote, Bagley said: "We're one step away."

Again, we'll save the grand conclusions and analysis for when this bill is fully completed and executed. But I think it's fair to say that it's very likely the Vikings will get their stadium and will be removed from the NFL's list of relocation candidates for the next 30 years. Stick around for coverage through the day here on the blog. (And then we'll get back to our regular offseason routine of making stuff up.)
OK gang. We're approaching the NFC North blog witching hour, when anything I try to write will come out in some form of primitive English that makes no sense and offers no one any deeper understanding of the issue at hand.

As of this posting, it does not appear there will be an final resolution of the Minnesota Vikings' stadium issue overnight.

The conference committee charged with merging the two stadium bills has yet to formally meet and announce a final bill. Its most recent start time was announced to be 1 a.m. ET, with a cut-off time of 2 a.m. ET. Without the conference committee's official blessing, the bill can't be sent to either the House of Representatives or the Senate for final confirmation. As of late Wednesday evening, the plan was for the House to debate and vote on the bill overnight, with the Senate following on Thursday morning.

Regardless, Thursday would be the final day that voting is allowed by law in the 2012 legislative session.

There was ample evidence, however, that the conference committee had largely negotiated and settled upon a bill during private meetings Wednesday. It was briefly posted on the state web site around 10:30 p.m. ET before being taken down for further revision. Assuming its numbers were accurate, the Vikings' share was pegged at $477 million -- or $50 million more than the team originally committed. The state would pay $348 million and the city of Minneapolis $150 million. The Vikings would also contribute an average of $13.5 million in operating costs over the course of a 30-year lease.

The Vikings have not yet said whether they will agree to raise their commitment. A team spokesman said chief stadium lobbyist Lester Bagley would make "team comments" directly to the conference committee when it convened.

Legislators appear to have backed the Vikings into a corner. Would they really walk away from the deal over $50 million? But even if the Vikings don't immediately agree, House leaders were expecting to take a vote sometime Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.

The Senate would then pick up the bill Thursday morning. So let's reconvene then, shall we?

In the four days since the apparent collapse of the Minnesota Vikings stadium bill, the NFL and team officials have done a fine job of ratcheting up the pressure, much as we suggested they should do.

League executive vice president Eric Grubman confirmed there are "plenty of willing buyers" who want to purchase and presumably relocate the team. Vikings vice president Lester Bagley made the media rounds Thursday, saying the team has done all it can and urging state legislators to reconsider before the team considers other options. And NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will be joined in Minnesota on Friday by Pittsburgh Steelers president/co-owner Art Rooney, the chairman of the league's stadium committee, to explain the league's increasingly impatient stance.

None of this should be surprising to you. Nor should it change your thoughts on the issue, as long as you realized from the start that the league would not sit idly if the stadium bill faltered this year. My suggestion is to take a deep breath and understand we have entered an important and more pressurized phase of the process, but certainly not (yet) the endgame of this franchise in Minnesota.

The best way to understand what's happening at the moment is that the state has 12 days remaining of exclusivity with the franchise. That's how long the Minnesota state legislature is scheduled to remain in session. For now, the team and the league are squarely focused on reviving the issue in Minnesota. Importantly, however, the state is not 12 days away from losing the franchise -- not when NFL teams are ineligible to apply for relocation until Feb. 15, 2013.

Already, it appears that some state legislators are responding to the increased pressure. According to WCCO political reporter Pat Kessler, a state Senate committee will hold hearings on the stadium bill Friday. There have also been new pledges to push the bill through other committees.

If there is no resolution when the legislature adjourns, the realistic consequence will be a loss of that exclusivity. It's reasonable to think that owner Zygi Wilf will at least explore a firesale that would eventually lead to relocation, putting the state in competition for the franchise, but not necessarily on a path to losing it. The league's relocation deadline in essence would create a nine-month bidding window.

As we know from NFL free agency, there are no guarantees once a player hits the open market. A team can only ensure a player's return by re-signing him before he's eligible to move on. But there are many cases when a player re-signs after testing his value on the open market. There would be nothing to stop the state of Minnesota from continuing to work on the stadium issue even while Wilf explores other options, and the guess here is that Wilf and the NFL would even then prefer a Minnesota stadium agreement over a sale and/or relocation.

You should be aware that NFL teams have acted swifly in the past, relocating without giving a deadline or even an explicit warning. There would be nothing stopping Wilf from throwing his hands up, selling the team to a Los Angeles investor next month and being done with it. So I'm not questioning the gravity of the situation.

All I'm saying is you should understand where this issue is -- and more importantly where it hasn't gone yet -- and know that this is now a higher-stakes game, but one that remains eminently winnable for Minnesota.

BBAO: A busy Tuesday awaits

April, 17, 2012
We're Black and Blue All Over:

It's been a while since we had a late Monday night gathering here on the blog, but I thought the news of what appears to be the end of the Minnesota Vikings' 2012 stadium bill was worth it. To summarize, I think it's time for the Vikings to play their final card in this high-stakes game: They must at least demonstrate a willingness to entertain offers to relocate. Otherwise, Minnesota politicians won't feel the urgency to act on their stadium issue.

Tuesday will be busy as well. We'll blog throughout the day, have our usual 2 p.m. ET chat and then be in place at 7 p.m. ET when the NFL announces its 2012 schedule. We'll have team-by-team analysis posted as quickly as my chubby fingers can type it out.

For now, let's take a spin around the NFC North:
It's late.

We're all tired.

Most of us are cranky.

So let's get to the bottom line.

It's time.

It's time for the Minnesota Vikings to recognize that their admirable but toothless stadium strategy has failed.

It's time to end the exclusivity they have given the state of Minnesota on this issue.

There's no more reasons to tiptoe around skittish state leaders who root for the Vikings but won't commit public money to maintain their long-term presence.

It's time for the Vikings to play their last remaining card, the one I'm surprised they haven't used already.

What's the secret to securing public financing for a new stadium?




(Or at least the threat thereof.)

Even after their Metrodome lease expired, the Vikings couldn't advance their stadium bill through a single committee in the Minnesota Senate. It was rejected outright late Monday night by a committee in the Minnesota House of Representatives, and prominent state Rep. John Kriesel said of the bill via Twitter: "it is almost certainly dead this year."

Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley reacted angrily to the committee vote, telling reporters "it would be a mistake" to believe the team won't react accordingly to the news.

To me, there is only one reaction remaining.

Bagley and the Vikings' owning Wilf family have tried to work within the system. One of the first things Zygi Wilf said when he bought the team in 2005 was that he would never move it. He's changed stadium strategies repeatedly upon direction from state leaders, including an abandonment of his 2006 effort to make political room for new parks for the Minnesota Twins and the University of Minnesota. The Vikings also buried a year's worth of work at their chosen site in suburban Arden Hills because political and business leaders wanted the stadium to remain in downtown Minneapolis.

It's time for Wilf to acknowledge in a public way that Minnesota state leaders might not be willing to support any part of the financing of a $975 million stadium. If that's the case, it would only make prudent business sense for the Vikings to begin investigating stadium sites outside of Minnesota.

I truly don't think the Vikings, the Wilf family or the NFL want to move the franchise. But state leaders felt little urgency after the Vikings allowed the NFL's Feb. 15 deadline for relocation applications to pass. As disappointing as it sounds, there aren't many legislative bodies left in this country that will take on controversial long-term issues when they don't absolutely, positively, have to. The Vikings don't have a lease, but they also haven't given themselves an option and have essentially asked state leaders to give them a break for playing by the rules.

I've always followed the theory that the Vikings' stadium issue wouldn't be addressed in a meaningful way until a crisis was at hand. And a crisis is not the expiration of a lease, at least if it's not accompanied by at least a realistic possibility that the franchise can act on its status as a free agent and seek other options.

The Vikings have avoided the threat of relocation for obvious reasons. It's distasteful. It can hurt feelings, bruise egos and create long-lasting ill will in the community. I can't say I would enjoy covering it.

But I'll be fascinated to see if the Vikings find a way to avoid it now.

It's time.

If not now, when?
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Minnesota Vikings need approval from two political entities to get approval for their $975 million stadium project. They cleared one Monday, and have now set their sights on the second.

News that a majority of the Minneapolis City Council supports the plan might qualify as the best news in the team's decade-long pursuit of a new facility. It establishes political support from a previously divided group and shifts the focus squarely on the Minnesota state legislature, whose leaders were awaiting city approval before considering the bill on a state level.

Stopping for a moment here at the NFL owners meetings, Vikings owner/president Mark Wilf said: "The city support was critical in advancing this at the legislature." I know we've seen plenty of fits and starts in this process, but I agreed with Vikings vice president of stadium development Lester Bagley when he said: "This was a critical component to move forward. It was very significant."

The 2012 legislative session is scheduled to adjourn next month, but Wilf said the team remains confident there is enough time to address the stadium proposal. If nothing, skittish state legislators will have one less excuse for delaying an extended hearing on the issue.
Wednesday could have been the ugliest day in the history of Minnesota sports. Today, Feb. 15, is the NFL deadline for providing notification of an intent to relocate, the long-feared endgame of the Minnesota Vikings' decade-long push for a new stadium.

Circumstances, as they stand today, are ripe to attempt a move or at least to maximize the leverage that a legitimate threat would bring. The Vikings' lease at the Metrodome has expired, eliminating all legal entanglements that could challenge their departure. State leaders have quashed a suburban stadium plan the Vikings spent nearly a year developing, and alternative proposals from downtown Minneapolis remain in development while political support remains uncertain.

It's true that the NFL hasn't endorsed any of the stadium plans percolating in Los Angeles, the Vikings' ostensible destination. But if they wanted to enjoin a ruthless and cutthroat issue with a similarly cold strategy, the Vikings could have sought out a relocation agreement with one of the Los Angeles groups and at least used it as leverage to apply substantial pressure to state leaders who have said "no" far more often than "yes" when faced with this issue.

That approach would have hurt some feelings and caused some rage, but it's also a proven formula for bringing such debates to a productive conclusion. As we noted Tuesday, the Vikings will allow the deadline to pass without ever seriously considering relocation or even using the option as leverage. Now stripped of that tool for the next 365 days, the Vikings have exposed themselves to an equally ruthless and cutthroat move from state leaders.

Now, what's to stop state leaders from flipping the leverage of the Vikings' expired Metrodome lease? Now that we know the Vikings want to play in Minnesota this season, why not require them to sign a five-year lease extension at the Metrodome while politicians continue mulling and/or delaying the project? What choice would the Vikings have? They need to play somewhere, right?

I realize that might seem to be a far-fetched scenario, especially in a state of passive-aggressive people and leaders. But in all seriousness, what has happened to this point for the Vikings to trust state leaders to consummate a stadium deal?

I asked that question of Lester Bagley, the Vikings' vice president of stadium development and public affairs. For what it's worth, Bagley said that negotiations in recent weeks have left him confident that state leaders "feel the urgency" to bring this issue to a conclusion. He suggested that a site and financing proposal, fit to be submitted to the state legislature, will be ready within a matter of days, and implied that state legislators would be wise to clear this issue from the dockets before November elections.

"If there were people that were counting down the clock until Feb. 15," Bagley said, "and if they thought that we wouldn't have to solve this issue after that point, that's not the case. We feel there has been an acknowledgement that if we want to be an NFL community, we have to solve this issue. We would rather work with people who are willing to be constructive, who understand that the 15th has passed but that the urgency to get this done still exists. … State leaders want to solve this issue and get it off their plate. It sucks up all the oxygen at the capitol. Good luck running for re-election if this is still going on at that point, because the media attention will only be more intense."

The Minnesota state legislature is four weeks into a 10-week session that is scheduled to end April 10. If you operate from the assumption that politicians don't act until they have to, you wonder if Bagley's assessment of urgency is real or merely hoped for. But Bagley provided a sketch for how a stadium agreement could play out over the next six weeks, and it begins with a two-pronged plan that would call for the stadium to be built on or near the Metrodome site.

The proposal would spell out the costs for tearing down the Metrodome and using part of its foundation for a new stadium. But the Vikings would have to play three years at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus if that happens, a scenario Bagley said the team wants to avoid. As a result, the proposal would also provide leeway for shifting the construction site southeast of the Metrodome so that the Vikings can continue playing there until the new facility is ready.

However, Bagley acknowledged there is not enough time to complete site work and calculate its exact financial terms before the state legislature adjourns. There is some space between south 11th Ave. and I-35W east of the Metrodome, as well as south of that parcel, to build. Some businesses might need to be relocated, which takes time. But if all of that occurs, the Metrodome would eventually be torn down, and the space utilized for parking and a pregame plaza.

"The bill would provide us the flexibility to shift sites if we can do that within a budget," Bagley said.

If you think like a politician, you're probably looking at that sketch and seeing a chance to push back a decision until all of the research is done on the alternative site. Proposing a bill that allows for multiple sites and uncertain costs is inviting delay. But it's the best the Vikings can do given the hurdles thrown their way.

Would it have been any different with the threat, real or imagined, of relocation? We'll never know. The Vikings have placed their fortunes, and handed over their leverage, to a state that has yet to indicate its intent to cooperate. Well, at least not until Feb. 15, 2013.
This should come as a surprise to no one, but I wanted to pass it along regardless: The Minnesota Vikings won't submit a letter requesting relocation by Wednesday's NFL deadline.

Although the team's Metrodome lease has expired and there is not yet an agreement to construct a new stadium, the Vikings feel confident enough in the direction of negotiations that they never seriously considered relocation for 2012. Lester Bagley, vice president of stadium development and public affairs, said: "We feel we're making solid progress toward a solution in Minnesota. We're in position to get it done in 2012. We want to get it done in Minnesota and we want to be here. We're doing everything we can to make that happen."

I'll have some thoughts Wednesday about the leverage the Vikings could have wielded, and might still wield, on the relocation front. We'll also try to sketch the likeliest set of events over the next few weeks as the Minnesota state legislature approaches its April 10 adjournment.