It appears the Dallas Cowboys are closing in on being named the official host of the 2018 NFL draft.
Despite some looming logistical and financial hurdles, the Cowboys’ bid is the leading candidate to host the event, two NFL sources told Yahoo Sports. The sources added that the process of naming a 2018 host has been slowed by the two-venue pitch of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who is aiming to split the festivities between AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas and the Cowboys’ multibillion-dollar training facility in Frisco. The training facility is located about 40 miles north of the stadium, creating additional financial considerations for the league and its broadcasting partners such as ESPN.
“[The two-venue bid] was an outside the box idea,” one league source said. “It’s definitely different. But just from the stance of how you put it together and the costs, you’re doubling up on some of the costs and just the sheer logistics of creating two draft sites. It’s a little more complicated, so [the NFL has] to sort through that.”
The source added that the 2018 bid is also significant on multiple fronts. Among them:
• The city of Philadelphia raised the bar on the event in a way that had the league office and ownership groups buzzing. To the point that the NFL is hopeful the draft can become an offseason tent-pole event that approaches the levels of the Super Bowl as a marquee commodity for cities. According to one league source, some owners see the draft as having the potential to become a traveling “sweetener” for NFL cities, giving the league another leverage chip when lobbying for infrastructure improvements. For example, the NFL could someday package a Super Bowl and draft site bid as tandem incentives for cities that are grappling with building new stadiums.
• After some consternation about taking the draft out of New York, league owners have been happy with the raised profile of the event and the performance of the cities – Chicago and Philly – involved. Year over year, the NFL has seen cities expand the event into a bigger affair, with Philadelphia taking it to a new level with an open-air venue. The source said the league would like to continue the upward momentum, and carefully considers bids based on whether some level of marketing expansion is going to be satisfied.
• While the NFL is unlikely to say as much publicly, awarding the draft to Dallas would be a kickback of sorts to Jones for moving some financial mountains in recent years. Most notably, helping broker a lucrative return to the Los Angeles market and building his own state of the art stadium and practice facility in Texas. In a grandiose way, Jones has been pace-setting infrastructure strides that will likely impact the NFL for decades to come – not to mention the league’s financial bottom line. The league owes Jones for both deal-building and some standard-setting moves.
• The Philadelphia experience will be hard to top – but there is belief that if someone could raise the stakes or profile of the draft even further, it would be Jones. And not just because Jones prefers to do everything bigger and better than anyone else. Indeed, he also has a significant incentive to make this draft a spectacle. It would become an infomercial of sorts for his billion-dollar practice facility and business park, and it would give Jones a carrot of sorts for potential vendors and business partners as he rolls on with the facility development in Frisco.
As of now, none of those realities have guaranteed Jerry Jones and his Cowboys the 2018 bid. But they have apparently placed Dallas at the top of the list of considerations. And if money and logistics are the only things standing in the way, Jones has shown an undeniable ability to master those realms in recent years. Barring something remarkable, that will likely place the next draft stages in Arlington and Frisco next year.