By Tim Graham
Jerry Jones might be the most powerful kingpin of sport.
Regardless of what Buffalo Bills fans think of the polarizing Dallas Cowboys owner, his insight on the inner-workings of NFL business is substantial. His opinion carries profound weight.
As such, Jones has an educated and influential outlook on the Bills' long-term future in Western New York.
I asked Jones, fresh from owners meetings this week in Boston, if he thinks the Bills can remain viable here without a new stadium.
"Yes, I do, very much," Jones said this morning. "I not just approve of it, but I'm really excited for the league that we've got the recent improvements negotiated.
"That's going to be very important to the Bills and their fans. They have a great tradition, a great legacy, and that stadium will certainly have the capacity and will not be a handicap for the Bills to compete over the next several years."
Jones and the rest of the NFL's owners approved the Bills' new 10-year lease extension with Erie County in March. The agreement includes $130 million in renovations to Ralph Wilson Stadium and offers the Bills a trifling $28.4 million buyout after the seventh year.
As long as Los Angeles doesn't have a franchise -- or two -- and home games continue to be sold off to Toronto every year, Bills fans will be concerned about the possibility their team will move away. Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson is 94 years old, and although the Bills are expected to be held in a trust after his death, they will be sold eventually.
"The thing that Bills fans ought to know," Jones said, "is there are a handful of other cities as well that look to Los Angeles and say, 'Should the fact the NFL doesn't have a team out there concern us?'
"I think that's an obvious thing to think about, but if I were a Bills fan I would feel good about the recent negotiation and remodeling of the stadium."
Jones didn't have to worry about the Cowboys leaving the Metroplex even before building a $1.15 billion stadium four years ago.
Forbes last year again named his Cowboys the NFL's most valuable franchise at an estimated $2.1 billion -- nearly three times the Bills' valuation.
Forbes also ranked the Cowboys the fourth-most-valuable team in the world, behind only Manchester United, Real Madrid and the New York Yankees.
Jones bought the Cowboys and their stadium lease in 1989 for the outrageous sum of $150 million.
"When I bought the Dallas Cowboys from Bum Bright, he was renowned as a great trader and I paid too much," Jones said. "He certainly, in a manner of speaking, won the negotiation.
"I really got screwed. I ended up with the Dallas Cowboys."