Back in March, at the annual league meetings in Palm Beach, Fla., The Sports Xchange was one of several media outlets to report on the near giddiness of NFL owners when baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers were sold for $2 billion to a group that includes NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.
At the time, veteran consultant Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based SportsCorp, acknowledged that several league owners "are smiling right now."
Those smiles probably grew some on Thursday. Randy Lerner agreed to sell the Cleveland Browns to Knoxville, Tenn., businessman Jimmy Haslam III for roughly $1 billion, including an initial investment of $700 million. But the 10-figure price tag didn't quite have owners dancing in the streets. Almost, but not quite.
"When you look at the valuation of the Browns," one AFC owner said, "it's not altogether outlandish."
True enough, in the latest Forbes Magazine ranking of NFL franchises, Cleveland's worth was pegged at $977 million in a league where 15 franchises were gauged at $1 billion or better. So maybe the AFC owner is correct.
A billion bucks for the Browns might not be too far out of line.
The owner noted that the bigger test will come when some teams that were much lower rated than the Browns -- like the Buffalo Bills, when owner Ralph Wilson passes on -- are sold. The Bills, who likely will enter into an estate trusteeship upon Wilson's death, and who won't stay in the family, were value at $792 million by Forbes.
"When you see a team like that, in the $800 million range, go for a billion dollars, then that will really be something," the owner said.
The league's newest approved owner, Shahid Khan of Jacksonville, purchased the Jaguars for about $760 million, after they were valued at $725 million.
Of course, the NFL club with the highest valuation is Dallas, at $1.85 billion. The average value price in the league is $1.04 billion. So, in essence, while $1 billion is a ton of money for anything, Haslam purchased the Browns for roughly the average.