By Abraham Gutierrez 

Even though what could have been the final season in the East Bay didn’t exactly pan out the way Raiders fans envisioned, the future seems bright no matter where this team calls home next season. As expected, all indications are that the Silver and Black will be relocating to Southern California, but they are not alone, and the Los Angeles relocation price tag is a hefty one.

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As of Monday, the Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams, and San Diego Chargers were all eligible to apply to relocate to the City of Angels for a reported $550 million per team. It comes as no surprise that all three teams are expected to file for relocation, with the Bolts and Raiders planning to share a facility in Carson should everything go according to plan.

“All three of those teams have tremendous fan bases in their home markets,” said Clark Hunt, a member of the NFL’s L.A. relocation committee. “In an ideal world, I’d like to see them all stay where they are. It’s probably not going to work out that way. There will be at least one team that will move to L.A. I can’t speculate on who it will be at this point.”

Most experts believe that the Raiders and Chargers are the frontrunners to make the move to Los Angeles, but that will be decided later this offseason when it goes up for a vote in Houston. Nevertheless, out of those three teams, the Raiders appear to be best fitted to contend for a playoff spot in 2016.

Both the fans and the team are optimistic about the future

Not only has Raider Nation proven to be one of the most loyal fanbases in all of football, but given the way the team is built, Jack Del Rio & Co. seem poised to be a force in the AFC in years to come.

“I set expectations high because I’m not afraid, and I believe in the men in this room and I appreciate the effort and the sacrifice and the commitment that you made,” said the Raiders first-year head coach in his locker room speech following the team’s 23-17 loss to Kansas City. “We’ll work and clean things up and be stronger going forward. I’m disappointed for you. Because I know how bad I would have liked to have been a part of something that was much, much greater this year. But we got what we earned. Hell of a gritty effort.”

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The Raiders have some strong players to play a big role next season

It’s clear that there’s plenty of optimism in the Raiders locker room, as this team has set the foundation of a championship-caliber bunch on both sides of the football. Offensively, this team has the luxury of Derek Carr, a franchise quarterback that, in spite of his young age and lack of experience, has the poise of a 10-year veteran.

In his second year out of Fresno State, Carr completed 61 percent of his passes, going 350-for-573 for 3987 yards, 32 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions for a quarterback rating of 91.1. Another reason to feel optimistic about the offensive side of the ball is this team’s young, yet promising receiving corps.

Earlier this season, the team gave Michael Crabtree a 4-year, $35 million contract extension, as the former 49er is coming off a year in which he tallied 922 yards on 85 receptions and led the team in touchdown grabs with nine. Crabtree’s veteran leadership coupled with the Raiders rookies such as Amari Cooper (1070 yards on 72 carries and six touchdowns) and Seth Roberts (480 yards on 32 catches and five touchdowns) are guaranteed to make for some exciting moments for years to come.  

On the opposite side of the football, the Raiders are a work in progress, but they have the luxury of a Pro Bowler as the heart and soul of this defense. After getting snubbed in his rookie season, Khalil Mack earned a much-deserved invite to Honolulu following a sensational year.

The former Buffalo standout made it impossible to ignore his accomplishments, tallying 77 tackles on the season and 15 tackles, which was second only to J.J. Watt (17.5 sacks) of the Houston Texans for league-high honors. The Raiders will also have Malcolm Smith returning next season, as he closed out the year as the team leader in tackles with 122 to go along with four sacks, two forced fumbles, and a pick.

It’s going to be a very interesting offseason for Raider Nation, as everyone will be keeping a close eye on the relocation process. Nevertheless, one thing is clear: no matter where this team calls home next season, Silver and Black fans will follow, as this team has all of the sudden become the best NFL team in the great state of California. 

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Abe Gutierrez’s (Twitter: @GutierrezAbe) passion led him to ditch law school journey in order to launch his own publishing company. His expertise make him a valued addition to Examiner.com, AXS.com and the CBS-Sports family. Some of his work can be found on CBS-Miami (Dolphins), CBS-LosAngeles (Chargers), CBS-BayArea (Raiders), CBS-NewYork (NY Jets), CBS-TampaBay (Buccaneers), AXS.com, aExaminer.com and other online publications.