I understand the desire for a team, and I hear your point about simply handing over money versus planting an expansion team here that could be viewed as an investment.
Crazier things have happened, but a lot of things that have not happened would have to take place.
Let's go through some of them.
The NFL would have to want to settle. No sign of that. STL is seeking billions of dollars between the claims it has brought against the league and its owners and the punitive damages it will request. Everything from the expansion fee to the increase of the Rams value because of the move to the lost hotel revenue that would have benefitted St. Louis County from games being played here has been accounted for in the suit. I have not heard a number on what the STL side would accept in a settlement, but I can't imagine it is close to what the NFL/Rams would agree to do. I think this goes to court, and a jury will be talking money -- not an expansion team.
The NFL and STL are not exactly cozy at the moment. Shaky grounds to start an expansion team on. I'm not convinced a vote of St. Louisans would want an NFL team back. Not that there would be a vote. But not every one is a sport fan, and some sports fans are simply done with the NFL. For good reason.
Look at the way the NFL is trending. Massive markets are the goal. Buffalo is getting the shakedown now with eyes on booming Austin. Even Chicago is feeling pressure for Soldier Field renovations. I think the NFL wants to go international (Mexico, Europe) before it comes back to STL.
Look at the money, as you said. What makes more for the league in the long run? Biting the bullet in terms of settlement or whatever is decided by a jury and then upheld after an appeal that could potentially trim the money down some or a lot, and continuing with its booming business in all other aspects. Or, giving STL a team and re-marrying a market it decided it could do without. The NFL makes decisions off the bottom line only. It could decide taking the loss on the Rams relocation rio-job, even if sizable, is the better financial play than putting a team back in a market where it has shown its true colors.