Al Davis has been seen recently tiptoeing around the Raiders compound whispering, "Be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbit’s." That’s right boys and girls, it’s wabbit season—er um…rabbit season—also known in the NFL world as the free agent signing period.
In typical fashion the Raiders are adhering to their commander’s orders and following the adage seen on movie screens everywhere, "Silence is golden," leaving members of Raider Nation with nothing but speculation and hypotheses.
How will the team address its needs? Will they be playing for next year or building for the future? What exactly is the plan? Is there a plan at all? These are the questions percolating in the minds of Raiders fans as they enter the epicenter of a free agent signing period that dawned with new rules and no limits.
Al Davis has been burned badly in the past when making free agent splashes, historically and epically so. Were it not for the fact that Al is a vampire, these burns would have likely killed him. Larry Brown? Desmond Howard? Javon Walker? Those are some of the worst free agent signings in the history of sports. Al had to change his ways. He was in danger of facing an anti-trust suit for a monopoly on laughably bad signings. And change he did.
As we were shown last off-season it may be possible to teach an old pirate new tricks. Of course, as we are also being shown, there is always the possibility that those tricks may suck too! Last year, Al backed away from the big free agent signings and instead focused on resigning his own stars to long-term deals. Things were looking good until D-day (the draft) when the old dog or pirate was back to humping the leg of the fastest least skilled player available.
It seems as if Al is continuing his new course of steering away from the big free agents as the Raiders have yet to make a splash on any of the big names available. Instead they have focused on resigning their own players. The problem is now that some of those players perform on a level known as poor.
With the new free agent rules, there are more players than ever that fall into the restricted free agent status. This is great for teams that have a bunch of players they want to keep, but not as great for teams that can’t remember the last time they avoided a double digit loss season and/or have an owner for a GM that believes Alzheimers is a necessary skill for player evaluation.
This unique skill goes a long way towards explaining the tender offered to Stanford Routt. Of the 200+ restricted free agents this year, only 18 received the highest possible tender and Stanford Routt is one of those chosen few.
This means once a team decides they can’t live without Stanford Routt manning their corner spot, the Raiders will be sitting pretty with an extra 1st and 3rd round pick.
If, for some unlikely reason, every other team in the league fails to see that Routt is knocking on the door of greatness and passes on this enticing chance to sign him, the Raiders will be blessed with cornerbacks that are being paid roughly the Gross National Product of France, while featuring one player that performs on a level known as good.
In Al’s defense, it is very likely he had the options of available tenders list turned upside down and thought he was offering Routt the lowest possible tender instead of the highest. I don’t want to rush to judgment yet.
In further defense of Al, I really don’t have a fault with the tenders offered to the Raiders’ other restricted free agents. I like the third round tender offered to Morrison. I think that is low enough that teams will be tempted to give the Raiders a 3rd round pick for the right to sign him. If no team does, the Raiders will retain Morrison at a reasonable salary.
While Morrison is a tackling machine, any defense that only occasionally decides to tackle running backs needs to see some changes. These changes need to start up the middle.
It would be reckless to just heap all of the blame on Morrison and frankly not as much fun. A big portion of that blame can certainly be piled on the under achieving or over priced members of the interior line. First and foremost among them is Gerard Warren.
It is somewhat anticipated that Warren will be cut before he can collect a one million dollar roster bonus later this month. That anticipation was somewhat muted, however, when the Raiders announced the release of Justin Fargas, Javon Walker, Greg Ellis and not Warren.
Let us now observe a moment of silence for Mr. Walker. His career 15 receptions for the Raiders will never be forgotten.
What does the old pirate have up his sleeve now? Your guess is as good as my chimpanzee’s. A fact that was made even more painfully obvious when word came out that the first free agent to visit the Raiders would be TE Anthony Becht.
Becht is a blocking minded TE and this is not a statement against him. The problem is the Raiders first dip into the free agent waters is with a TE and this appears to be the most reliable and set spot on the offense.
Wait…I almost forgot the free agent signing of Khalif Barnes. In defense of my neglect in noting this, I believe it is reasonable to count this as a "barely free agent" signing. He was on the squad last year and no other team in the league was even aware that he was still playing.
The good news is that Barnes is signed to a one-year contract and he is coming off of a lackluster season. He should be eager and hungry to prove himself in a contract year. The bad news, this the exact same circumstances he had going into last year and still managed to perform at that aforementioned level of poor.
To be honest, this off-season is not going at all how I anticipated. With an uncapped year, I had visions of the Redskins and Cowboys swooping in with their deep pocket and flashy owners buying every free agent in sight. So far, however, those teams have been as quiet as the Raiders. This fact leads me to believe that the owners have an understanding among themselves that the cap will be coming back.
And frankly it is an uninspiring free agent class. See for yourself. What do you guys think? Who would you like to see the Raiders bring in? This list allows you to search by position. And maybe even the more important question is: Who would you like to see them let go? This may just be a one time chance for teams to dump players without it affecting the salary cap.
Al is obviously not going to let his young offensive pay check collectors go yet, but let’s hope if this season does not see improvement among the three headed underachieving monster, that I am going to call JaMac-Bey or Hey-Fadel or D-Russius, he will start chopping off heads like Henry the VIII.
In the meantime, I don’t ask for much. Just a franchise left tackle, a center, a right guard, a defensive tackle, a middle linebacker, a wide receiver, a legit #2 defensive back, Chris Johnson as the nickel, Routt to announce his retirement and for someone to put Gradkowski’s brain in Russell’s head. Damn, okay maybe I am asking a lot.
We are totally set on people that kick the ball! And in FOOTball what could be more important?