So the Raiders just lost All-Pro corner Nnamdi Asomugha to free agency due to a contract void and it would appear that Raider Nation is furious and disappointed. Many are calling this further downfall for the Raiders. That this is just as bad, if not worse, than the firing of Tom Cable.
But is it really?
Let's see why I'm not too broken-hearted about the departure of Asomugha, and why this is probably a good thing. Read on after the jump.
Shutdown. Lockdown. Best in the league. Controls a whole half of the field. Amazing. The words that have frequently defined what Asomugha is and does. This I cannot argue. For about four years, Nnamdi Asomugha has been, in many and my own opinions, the best corner in the NFL. A year of eight interceptions followed by three seasons as the most avoided corner in the NFL with two picks and only two touchdowns allowed.
Everything sounds good there, but that's very deceiving. The Raiders still give up the 28th. most touchdown passes in the league (29). They put up great pass defense numbers (2nd best), but still were tied with Denver for highest average yards per pass (13.3). The Raiders were also tied for 25th. for fewest interceptions (12).
Suddenly, this pass defense looks very suspect. I'm not saying this was all Nnamdi's fault, but was he really making an impact at all? If our run defense (29th) ever improved enough to where teams would have to throw, I can almost guarantee that our second best pass defense ranking would be in the 20's. When you give up 13.3 yards per pass, that's pretty bad.
Since Nnamdi was never tested, he never lowered that number. He never made a turnover (one forced fumble and two INT's the past three years) to get our D off the field. So why were we paying so much money for him if he really only had one playmaking year?
Well, Richard Seymour has frequently been the target of such questions as, "Is he really worth a first round pick?" and "Should we even extend his contract?". Seymour is definitely worth both things. The D-Line's massive improvement is proof enough. That 29th. rush defense is more so the linebackers and safeties than that D-Line. A D-Line that has lead the league in sacks since Seymour arrived.
Tommy Kelly is playing Pro Bowl caliber football, Shaughnessy is playing much the same, Desmond Bryant has developed far better than a UDFA from Harvard should, and Lamarr Houston's believed steep rookie slope has been shattered as he put up first round-worthy numbers.
Richard Seymour has been a tremendously valuable mentor to our young D-Line and has them playing far better, far faster. it'd be foolish for the Raiders not to give him a long-term deal to end his career in Silver and Black. Especially coming off a six sack, six run stuff year where he was injured and double teamed.
Let's look at Nnamdi Asomugha, has he at least mentored the secondary? Stanford Routt had possibly his best season with two interceptions (one a touchdown) and an amazing thirteen passes defensed. However, one could debate this as the Raiders finally playing him where he plays best as a starter instead of a nickel. His last season where he was a long-term starter in 2007, he had three INT's. Plus, mental and disciplinary mistakes with pass interference calls were still overly abundant. One could argue this could be easily fixed with good coaching/mentoring. Nnamdi is rarely penalized for such things can could have easily helped Routt.
I'm not saying he didn't, but it makes one wonder. Meanwhile, Chris Johnson has spent four years with Oakland. Three of which with extended playing time. He has eight INT's in those three years. Again, one could attest this more to finally getting a shot, being a relative nobody, and being the most tested corner in football the past three seasons. Chris Johnson makes several mental lapses and gives up a lot of bad plays due to some bad route recognition. He has been a solid at times, but someone learning under Nnamdi should be more consistent (see anyone who played beside Champ Bailey).
Safety play has been sporadic in Oakland. Branch and Huff have both been pretty inconsistent and have given up multiple big plays. However, Nnamdi is probably closer to the other corners and less apt to mentor the safeties.
So basically, his fellow corners' play have been iffy at best. I would think that there would be improvement of these players if Nnamdi had mentored them. There's been really no talk of it, where as Seymour's aid in the D-Line development has been constantly spoken of. I'm not saying Nnamdi didn't mentor the corners, but no one is saying he did and there's really been no signs in performance that he has.
Don't get me wrong, I love Nnamdi Asomugha. I've even had the proud honor of chatting with him, and he's an amazing human being with so much class that even "fancy" people look like barbarians by comparison. However, Nnamdi Asomugha was not due the type of pay we would have to have given him (we're talking the money of restructured and extended Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees here) for having, in all honesty, no impact on the defense.
This money is better off being spread around on fixing up more areas of the team. A couple free agents for the massive weaknesses at OLB, OT/OG, WR, S, CB are much more important than one man who is simply not making plays.
I'd much rather see that kind of money spent on a decent actual 4-3 OLB who can cover and contain edge runs, a veteran wide receiver who can contribute, and a new RT or RG. This isn't even including draft picks people. Just those free agency moves alone probably make this team at least one win better. Add in a good corner in the draft (not hard to find as it seems rookie corners are getting better and better each year), and boom. Maybe playoffs? Who knows, depends on the coach.
Super Bowl and playoff teams haven't really needed a corner like Nnamdi was for the Raiders. The Steelers are 12-4 with average-to-horrible corners. Atlanta has good corners, but no one elite or great. Seattle upset New Orleans with overrated Marcus Trufant. The Ravens are a major Super Bowl contending Wild Card with Chris Carr and second year Ladarius Webb at corner.
Look at recent Super Bowls. The Saints won with a pretty good, I wouldn't say great, corner in Jabari Greer and another good-not-great in Tracy Porter. The Colts has decent corners. Steelers won with average-to-suckish corners. Giants won with an overrated Sam Madison. Having one shutdown corner does not win Super Bowls. Good ball control offense, good run D, great pass rush, and a decent overall secondary without a necessarily elite corner or even great corner wins Super Bowls, wins playoff games, and wins playoff spots.
Blame scheme, blame the secondary, but Nnamdi Asomugha was not really earning the money of a Tom Brady or Drew Brees, and he was not really helping defend them. I'm sure he'll get signed somewhere else for more money than what he was worth to the Raiders, and I wish him the best from the bottom of my Silver and Black heart.
For the sake of fixing up as many of the team's holes as possible, thus making a more complete and more well-rounded team, I bid Nnamdi Asomugha adieu. I'll always call you one of my favorite Raiders of all-time.