The 2011 Oakland Raiders free agent class just got a big addition, and I mean big in every sense of the word. They have signed former Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Jared Gaither. The RaiderWay broke this joyous news for us just a couple of hours ago. It's funny but the last two days I have done little else but sit by the computer and wait for Raider news and I stepped out for a while and come back and find Nnamdi has gone to the Eagles and the Raiders have signed Gaither.
*Update: This deal is not yet official
There has been some confusion over the announcement of this deal. Drew Rosenhaus has tweeted that Gaither does not have a contract with the Raiders. However, AP writer Josh Dubow said the team has announced the deal.
I am not sure where they announced this, but he'd be putting his career on the line if he messed up that statement.
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The Raiders have not yet confirmed the signing, but that is no big deal. They are typically slow in this kind of thing. Vittorio Tafur was the first to break the news. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Gaither has struggled with back issue over the past two years, and he missed the entire 2010 season because of them. There was some question regarding the severity of his injuries. Tafur shed a little light on this:
He did show up for training camp in good shape but on Aug. 5, he suffered a thoracic disk injury. Ravens doctors couldn't find anything wrong with Gaither, according to coach John Harbaugh, but Gaither's back specialist in California wouldn't clear him to play.
The injury situation last year combined with Gaither's unhappiness over receiving a long term deal and being asked to move to right tackle have led to some serious questions over this giant man's character.
I am not worried about those concerns given the fact that, as former Baltimore Ravens coaches, both Hue Jackson and Al Saunders have spent plenty of time around Gaither. If they are signing off on the deal, so am I.
The injury concerns are certainly another matter. There is no controlling that. These concerns may have led to the Raiders getting a bargain on Gaither. The key to watch on his contract will be the guaranteed money. Whatever, we can worry about that later.
The more pressing question is: Which side will Gaither play? And I really don't think that is a question at all. Gaither is a left tackle. If he is healthy he is one of the best in the league. The Raiders can now slide Jared Veldheer over to the right side, and they will have 13'6" of tackle dominance. At this point in his career, Veldheer is probably better suited to play the right side anyway. This will limit his exposure to the speed edge pass rushers that he struggled with last season.
Now the Raiders will be free to bring along rookie Joe Barksdale slowly, or even give him time at guard. Now, hopefully they can resign Langston Walker. Walker will be a great insurance policy should Gaither get hurt, and he would be a huge upgrade at right guard over Carlisle. If that does happen this will be one imposing and downright huge offensive line that is made to run block.
On the plus side, even if Gaither does get hurt he can earn his pay in the team kitchen.
The Mag: Jared Gaither Jock Chef (via ESPN)