Hiram Eugene at Raiders training camp 2011 (Photo by Levi Damien)
Hiram Eugene showed his worth to the Raiders during the 2010 season. He showed that his value is in his special teams play. And for his efforts, he was rewarded with a big contract from the Raiders. Some would say it was a bit ridiculous. This seemed to be a theme among the contracts the Raiders handed out last offseason.
Another one of those big contracts went to Stanford Routt and he was cut last week to avoid a $5 million guarantee kicking in. Routt is probably not the last "out of whack" contract to go bye bye this offseason. Whether Eugene is among them depends on how valuable they think he is to this team.
Eugene received a four year, $10.25 million contract. That may be seen as a little high in the eyes of Reggie McKenzie for a backup safety and special teams player. Then again, the man he backs up landed three times that amount when he signed a four year, $32 million contract. Both of these contracts are under the microscope right now.
He didn't play at all last season after suffering an injury in training camp. His absence has allowed us to look at the Raiders' special teams play both with and without him.
In 2010, he was among the league's best on coverage teams. He was tied for 12th in the NFL in return tackles (16) according to Football Outsiders. The Raiders also enjoyed great play in the return game with Jacoby Ford taking three kickoffs back for touchdowns that season.
Last year, without Eugene, the Raiders couldn't consistently stop on coverage teams and weren't as lethal on returns either. Rock Cartwright did his best to pick up the slack but he can't do it alone, although sometimes it seemed like he was.
Instead of the Raiders scoring three return touchdowns as they had in 2010, they gave up three return touchdowns. That is unacceptable when you have the best kicker and punter in the NFL.
So where does Hiram Eugene's salary rank among the other lead leaders in return tackles? Of the other players who were at or above him in tackles during the 2010 season, there were six that were still under contract. Only one of them came even close to the kind of contract Eugene received. That was the Bills' George Wilson who received a 3 year, $7 million contract last offseason.
There is a big difference between them, however. Wilson started 13 games last season at safety and 12 games in 2009. Eugene had one season in 2008 in which he started ten games and has started a total of 19 games in his first four seasons before last season.
John Wendling, NaVorro Bowman, TJ Ward, Danny McCray, and James Casey were the others. And none of them crack even $1 million per season. While Eugene is set to make $2.25 mil this season, $2.75 mil next season, and $3.25 in 2014. I think it is safe to say that's not going to happen.
Eugene is a valuable special teams player and good depth at safety. But whatever Eugene's worth to this team on the field, it is nowhere near what his contract currently has him making. He will either take a pay cut or take a roster cut very soon. I am actually surprised it hasn't happened already.