Five years ago, the Raiders sent NFL draft analysts on a wild goose chase trying to dig up a scouting report on Mike Mitchell. They bucked all reports by selecting the former Ohio University safety with the 47th overall pick in the second round. After four seasons in Oakland, it took his departure as a free agent to prove himself worthy of that pick while also proving the Raiders wrong in not giving him more of an opportunity to showcase his talent.
Mitchell left the Raiders as a free agent and signed a modest one-year, incentive laden deal with the Carolina Panthers. He also switched to free safety. That move turned out to be the right one and now Mitchell is a free agent once again -- this time with far greater prospects. His latest work from last season includes 14 starts, 4 interceptions, 10 passes defended, 3.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles.
Last year at this time, he had a career nine starts over four seasons and not a lot of teams were beating on his door to come play for them. He should have a few more offers now and the always confident Mitchell doesn't want to be in a situation as he was in Oakland.
"I want to play for somebody who's going to be a contender, and I want to be on a team that sees me as an integral piece, not just a little fill-in," Mitchell told USA Today's Tom Pelissero. "I want to be a staple in someone's defense, because I think I can become that type of player."
The Raiders liked him enough to make him their second round pick, but they saw his hard hitting ability as a strong safety. It was really an issue of bad luck for Mitchell. Converted cornerback Tyvon Branch had been drafted by the Raiders the previous year but was out much of his rookie season with injury so the team didn't know what they had in him. Mitchell and Branch then had an open competition in camp for the starting strong safety job. Branch won the job and never let go of it.
At free safety was Raiders former seventh overall pick, Michael Huff. And while Mitchell was not even being considered at free safety, Huff signed a huge extension. Then the same off-season the Raiders cut ties with Huff, they allowed Mitchell to leave as a free agent.
It was just never meant to be for Mitchell in Oakland.
Now that Mitchell has sought his opportunity elsewhere and made the most of it, he can parlay it into a more lucrative long term contract.
The two big names at the safety position in this year's free agent class look to be Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward. But for those teams not looking to break the bank could have a good option in Mitchell. He is very much looking like one that got away which shows Al Davis' foresight in drafting Mitchell but also his folly in putting faith and a lot of money on Michael Huff instead.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda.