Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Procrastination costs the Raiders

It’s a sad day for Raider Nation. We are less than 3 hours from the deadline to sign Nnamdi Asomugha to a long-term deal under the franchise tag, and there seems to be no movement on getting the deal done.

Sure Al has pulled rabbits out of his hat before, and deals have gotten done when there was no prior indication that talks were even ongoing. Snatching Warren Sapp from Cincinnati immediately comes to mind. But in this case the silence has been deafening since the tag was applied months ago.

Al has played this game before. I need remind no one of the multiple years that the tag was applied to Charles Woodson. Al doesn’t redo contracts ahead of time, players are expected to play out their deal, and then Al will take care of them. Unless of course they under perform, then Al will look for them to redo their deal or cut them. Look, I understand this is how the NFL CBA is set up, and its Al’s prerogative to deal in this manner with his players. Unfortunately Al has started to get stuck in a trend of not being able to retain his best players and overpaying to keep those that stay.

Woodson, Coleman, Barton, Jackson, the names of players who should have stayed in Silver and Black, but ultimately went elsewhere and performed continues to grow. None of these players leaving came as a surprise, as they out performed their initial deals, and Al failed to restructure them with a year remaining. All were allowed to ultimately test the free agent waters, and found that they could go somewhere that would treat them better in the short term.

Had Al taken care of Nnamdi last off-season, after his breakout year, the deal most likely could have gotten done much cheaper than what the current market is demanding for a premier corner. Nnamdi had just one outstanding season under his belt. And the market was about 2 mil less a year than it is now.

Instead Al waited to see Nnamdi do it again, know that he could always just use the franchise tag if a deal didn’t get done. He didn’t count on Nnamdi actually becoming the premier shutdown corner in the league. Teams went so far in avoiding Nnamdi that this years ProFootball Prospectus had to adjust their requirements to even rank Nnamdi.

Then the off-season hit, and the corner market got even more insane. Guys who aren’t in Nnamdi’s league (Samuels, Hall) got deals that a year before would have been up for biggest ever. The price that Nnamdi could now command entered a league previously know only to quarterbacks with names like Brady and Manning. The worst part, Al helped drive this market into the stratosphere with his overpaying of the exceedingly average Daunte Hall.

With the time expiring on the window to sign franchise players long term, the Raiders are left with two choices next season. Franchise Nnamdi for a 2nd season (at a 20% increase over this years tender, or 11.36 million) or let him test the free agent market, where chances are he will go elsewhere.

And if the Raiders do franchise Asomugha for a 2nd year in a row, they are really compounding their problems going into the following season when Howard, Morrison, Routt, and Janowkowski will also be looking at free agency.

So enjoy what may well be the last season of Asomugha in Silver and Black Raider fans. Chances are if not next season, then the following, Nnamdi will be patrolling the secondary for another NFL squad. And the Raiders will be left with the imposing tandem of Hall and Routt (well if he doesn’t leave for greener pastures) to stop the pass. But hey, at least we know that Al has nothing against spending 1st round picks on CB’s to replace his Probowl corners.

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