Halle-frickin-luja, don’t touch me because I must be in a coma and I don’t want to wake up. The Raiders made three of the best moves they have made in the last decade and they did it in a matter of days. They had three significant free agents that were set to hit the market in Chris Johnson, Shane Lechler and Nnamdi Asomugha and they signed every one of them to long term deals. At this point, I would be a happy man if they didn’t do a thing more in the free agent market because there were no more important players that were going to be available than the ones that were already on the team.
It was Chris Johnson’s turn first and he got a deal that could make everyone smile. It is a four year deal that will have a $2 million base this year that will go up to $2.6 million next year, then $3.2 million and finally $3.5 million in the final year. I had said prior to the signing that I would be ok with anything under $5 million because he is a great corner who is just breaking out. Which is the best time to lock him up.
Then it was Shane Lechler’s turn. He became the highest paid punter ever by accepting a deal that pays him $3 million a year over four years with $9 million guaranteed. Guaranteed money for a punter is no big deal because the risk of injury is minimal. His deal puts him ahead of the former highest paid punter in the league- Brian Moorman of the Buffalo Bills. Shane deserves to be the highest paid punter ever because he IS the BEST PUNTER EVER. I had a couple conversations with TFDS staff writer Patrick Patterson in which I said that there is no way the Al Davis would let Lechler go. I said Al will make him the highest paid punter ever because first of all, that wouldn’t be too hard, but most importantly because Al loves his punters and kickers. Ray Guy was the original greatest punter ever, and Shane Lechler is statistically the great punter ever. And the Raiders are the only team in history to draft both a kicker (Sebastian Janikowski) and a punter (Ray Guy) in the first round. You think Al would ever let the best punter ever don another team’s helmet? Not until his leg falls off (Lechler’s leg, not Al’s). So unless there ever came a time in which no amount of money could keep Lechler in the Silver and Black, he will continue to trot out onto that field and pin Raider opposition deep in their own end of the field.
Then the biggest news of them all and the news I have been waiting two years to hear. The Raiders re-signed Nnamdi Asomugha to a three year deal that makes him the highest paid DB in the history of the NFL. He will make $45.5 million over the life of the deal with $28.5 million guaranteed and if the Raiders pick him up for the final year of the contract the entire contract is guaranteed. This deal had to happen. If the Raiders didn’t make him the highest paid DB in the league, someone else would have.
The best player available in free agency at his position usually ends up being the highest paid player at his position. That doesn’t mean that player deserves to be the highest paid, but that is when players cash in. However, it is a rare eclipse when the absolute, hands down, best player at his position is set to be a free agent. At that point there should be no doubt or questioning after that player becomes the highest paid player in the league at his position. The early buzz about this deal is that it is way too high. At least that is what fans of other teams are saying. If any of the Raider Nation shares that opinion, allow me set your mind at ease. Aso was going to make AT LEAST $13 million this season regardless and that is a low figure. On the other hand, Chris Johnson is worth about $4.5 million a season in my estimation and he is getting an average of about $2.5. So take that extra two million and transfer it over to Aso and Walla! It evens out. Also consider that there is an uncapped season coming up and some uncertain times in the NFL. This will carry Aso and the Raiders through that rough time in which who knows what kinds of ridiculous contracts will be handed out. I can pretty much guarantee you though that two seasons from now Aso will not the be highest paid DB in the NFL anymore. But unlike Tommy Kelly (whose “highest paid DT” title was overtaken in the same free agency period) Aso is worth every penny.
The last bit of silver lining to this deal is, this will give the Raiders a chance to rebuild and try to become a playoff team again before his contract is up. At which point Aso, along with other free agents, will be a lot more willing and eager be a Raider.
In other LDizzle dream world news: After a nine year absence, Ken Griffey Jr. is a Mariner once again and “The Kid” is back where his greatness was achieved. In Safeco Field, aka “The house that Griffey built”. And he will go into the Hall of Fame as a Mariner. I can dust of that Griffey Jr collectors Wheaties box and put it back on the shelf. Aw who am I kidding, I never took it down. Ok, enough about me, back to the Raiders.
If the Raiders sat on their hands and didn’t sign a single headliner free agent this offseason, I would not care at this point. They have the guys they coveted the most. Besides, as it has been proven time and time again- teams are built through the draft. In fact, rather than add players in free agency, the Raiders should focus more on cutting some of the fat.
-Ronald Curry has been rumored to be out but he is mostly just a cap casualty. Plus he was said to be unhappy and wanted to leave. I wonder if he still feels that way? Perhaps we can re-sign him to a lesser deal. Doubtful because of how few good receivers are on the market this season, he could get a decent contract elsewhere. Like Jerry Porter did last offseason.
-Tommy Kelly should do the right thing and either take a pay cut or restructure his deal.
-Terdell Sands should be sent packing as he is overpaid and ineffective.
-Kwame Harris will be gone. This move pretty much goes without saying.
-Not much can be done about Javon Walker’s bloated contract. That is just a bitter pill that the team will have to swallow.
All in all, when this offseason started, it looked like another complete disaster was in store. The Raiders had one coach under contract (who was let go oddly enough), still no GM, both of it’s probowlers set to be free agents along with both starting corners. Al Davis started assembling a staff before he had “announced” a head coach. And it was looking like what was already dysfunctional was going to cease to function entirely. I couldn’t foresee any player wanting to play for a franchise in such disarray and it looked like Aso and Lechler were determined to leave and would be disgruntled if they were to be franchise tagged.
The turning point was February 3rd. That is when Tom Cable had his press conference in which he said “We will be the Raiders”. And then…(harp sounds) everything changed. Suddenly the coaching staff made sense. I actually believed Al Davis when he said the Cable made the coaching decisions. And then the CJ, Lechler and Aso deals got done and suddenly my faith in the organization was restored. It was nearly instantaneous and the excitement that ensued was almost more than I could handle all at once.
If only I was actually awake to see all of this come to fruition. But alas I am in a coma and in my comatose state, my wildest dreams are coming true. Kind of pathetic really considering I could be dreaming about naked women bringing me beer on some exotic island getaway. But I will settle for this. Don’t pinch me. Let me bask in it. Just for a little while longer.
Technically the first great moves were assembling a coaching staff for which they did a masterful job by all indications. Removing the interim tag and making Cable the head coach was a great move as it gives some stability and continuity to the coaching which will help with Russell’s (among others) development. The loss of Brian Schneider was unfortunate but promoting John Fassel to special teams coach was the perfect move. Having Willie Brown and Lionel Washington to coach DBs is a luxury few teams have that don’t share the same tradition and devotion to their “Legends” that the Raiders and Al Davis do. Finally Rob Ryan is gone and John Marshall has the experience and success to bring some respectability to the Raiders defense again. Paul Hackett was the natural choice for QB coach because he has been a consultant for the Raiders so he is familiar with the team. Greg Knapp was dead weight as the OC as he wasn’t allowed to call plays anyway so bringing in Ted Tollner to be the passing game coodinator (Cable is the running game coodinator) was a good move. Then the final great move was bringing in Jim Michalczik to coach the offensive line. He has had tremendous success at Cal in the last 8 seasons under coach Jeff Tedford. Plus he is a good friend of Cable’s from back in their playing days. So they should be on the same page I would suspect. After that, it was time to turn to the players.