BA’s Banter: Miller, Huff, and Gaither — oh my

The Oakland Raiders have been quiet as far as signing big names this year, even as it pertains to their own. They have already let Nnamdi Asomugha get away to the Philadelphia Eagles and they let Robert Gallery go up the coast to the Seattle Seahawks. Everyone may have expected both of those moves in retrospect. Still, we have been left in limbo about the future status of tight end Zach Miller as well as free safety Michael Huff. Thus far, not only have the Raiders been quiet on that front, but most of the entire league has been. Perhaps there is not as much of a market for the two players as we once thought.

The Raiders have been working diligently to re-sign franchised strong side linebacker Kamerion Wimbley. Everybody already knows this. It appears as though they have started to get a little bit tight in the wallet at this stage of the game. All of the signings they made today were low key and only took up a little bit of cap space at most. But restructuring the Wimbley deal appears to be the key to re-signing the best hands on the team over the last four seasons, Zach Miller.

The interest that Miller has drawn from the Miami Dolphins is miniscule compared to what the tight end’s agent — Tom Condon — thought would happen when he hit the open market. Miller does after all have a recent Pro Bowl on his résumé. But more and more tight ends are coming out with diverse abilities such as Miller and that alone is going to drive the price-tag down. Still, Condon thinks that once more names start to come off the board, talks for Miller will heat up.

I have my doubts, and here’s why.

Miller has been the leading receiver on the Raiders for the past few seasons. It’s not like he has done it on the “golden team” aka the New England Patriots, or the pass happy Indianapolis Colts. The argument could be made that almost any decent receiving tight end could have done exactly the same thing because the Raider wide receivers have been either absolutely putrid or injured during that time period. Miller is a great tight end, don’t get me wrong. The Raiders know that and the fans know that, but if the rest of the league doesn’t recognize his accomplishments for what they actually are and puts this stipulation on them, more power to them. All that means is that the Raiders will be able to re-sign him cheaper than expected.

Switching gears now and turning my attention to Michael Huff, I see a player who is just flat out expecting the market to pay him more than he is worth. You can go ahead and tell me: All-Pro this, leading tackler that, but you’re not going to convince me that he is an above average player. In my honest opinion, if the Raiders offer him that $2.5 million per year that they offered Gallery then I think he should take that. It’s slightly above the deal they gave Hiram Eugene and about what he is worth at the present time, especially to a team that has given him so much dinero already.

Still, I will give Huff a little bit of credit, because there have been times over the last two seasons when he has actually looked like he may finally be getting it. But honestly, he is a middle of the road player still because he can’t seem to play at a high level consistently. He could be on the verge of playing at a high level consistently, but nothing he has done so far in his career can convince me of that. Even in a contract year, in his fifth year in the league, he still didn’t show anybody that he is a reliable tackler, even if he is playing centerfield better than he used to.

All of that said, Miller is certainly still priority number one in my book. Especially in an offense where the offensive coordinator values tight ends so much. Huff, on the other hand, is worth taking a flier on, because he knows the system and can be a valuable commodity should newly appointed free safety, Tyvon Branch, go down with injury. In summary, if the Raiders re-sign Miller, it means they have restructured Wimbley, and if they re-sign Huff, they will most likely dump the contract they gave to Hiram Eugene and he will be looking for a new job.

One more thing I want to touch on before I go is the offensive line. Today it is reported to be Jared Veldheer, Daniel Loper, Stefen Wisniewski, Cooper Carlisle, and Joseph Barksdale. It sounds okay on paper, but it could certainly still use upgrading – across almost the whole thing. If they can make this line work then I will rescind the previous statement, but if they can’t make it work I certainly wouldn’t be surprised. Granted, they haven’t thrown Bruce Campbell or Khalif Barnes into it yet, but I don’t see either of them being the upgrade they need.

I know a lot of folks are saying that Jared Gaither may have failed a physical and that’s why he wasn’t signed. But let’s keep in mind that the Baltimore Ravens team doctors found nothing wrong with his back almost a year ago when they examined him. It was his own personal doctors who wouldn’t clear him to play and in the midst of a contract dispute with the Ravens and a positional switch that he did not want to make. Consider that Gaither took the year off to freshen up for this season. I think it’s possible that Gaither may have wanted more money than the Raiders were willing to offer. Or even that he wanted to play left tackle and they were thinking more of him replacing Langston Walker, who is also a gigantic beast of a man. But just because it didn’t work out right now doesn’t mean it’s a butt in the ashtray. In other words, I suspect this stogie may be far from smoked once the Raiders see their offensive line in a real game situation.

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