Best Raider free agents are for the birds

The Raiders came into this offseason on the heels of their first non-losing season in eight years. They were hoping to ride the momentum into next season and improve upon that 8-8 record. That task is looking less and less likely as other teams continue to swoop in and steal away all their best free agents.

The most recent and probably the most devastating loss is Zach Miller, who has agreed to terms with the Seahawks. Miller follows his former head coach and Raiders former starting left guard Robert Gallery to Seattle. The Miller news comes right on the heels of All Pro Nnamdi Asomugha leaving Oakland to sign with the Eagles.

What this means is that in the matter of a week the Raiders have lost their best offensive lineman, their only All Pro player and the best corner in the NFL, and their best offensive weapon.

Gallery was a foregone conclusion. He wanted to be with Cable who saved his career by moving him to left guard after failing at tackle. Nnamdi was seen as a sure bet to leave but according to him, through the entire process, he continued hoping the Raiders would work out a deal to keep him.

Zach Miller on the other hand looked like he was coming back all along. No one thought he would be leaving town. He had a franchise tender placed on him that was voided with the new CBA. Then there had been no news of him speaking to other teams as the Raiders worked on getting under the salary cap.

This process took way too long. Fans became more and more antsy, though where there was no news, there appeared to be good news. Then came the bad news. Miller grew tired of waiting for the Raiders to get their act together and decided to pay his old coach a visit in Seattle.

Almost immediately, the Raiders finally reached a long term deal with Kamerion Wimbley that would bring down his 2011 salary from its franchise tag number of $11.8 million. But it proved to be too late. The Raiders arguably overpaid for Wimbley but his agent had the Raiders over a barrel. As it turned out, Wimbley’s agent may have cost his client’s team a chance at keeping their prized free agent.

The Raiders were hogtied with salary cap issues and were unable or unwilling to make any significant incoming free agency moves. They were quite literally a day late and a (few million) dollar(s) short.

The Raiders locked up Stanford Routt before the lockout started and his cap figure is $10 million. That decision has backfired. The clauses in Nnamdi’s contract voided it and backfired on them. Franchising Wimbley backfired. Tendering Miller backfired. They gave Darrius Heyward-Bey a rookie contract that pays him $1 million plus a $7.5 million roster bonus this season for an $8.5 million cap hit. So that backfired on them as well.

The Raiders are lucky that Michael Bush turned out to be a restricted free agent or they would have lost him as well. Bush is the only other player who Shane Lechler mentioned in his disgruntled post Cable firing rant. Oh how revealing that candid moment turned out to be.

So what we have is a team that swept the AFC West in 2010 and appeared to be blazing a trail to success only to have it completely blow up in their faces. Now the Raiders look more like a fire sale. A mass exodus from which it will be difficult to recover.

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About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

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