Keeping Dominic Rhodes Critical for Oakland Raiders

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Keeping Dominic Rhodes Critical for Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders certainly took a novel approach when it came to dealing with running back Dominic Rhodes this week.

Instead of paying Rhodes $30 million—or some other excessive amount of money—to stay with the team, they asked him to take a pay cut.

Surprisingly, he did. It's a refreshing change in this offseason.

The 29-year-old running back, due a $2 million roster bonus this week, restructured the two-year, $7.5 million deal he signed last offseason. Rhodes was scheduled to make $3 million in 2008, but he will now earn $1.75 million instead.

The Raiders will save all of $1.25 million in '08 from the transaction. This comes just days after team owner Al Davis dished out $55 million to wide receiver Javon Walker, $50.5 million to defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and $16 million to offensive tackle Kwame Harris.

Keeping Rhodes around, however, is no insignificant event, despite the disproportionate balance of money.

Since 2005, no running back has racked up more rushing yards for the Raiders than 29-year-old LaMont Jordan. However, Jordan is due $4.7 million next season, which Oakland isn't expected to pay. In the final 10 weeks of last year, he carried the ball just 31 times for 54 yards and didn't surpass 20 yards rushing in any single game from Week 8 on.

The team, however, did lock up halfback Justin Fargas, who took control of the ground game midway through last season and ended up with over 1,000 yards.

The '07 season, though, was the first in which Fargas rushed for more than 700 yards in a single year. He's not exactly the proven, veteran-type player you want to put all your team's faith in when it comes to success on the ground. That's why bringing back Rhodes, a nine-year veteran and also a former 1,000-yard rusher, was an urgent move for the Raider offense to make.

Fargas has also been no stranger to injuries since he entered the NFL in 2003. Since then, the 220-pounder -- a rather upright runner -- has suffered injuries to his knee, toe, hamstring and shoulder. In all, Fargas has missed 14 games since his rookie year.

When the former USC halfback was injured for the final two weeks of last season, Rhodes came in and capped off the year with two consecutive 100-yard outings, picking up 115 yards in a loss at Jacksonville and 122 yards against the Chargers.

In all, the ex-Colt rushed 75 times last season for 302 yards (4.0 yards per carry) and one touchdown.

The other member of the Raiders' running back corps expected to see the field next season is 2007 fourth-round pick Michael Bush. The former Louisville standout has never played a down in the NFL, though. Bush's leg is reportedly healed and ready to go, and he'll compete for time in '08.

Assuming Jordan will soon be out of the picture, Rhodes is now the eldest and most experienced of the Raiders' running backs. Despite being just one year older than Fargas, he's been in the NFL two seasons longer, and has rushed the ball 145 times more.

Plus, he's willing to take a pay cut to stay with the Oakland Raiders. That's reason enough to be glad he's sticking around.

Anthony Carroll can be contacted at acarroll@realfootball365.com

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