With Darrius Heyward-Bey Signed, the Oakland Raiders Have All Hands on Deck

Justin SmithCorrespondent IJuly 30, 2009

The signing of first-round draft pick Darrius Heyward-Bey today to a reported five-year deal means that the Oakland Raiders now have all members of their draft class signed and ready to begin practicing.

Adam Schefter of NFL Network (soon to be ESPN) tweeted it roughly seven hours ago, and fellow Nationophile Andrew Linton reported it here on Bleacher Report.

Heyward-Bey signed sometime early this morningor late last night, depending on your time zoneand with his close proximity to Napa, he should be ready for practice as early as this afternoon.

Coach Tom Cable stated yesterday that the first two-a-day practices would not be in pads, and that they would be teaching and having walk-through practices. Cable stressed the importance of players knowing their roles and their positioning well before beginning full-speed workouts.

Since the Raiders' veteran presence at wideout is the enigmatic and thus far ineffective Javon Walker, it was of the greatest importance that Heyward-Bey  sign as quickly as possible. It is also imperative for the rookie to develop a quick and lasting chemistry with JaMarcus Russell, as the two could provide sparks for years to come. 

The Raiders' receiving corps is raw. They have Walker, Heyward-Bey, fellow rookies Louis Murphy and Shawn Bayes, tight end Zach Miller, and young receivers Chaz Schilens, Jonnie Lee Higgins and Todd Watkins.

There is not a lot of experience there, save Walker, and not a lot of production there, save Miller.

Improvement is needed in both areas, and signing Heyward-Bey in time for camp is a huge step in the right direction.

The only Raider rookie not to make it camp is sixth-round pick Stryker Sulak, who was released from the squad last week. Although rumours flew that Sulak was holding out for more money and had insulted Al Davis at the negotiating table, Cable stated in his press conference that there were no off-field issues, and Sulak simply wasn't a fit for the team. Cable also praised Sulak for being a great kid and hard worker.

This marks the second time in three seasons the Raiders have released a draft pick before camp began. Two years ago it was Quentin Moses, also a defensive end. Moses was a little tougher to swallow, as he was a third-round pick. But when he didn't catch on with other teams, it seemed the Raiders made the right decision.

Still, two essentially wasted picks in the last three seasons is a little annoying.

With all rookies ready to practice and learn, the Raiders are ahead of the curve compared to the last couple of years. They typically do a great job locking down their draft choices, but with the Moses situation, Russell's holdout, and now Sulak, the Raiders have had some difficulties with their rookies on the business side.

It should be interesting now to see what the receiver from across the Bay, Michael Crabtree, gets in way of payment based on what DHB got paid. Their careers will be inextricably linked, but the fact that Heyward-Bey is signed and ready to go while Crabtree is holding out and still rehabbing his foot has DHB one step ahead at this point.

It may mean nothing in the grand scheme of their careers, but the fact that Heyward-Bey was drafted higher and settled for less money than the seventh pick in last year's draft, while Crabtree was drafted 10 and is insisting on top-three money tells me that the Raiders made the right choice based on potential, attitude, and team-first mentality.

None of that matters today, though. Darrius Heyward-Bey is officially a Raider, and all reports indicate that his hamstring is 100 percent and he's ready to go.

I'm really excited to see what this kid can do. His measurables are incredible, and his demeanour and attitude are refreshing, especially as a wide receiver.

Welcome to the Silver and Black, lad. We're glad to have you.