My Answer to Raider Nation Regarding Heyward-Bey's Contract

Alan LupianiCorrespondent IAugust 10, 2009

ALAMEDA, CA - MAY 08:  Darrius Heyward-Bey #12 of the Oakland Raiders takes a drink of Gatorade during the Raiders minicamp at the team's permanent training facility on May 8, 2009 in Alameda, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

I took a substantial amount of heat today from Raider Nation for riffing on Al Davis' spending ways in my article, "Al Davis, Ebenezer Scrooge, Tim Geithner, and Darth Vader." 

Raider Nation has an inner passion that I respect.

A few knuckle-headed comments came flying down from the upper deck from cranky Raider faithful, but I expected that.

No big deal. 

One of the responders to the article, a guy named Justin, took me to task regarding my criticism of Davis' signing of WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, the No. 7 pick in the 2009 draft, to a five-year contract at $38.25 million, $23.5 guaranteed.

So here ya go Justin. Enjoy the read. 

The Signing of Darrius Heyward-Bey 

Darrius Heyward-Bey got paid. Good for him.

If you look just at the contract alone, Bey received roughly a 20 percent raise on the guaranteed side over last year's No. 7 DT Sedrick Ellis.  Ellis signed a five-year deal at $49 million with $19.5 guaranteed.  So basically Heyward-Bey received more money upfront and overall will make potentially less than what Ellis signed for over five years. 

The problem remains that owners such as Al Davis insist on paying untested players more than most proven veterans.

Similarly, I am starting to observe more and more, younger players who hold back on the field in order to protect their bodies and their contracts.

And gosh darn it, it just doesn't seem right.

Back to the Raiders.

The silver and black have poured mega-dollars into signing draft picks over the last few years including: Darren McFadden, JaMarcus Russell, and now Darrius Heyward-Bey.

These young players are on a steep learning curve and will have to mature quickly in order for the Raiders to have any shot at all this year. That's a tremendous amount of unrealistic pressure.

Successful franchises like the newly re-tooled Dolphins, Steelers, and Patriots rarely have these problems. These organizations: 1) Find talented players lower in the draft and are able to trade/sign for higher value talent, and/or 2) Develop "project" players into solid contributing members of the team.

Conversely, the Jets, an organization much like the Raiders over the last few years, spend exorbitant amounts of money in the higher rounds of the draft to bring top talent to make an immediate impact.

This short-term approach has proven not to be the optimum choice.

Ultimately, I do not agree with the strategy of signing unproven players to big money contracts on a regular basis. It just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

Well managed teams regularly trade, unload, or utilize their high picks on positions that are not as high risk with faster upsides.  

For example, the Dolphins drafted OT Jake Long last year and he became an immediate starter and impact player, helping the Dolphins get into the playoffs.

On the other hand, drafting high for immediate impact players at skill positions does not historically work out as well.  Examples include ex-Lions WR Mike Williams and perhaps the most famous bust, ex-Chargers QB Ryan Leaf.

However, if a team puts in exhaustive research with a talented scouting staff, once in a while an organization can find that immediate impact skill position player.

Take the Falcons last year—they drafted Matt Ryan and he led them to the playoffs. 

Which bring us back to Bey. Let's be straight.  Bey will not come close to having the impact this year for the Raiders that either Jake Long or Matt Ryan had for their respective teams last season.

Yet Bey has received top 10 money.

RESULT: The Raiders don't get that much better at the wide receiver position this year and have spent top dollar upfront for a long term possibility.

In the end, one has to ask, "Is it worth the risk, especially at the WR position?"

Lastly, to finally answer Justin's question, I would NOT have taken Bey at No. 7 to begin with and I would probably have traded my pick for a reliable receiver already in the league.  I may have also saved the money and traded for a lower pick that might be as good, if not better than Bey.

Based on this assessment, do I think Bey was worth the money?

Heck No.


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