During the 2009 preseason I was of the opinion that the Raiders were finally willing to bring in some new talent to fix some really serious offensive-line issues.
As the 2009 season closes, I realize that not only has that effort not been successful, all the moves they tried to make essentially just meant more of the same. For 2010 it looks like a similar quandary.
As a benchmark, let’s look at 2008. We already know the offensive line has had problems before then, but 2008 is all the evidence we need as to the strategy Al Davis has used in making roster moves for the offensive line.
You can pretty much tell the importance and expectations placed on a player based on how much Al pays a guy. Let’s see what worked and what hasn’t.
Robert Gallery was the highest paid offensive lineman in 2008, taking $5.7 million in total salary. Gallery, of course, is a salvage project who has managed to preserve his NFL career as a left guard, even though he was a first-round draft pick as a tackle (he was a washout on both the right and left side).
Gallery has done enough as a drive blocker to make it through a contract restructuring to rake in an additional $6 million in 2009.
So there is $11.7 million in Gallery money for him to play guard, which is not the most critical position on the line. They could have drafted some guy in the later rounds or a free agent to do what Gallery does.
Way too much money that could have been used for a tackle, which is what they really needed.
Both tackle positions have been a serious problem for the Raiders for some time. We can look at the legacy of left tackle Barry Sims, who really set the bar low. Yet, Al paid him millions.
I don’t have the patience for the math, but I wonder how much Sims was paid per penalty.
Back to 2008, Al’s idea of a fix at left tackle was Kwame Harris, to whom he gave $3 million in total salary. We know how that worked out: very badly. So badly that it set the bar even lower than it was in the Barry Sims era.
In 2009, second year player Mario Henderson, a bargain in the $500,000 a year range, battled his way to the left tackle starting role.
Free agent pickup Khalif Barnes ($1.2 million) was unable to overcome injury. He never threatened to take Henderson's job all season.
Rounding out the right guard and right tackle positions in both 2008 and 2009 was the installment of Cooper Carlisle and Cornell Green, respectively.
Carlisle is a nasty player who is a good example of one of those blue collar types that gets the job done most of the time. In 2008 he was paid 2.2 million. In 2009, Carlisle picked up 3.5 million.
Cornell Green is a marginal right tackle. He’s not the absolute worst of players but he is not a standout either. He was paid 1.6 million in 2008 and 2 million in 2009. Again, I’d like to know how the math works out as far as how much he was paid per penalty since Green is penalized frequently.
2009 right tackle free agent signing Erik Pears (1.5 million) was never able to beat out Green. His biggest value was as a blocking tight end.
When Green was injured, Barnes filled in and was not able to make the transition from his usual left tackle role. Former Raider Langston Walker was actually brought back after washing out in Buffalo (where he scored a massive multi million dollar salary coincidentally). Walker was no help though. It is hard to see him sticking around another season.
In 2008, Al paid center Jake Grove 1.1 million and also brought in veteran center John Wade who was supposed to beat out Grove but never did. Wade was paid 2.5 million to be a backup.
Before the 2009 pre-season, Al decided he did not want to pay Grove the millions he would require as a free agent so he was dealt to Miami for their center Samson Satele, a much cheaper option at around half a million per season (Satele has a 4 year contract for this amount per year).
Satele never panned out in 2009 and neither has backup center Chris Morris (also paid roughly half a million).
So the math here is a total of around 17 million spent on the offensive line in 2008. In 2009, roughly 15 million went into offensive line salaries. No noticeable improvements came out of the line play in either season. It seems to be a step back in some cases. If anything is staring us in the face, the Raiders need better talent to shore up the deficiencies.
It is clear Al is overpaying marginal talent, a strategy which has become his hallmark.
So what can we expect in 2010? Gallery is still under contract. So is Carlisle.
Cornell Green is a free agent in 2010 so hopefully he will not be resigned.
Henderson is still under contract and will likely play for near the NFL minimum for a third year player, which would be in the $500,000 range
Ridiculously, Pears is still under contract and will be paid a few million more unless he gets cut. This seems likely since he has not really earned his keep and has shown he lacks the ability to be anything but a backup.
So as usual, the Raiders need to rebuild much of their offensive line. It seems very unlikely they will clean house. That's just not how Al works the roster.
At the least, they need to find a suitable right tackle and a center in the draft or free agency. They should bring in some competition and depth at both guard and left tackle as well but will they? Or will Al just bring in more recylcing projects that give them more half-baked rejects to work with?