What will the Raiders defensive line look like in 2010? More of the same.
Was Richard Seymour worth a first round trade? Without Seymour the damage may have been worse than a 5-11 record. With him the Raiders are much better on the defensive line but now, as the dust settles on the season, his contract is up so he has to be franchised unless signed to a long term deal. The numbers should be interesting when that gets sorted out.
You have to figure Seymour’s agent will be looking at what existing Raider defensive lineman are earning and then look to at least match that.
That’s going to be a sticking point with Al. His coffers are dwindling thanks to some extremely poor player investments the last few seasons.
What is also ridiculous is Seymour has been a pawn in Al’s shell game of trying to compensate for marginal drafts the last few seasons. Look at the logic. He bypasses any number of solid prospects at any position in the 2009 draft. Instead, he went for a questionable wide receiver who registered a total of nine catches all season.
So to fix that mistake, Al traded away 2011's No. 1 pick for a proven veteran DE in Seymour with just the one year remaining on his contract.
Does this make sense? No it does not.
So to sign Seymour to long term will take a bankroll the Raiders really don’t have. In 2008, $34 million in roster bonuses we paid out, with $42 million in 2009. This is on top of regular payroll. If it keeps growing it will stretch the franchise to new limits as season tickets dry up and merchandise sales slide.
In the harsh world economy, who will be buying season tickets? Even the hardiest of fans are hesitant.
There used to be a time when NFL franchises could spend carefree. Revenue sharing through the league along with television revenues added up to big bucks.
Though, with player salaries and bonuses through the roof, the massive expenses involved in keeping a stadium modernized and accommodating for fans, the Oakland Raiders are in bad shape.
When the team is doing well or at least has hope of doing well, fans find ways to buy tickets. The past few seasons have followed a similar pattern in early season cautious optimism, descending into television blackouts as the season showed no promise of playoffs. Fans are staying away because the product on the field has become painful to watch and they don’t feel the expense measures up to the entertainment dollars required.
Raiders fans will still remain fans but their ability as well as willingness to attend games is questionable so long as serious changes are not made.
The proof is right here: the Raiders are dead last in the NFL in attendance, averaging 45,125. This is their lowest average since 1967. Seven of this season's eight home games were blacked out in the Bay Area after failing to sell out.
Al Davis guaranteed $84 million to his past three first-round draft picks: quarterback JaMarcus Russell, running back Darren McFadden and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, and the result is an offense that ranks second to last in the NFL.
That's the top heavy umbrella. Now let’s look at what is currently in place for the defensive line and the numbers Seymour will be looking to match.
Tommy Kelly is a marginal player on his best day. He is worth the veteran’s minimum salary. Yet Al signed him to a seven-year, $50.5 million contract. The deal contains $18.125 million guaranteed, including a $13 million signing bonus. He is due another $4.5 million in 2010.
It is unlikely he will be released because of the enormous investment already handed to him. His salary just keeps going sickeningly up. In 2011 he’ll make $5.5 million. It just gets higher through 2014.
Can you think of a greater waste of cash than Tommy Kelly? This is Allen Davis Football, Inc at its finest. He could have filled three or four other serious needs. Instead, he rewards mediocrity and sets the bar impossibly high for new talent brought in. Agents look at these numbers exhaustively and will seek parity.
Defensive Lineman Gerard Warren has three years to go on a six-year $36 million deal. His deal included a $10 million signing bonus and contains annual $1 million workout bonuses. In 2010 he is due a modest $755,000 (+$1 million roster bonus) and he pretty much stays in that range the next few seasons after that.
Greg Ellis and his arthritic knees was signed to a three-year, $10 million contract in 2009. The deal includes $5 million guaranteed.
That's the dead weight. Here are a few bright spots:
A good up and comer who can play either defensive end spot is Matt Shaughnessy (finally a guy who deserves his pay). More good depth with Desmond Bryant (earning the rookie minimum in the $300,000 range) on the line and Jay Richardson (roughly half a million in salary) who has shown at least competency as a backup defensive end.
Trevor Scott may also continue to get some looks as a pass rusher if he does not win a linebacker spot.
Still, we can expect more free agents and possibly draft picks to add to the existing base of so-called talent.
Can the Raiders seriously improve the run defense with guys like Tommy Kelly and Gerard Warren?
It doesn’t matter. They’ve got the job and with their salaries. They are playing unless they get injured.
They need Seymour back regardless.
I don't see Davis letting Seymour walk and risking getting nothing for the 2011 draft pick he gave away. There is no one else on the team that is valuable enough to franchise that will be a free agent in 2010. It looks like Davis will have no choice but to franchise Seymour if negotiations start pointing to matching existing defensive lineman numbers of comparison.
It still won’t turn out that bad for Seymour if it goes the franchise route. It’s just par for the course that it does not look to be a given he will be offered a contract he deserves for a player of his stature.