So Thomas Howard has signed his second round tender for 2010. So where now from here?
Most journalists firmly believe that Kirk Morrison is on the trading block with only an original pick tender, but I think Thomas Howard has been made even more expendable when you look at the current roster moves.
Only two season ago, Howard was a rising star for the Oakland Raiders, leading all NFL linebackers with six interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), plus 95 tackles and 11 passes defended.
Now Trevor Scott has been installed at weak side linebacker, which was Howard's position, and the Raiders traded for Kamerion Wimbley who we are told will play on the strong side. So where then does Thomas Howard play as an outside backer?
Howard isn't an inside linebacker, and both of the outside spots are filled which makes him no more than a backup.
In Morrison's case, the mike linebacker spot isn't yet filled, so despite his low tender he still has a position at which to start. The Raiders might draft Rolando McClain, they might draft any other middle linebacker, but until they do Kirk Morrison is still the starter. We know where he fits on this team right now.
The same can't be said for Thomas Howard.
It has been a big fall from grace for Howard in two years. In 2007 Howard and Morrison were acknowledged to be the core of a talented group of young players on defense around which the Raiders could build, now they both look to be as good as gone.
You can't blame it on John Marshall's new defense as the decline started the previous year under Rob Ryan.
This isn't lack of continuity or waiting for the light to come on, it is a genuine fall in production from a player in his prime.
If anyone has a theory as to why that is, please let me know. Maybe the league as just caught up with Howard? Maybe Howard's performance in previous years has given him an inflated sense of self worth, and his work ethic has suffered accordingly?
I honestly don't know, but his effectiveness and ability to make big plays has been downgraded considerably. His seventy nine tackles last year was the lowest of his career.
Despite the second round tender on Howard, I have a feeling that Oakland would accept a lesser pick for him on draft day, especially with so deep a draft.
Because there is simply no place for him given the other players on the roster, and he isn't going to be paid second round tender money either to sit on the bench or for use just as a nickel linebacker.
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