Just a few short years ago, the Raiders' rushing attack was on LaMont Jordan's shoulders. He was awarded a sweet, multi-million-dollar package to be an Oakland Raider after subbing in admirably for Curtis Martin with the Jets for four seasons.
Since 2005, LaMont's performance has been mixed. He did well in some games, but most observers saw an overall mode of decline after suffering through injuries, some of which are still lingering.
His rehabbing from injuries never seemed fully in synch with the demands of being a premium dollar, every-down-type of back. The decline of LaMont Jordan, along with the rise of Justin Fargas, was no surprise to anyone, really. Life as a pro team means re-shuffling the deck continually.
L.J. is now lost in that shuffle.
Frustrated, LaMont committed the worst possible sin he could commit as a Raider. He spoke unfavorably about his diminished role to the media. Those in the bay area may not have seen LaMont on the many postgame sports-talk shows where he was interviewed.
L.J. became a broken record, stating he is unhappy with one thing or another, mostly that he is not getting his carries. Compounded with mounting Raider losses, there was just no way to justify his trade demands anyway. He looked really stupid by thinking his value was above the team's need to win games.
The problem is that LaMont was unable to accept the fact that his life cycle as a starting back had a short window. L.J. went from good, to adequate, to serviceable, to barely serviceable. But let's be fair, we don't know where L.J. stands now, as far as capabilities on the field. He has been shut out of practices thus far.
With his history of injuries, he could very well still be the borderline backup we believe he is or, Al could be right in his resistance to simply release L.J. or trade him without getting fair value in return.
Al's strategy considers the bottom line, which is Lamont's contract. This was originally a $20+ million deal. There are all kinds of ins and outs with cap space. In fact, L.J.'s contract has been renegotiated to accommodate the Raider's cap-space needs in the past.
There seems more to the picture than on the field realities. Cap talk is complicated, so it's beyond my ability to address intelligently.
Teams don't have to offer anything as trade bait for backups.
Bottom line: There is no fair trade value for LaMont. Being a long-time, astute observer of player value, it is hard to fathom that Al Davis does not see the angles.
The sticking point seems like a stubborn refusal to simply cut his losses and release the player. There must be a painful pill of cash outlay involved for it to be this problematic. The contract concerns with LaMont are to a point where they're becoming an obstacle in the team's ability to sign all of their 2008 draft picks.
Is L.J.'s value on the Raiders' depth chart heading into training camp really that important, in this era of precious roster spots, or is this personal?
It seems to me that LaMont is intentionally being punished by the front office for speaking his mind to the media. That is why he is still on the roster as of this writing. The longer you keep a guy out of another team's reach, the less value he has on the market, as teams work with the players they already have under contract.
It becomes harder to learn another team's system in short time spans. Teams are less likely to take a chance on you unless they are desperate.
This strategy resonates with similar situations over the years, where Al seems to have no problem continuing to pay malcontents while they sit on the Raiders' bench, behind the scenes, sending a message that he is imposing his will and forcing them to live up to their contracts, one way or the other.
Still, a pro player needs to be graceful when losing their starting job. If you say, "I'm not happy" or, "I want to be traded", that immediately puts you in the doghouse. It's a cardinal rule of professionalism: Don't speak through the media to management.
It does not work in the Raiders' organization, and it does not work anywhere in pro football.
It's too late for him now, but where L.J. needed to ply his trade was as a short-yardage pounder. He may have hung around as a situational back. Now, he will be lucky to catch on with another team if/when he is released.