ESPN reported today that many reputable sources are claiming free agent defensive end Richard Seymour has reached a deal, in principle, to remain with the Oakland Raiders. Details of the deal are not known, but it is reportedly a two-year extension that will make Seymour not only the highest-paid player at his position, but the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL, period.
That honor currently belongs to Chicago Bear defensive end Julius Peppers, who earns $14M on average. Details of Seymour's deal have yet to be confirmed, but rumor has it that it will be more lucrative than Peppers'.
Two questions leap to mind when hearing this news. First, is Seymour really worth more than players like Peppers and the San Francisco 49ers' stalwart middle linebacker, Patrick Willis? Secondly, how does this affect the chances of the 49ers signing the free agent to-be, cornerback and long-time Raider standout, Nnamdi Asomugha?
The first question is largely subjective and may be as much a shameless jab by me at Raiders owner Al Davis as anything else. Still, it deserves consideration. Seymour is a 31-year-old, three-time Super Bowl Champion who earned a Pro Bowl appearance (his sixth) in his second year as a Raider last season—recording 5.5 sacks on the year and elevating the play of his teammates. He will now continue to serve as a veteran mentor on an improving Raiders defense—furthering the maturation and progress of youngsters like Rolando McClain.
Still, the alleged size of the deal raises some eyebrows. The 49ers made headlines last year, when they signed their perennial All-Pro, Willis, to a five-year extension, but he makes a "mere" $10 million per year on his deal. Is Seymour worth that much more? Al Davis must think so. Seymour sure has come a long way from hesitating to report to camp after being traded from New England in 2009.
However, the second question is much more interesting for 49er fans. Weeks ago, I wrote a piece encouraging the 49ers to strongly pursue Asomugha after it was announced that his current contract would be voided without the Raiders having an option to franchise him. Many were in agreement, but problems existed in that many other teams would be courting the star as well and experts postulated that Davis would do everything in his team-consuming power to keep Asomugha from defecting to their cross-bay rival, the 49ers.
Many assumed Davis would offer Asomugha an overly-generous deal in the hopes of retaining him, but with this apparent commitment to Seymour, can he still afford to do that? The salary cap will once again not be in effect this season—unless the labor resolution decides otherwise—but even so, one has to question just how deep Davis's pockets are and how much he can afford to focus in one area.
The Raiders have multiple needs, just like any other NFL club. With both Seymour and Asomugha drawing a much larger combined salary, it would greatly hamper the Raiders' ability to pursue other improvements. Granted, the retention of both players would, in effect, allay the emergence of new serious needs for the Raiders, perhaps justifying the investment in Davis's eyes.
Still, old Al's resources are certainly finite and one must wonder whether this helps the 49ers (or any other team for that matter) in their hopes to lure Asomugha out of Oakland. Unless Davis is purging his coffers in preparation for the great beyond—or has just totally gone senile—I have to assume it does. Time will tell.
Keep the Faith!
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