The good thing for Davis is he obviously doesn't care what the media has to say.
So I'll keep going...and pile on. This time, though, (for the sake of not sounding repetitive and driving fans to insanity) the center of focus won't be Kiffin. Instead, it'll be linebacker Sam Williams.
Early this week, the Raiders (well, Al Davis) signed the soon-to-be-unrestricted-free-agent outside linebacker to a one-year, $700,000 contract.
Williams was scheduled to become a free agent this offseason alongside CB Nnamdi Asomugha, WR Jerry Porter, RB Justin Fargas, QB Josh McCown, C Jeremy Newberry, T Cornell Green, S Jarrod Cooper, and DEs Tommy Kelly and Chris Clemons.
You could make a case that each and every one of those players is more deserving of attention than Williams. Still, the 27-year-old linebacker was the first unrestricted free agent to earn a contract to stay with the team in 2008.
Williams was a so-called "Davis pick" in the 2003 draft, selected in the third round (83rd overall) that offseason. The Fresno State grad was forecast by many to fall somewhere between the fifth and sixth round, but Davis still opted to grab the 6-foot-5, 260-pounder with the team's fourth pick that year.
Since then, the Clayton, Calif. native has spent more time off the field than on it. And when he is playing, No. 54 doesn't look like a linebacker who was chosen 115 slots higher than former Indianapolis Colts and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Cato June.
But that's the NFL draft. It's unpredictable and hindsight isn't worth worrying over. You re-sign the steals and let go of the busts when the time comes.
Unless you're the Raiders. Then you keep the busts, as long as the owner still likes them.
There's no other way to explain why players like Williams and defensive end Tyler Brayton are still on the team, and why ex-Raider busts such as safety Derrick Gibson and DE/LB DeLawrence Grant made it a total of 12 seasons and 118 games before being cut. Since Gibson and Grant were released in '06 and '05 respectively, neither have found employment with another club and are now retired.
Now it's Williams who is quickly catching up to Brayton for the "why is he still on the team?" award.
The soon-to-be-sixth-year linebacker hasn't completed a full season since entering the league in 2003. That season, as a rookie, he fell with a knee injury and missed 15 games. The next year, it was an upper-body ailment—he missed seven games. In 2005, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament and missed all 16 games. All together, in his first three NFL seasons, Williams appeared in 10 of a possible 48 contests.
Finally in 2006, the oft-injured defender stayed healthy for almost an entire season, playing in 15 games and starting 12. Still, he only managed to record 44 tackles, one sack, and one pass defensed.
Last season, it was back to the same old pattern. Williams played and started in the first four outings of the season before getting injured again. This time it was his shoulder. The OLB then quickly lost his job to journeyman and second-year Raider Robert Thomas, who finished the '07 campaign with 62 tackles.
Williams, on the other hand, capped off the year with 16 tackles. Sadly, that season-tackle total is good enough to rank third overall in his five years, just 11 takedowns from being second-best.
Based on a five-year track record, Oakland will pay nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in 2008 to a player who averages just barely seven healthy games, 17.4 tackles, two-tenths of one sack, and no interceptions per season.
I'd like to meet his agent.
Anthony Carroll can be contacted at email@example.com
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