Sunday, March 16, 2008

Raider Season

As expected, there has been no shortage of excitement in Alameda since we got those annoying games out of the way. It began with a head-fake on Rob Ryan that slapped Kiffin out of his decidedly non-Raider blunt honesty with the media and into dancing around every issue. It continued with locking up key Raider free agents with smart deals (Fargas, Rhodes' restructure), crazy deals (Kelly), and necessary deals (Asomugha). And a lot of long tenured players and/or team leaders hit the road - Sapp, Porter, Sims, McCown.

In free agency, the Raiders aggressively addressed major gaps and the notion that no one will play in Oakland at once. Walker, Wilson, Harris, Carter, Joseph. It's a reasonably impressive haul. And now there is talk of a trade to address a secondary gap by acquiring DeAngelo Hall.

This is a classic Al Davis offseason. He seems to be back in "win now" mode after a year dedicated to rebuilding. It's clear that he blames last year's defensive struggles on talent and not scheme. He is rewarding home grown potential and cutting loose expensive older players. Long term salary cap ramifications will be dealt with in the long term. Locker room chemistry be damned.

On the one hand, a look at the Raiders' recent past tells us that free agency has been kinder to the Raiders than the draft has been. On the other, Kiffin was brought in to help solve those draft problems and the Raiders' draft woes are certainly a factor in these annual 4-win seasons. Perhaps by trading away all draft choices Al will succeed in cutting Kiffin out of Raider personnel decisions after all. Then again, one theory regarding Al's anger with Kiffin is that Lane publicly blasted the talent level upon arrival - talent that Al had gathered. This offseason is proof that Al was not pleased with the talent level, either.

The potential Hall trade seems to be an admission that Al's draft choices have failed (Washington, Routt). If it happens, the Raiders may have the NFL's finest defensive secondary. But the potential for disaster is high. Can they get a long term deal done with Asoumugha if they throw Samuel money at Hall? If not, we've just traded a home grown, hard working, emerging star for a guy who ran onto the Georgia Dome field with a Mike Vick poster and recently announced, "I will not be a part of another losing team for another year. I've got to do what I've got to do. No matter who hates me."


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