The Raiders have two high profile players that are set to become unrestricted free agents this offseason. Those players are Sebastian Janikowski and Richard Seymour.
Both players figure to be offered top dollar either in the form of re-signing with the Raiders or from another team in free agency.
Last offseason, Al Davis ponied up the dough to make Nnamdi Asomugha the highest paid defensive player in the NFL and Shane Lechler the highest paid punter in NFL history. The previous offseason he made Tommy Kelly the highest paid defensive tackle in the NFL (briefly). So we know that when Al Davis likes a player, he is not shy in backing up the money truck to their front door.
We don't know quite yet how he feels about Seymour but after trading away a first round draft pick for his services, the likelihood of him letting Seymour walk in free agency after just one season falls somewhere between eating a snow cone in hades and Sarah Palin working at an abortion clinic.
The next option is the transition tag. This would require any team that desired his services to offer Seymour a contract that the Raiders could then match should they so choose.
The problem with the transition tag is that teams have figured out clauses that cause problems for the team trying to keep the player. What is lovingly referred to as a "poison pill." For instance, say the Steelers offer Seymour a contract for 5 years 60 million. But they put a stipulation that if Seymour plays more than 30% of his games in the state of California, his entire contract would be guaranteed. This clause would obviously not apply if he played for the Steelers where 50% or more of his games would be in Pennsylvania. But if the Raiders decided to match the offer and retain Seymour, the Raiders would have to abide by the language in the contract. Oakland being in California, Seymour would obviously play more than 30% of his games there and therefore his entire salary would be guaranteed. The Vikings pulled that little stunt when they signed Steve Hutchinson away from the Seahawks a couple seasons ago. It's shady, but it happens.
The next option is the franchise tag. This would guarantee that Seymour remains a Raider for at least next season. At the end of which, the Raiders could re-examine how much he might be worth. But there are a couple of problems with the franchise tag as well.
Usually players are a little discontented with getting the franchise tag slapped on them. This typically prompts them to force the team to add a clause that states they can't do it again the next year before they sign it. Which means that at the end of next season, the Raiders would have a pissed off player with all the leverage in negotiations and other teams wining and dining him for his services. Not a good situation to be in.
The next problem is that, like I said, Seymour is not the only free agent to be on the Raiders-- Janikowski is also set to become a free agent. The Raiders can only franchise one of them and Janikowski's franchise tag number would be considerably cheaper-- by about $10 million. Which brings me to the final problem: the franchise tag figure.
Thanks to Julius Peppers salary of $16.68 million last season, Defensive ends will receive the most significant increase in franchise tag price. More than any other position. The cost to tag Seymour will jump from last year's figure of $8.99 million to $12.39 for next season. That kind of money is about what it would cost per year to sign Seymour long term anyway. The big difference would be that it wouldn't all be guaranteed money. Plus, like most contracts, it would be back loaded to ease the cap number for the immediate future. Then with the likelihood of an uncapped season next year, his contract numbers wouldn't matter and he would be locked up for many years to come.
We also know that being a Raider long-term is an appealing proposition to Seymour. He said as much and more in a recent interview with WEEI Boston:
"I really enjoy putting on that silver and black", said Seymour. "As a player , you know a lot of the guys I have talked to in the league say ‘oh man the uniforms and the mystique of the Raiders', you know just being a nasty hard hitting team."
"I would like to re-sign out in Oakland because I think when you can become a foundation piece and help turn an organization around, I mean that's a challenge to me. That's something where I am willing to take on that responsibility and that challenge. You know help being part of the beginning with some good guys that really can make a difference...if they came up to me with a deal and said hey this is what we are trying to do and you will be a foundation piece, I don't have a problem signing back with Oakland."
So now that we know he wants to be here, letting him walk in free agency is not an option. And the franchise tag would be impractical to put lit lightly.
The date teams can begin assigning the franchise tag is February 11. So the decision time is fast approaching. Although this decision is likely one of the easiest Al Davis has had to make. It is simply a matter of agreeing on the terms of the deal.
It shouldn't be too long before we hear the official word.