Outside of releasing some veterans from the roster, the Raiders only significant move this offseason has been the trade that brought standout DE/LB Kamerion Wimbley over from the Browns. This lack of activity is somewhat uncharacteristic for the Raiders but the offseason is far from over and you can bet there will be a few more pieces moved before all is said and done.
There has been quite a housecleaning going on since the end of last season. The plan seems to be to get younger. But that is not the only common factor in the roster trimming as I see it. Coach Cable and the Raiders are acting like they have found their identity. And when examining the roster and game plan at this moment, the one player I see that doesn’t quite fit into that identity is Darren McFadden.
Before we start using terms like “Al Davis scholarship player”, allow me to remind you of one Fabian Washington. He was an Al Davis pick if there ever was one. The Raiders traded up into the first round of the ‘05 draft to get the speedy corner out of Nebraska. But after just two seasons, he was outplayed and supplanted by his draft classmate, second round pick Stanford Routt. He was then traded to the Ravens on draft day in 2008 for a fourth round pick. Washington spent just three years in Oakland-- a meteoric plummet in value if I ever saw one.
McFadden has been supplanted by Michael Bush. And the Raiders have shown that Bush is their choice as the starter. You need only look at the stats to see why. Bush averages 4.6 yards per carry to McFadden’s 3.9. Bush also has had the Raiders' only three 100+ yard games in the last two years as well as the longest run from scrimmage(67 yds) in that time. If McFadden has another lackluster, injury plagued season as he has in his first two, his value is going to fall even further than it already has. And the Raiders will go from getting a possible second day pick in return, to at best a third day pick. At which point, with his contract numbers, it would be more likely a situation where they simply cut their losses and release him.
The problem with McFadden and the Raiders is they were never a good match. This has caused his stock to drop constantly since the first moment he stepped on the field in silver and black. The best thing for McFadden and the Raiders would be to shop him right now while there may still be teams that think he has value. And more importantly; while there are quite a few teams that can properly utilize a player with his skill set.
This would be a win-win-win situation all-around. No doubt the Raiders were not the only team that had McFadden high on their draft board in ‘08. Since then, his lack of production has been partially due to the Raiders “lethargic” offense. Well, combined with the aforementioned misuse of his skill set.
Among the teams that would likely be interested in McFadden’s services would be the Dolphins, Cowboys, Bears, and Eagles.
The Dolphins are the most logical choice. They run the wildcat offense, which McFadden excelled at for Arkansas. They called it the “Wild Hog” but it was the same thing. The Dolphins also have a bit of an issue at running back right now. Ronnie Brown was injured much of last season and now he has a DUI looming over him which will warrant a suspension from the league. His backfield mate, Ricky Williams, said recently that this may be his final season in the NFL. The Dolphins are the ideal trade partner and perfect fit for McFadden.
The Cowboys are in play because Jerry Jones is a proud former Arkansas Razorback. The Cowboys chose McFadden’s battery mate, Felix Jones, a few picks after DMac was taken by the Raiders. You can bet Jerry would LOVE to see this duo reunited in Dallas and running the Wild Hog for his Cowboys next season. The Raiders would probably look to pry Tashard Choice and a low round draft pick from the Cowboys in return.
The Bears became an option for a player like McFadden the moment they hired Mike Martz as their offensive coordinator. The same Mike Martz that got every single ounce of amazing out of Marshall Faulk in those “Greatest Show on Turf” years in St Louis. Faulk’s best contributions came on screens, dump-offs and passes into the flat in open space-- which so happen to be what McFadden is most suited for. I have to think that if Martz’s phone rang with the offer of “Run DMC” for a early mid round draft choice, he would see flashes of his Super Bowl winning glory years with the Rams in the late 90‘s.
The Eagles are an interesting possibility as well. Mainly because there have already been a considerable amount of rumors swirling about a possible trade of Nnamdi Asomugha to the Eagles for Donovan McNabb. Those rumors have also included swapping first round picks and Asante Samuel added to the deal. Hard to say how much of those rumors has any truth to it, but it is intriguing none the less. But I say the talks are not centering around the right player. The Eagles cut Brian Westbrook this offseason as part of their own youth movement. Westbrook is another player whose greatest contributions come in the passing game. He was the ultimate weapon for the Eagles and McNabb. To be able to replace Westbrook with McFadden could be ideal for the Eagles. I am not saying that the trade would be for McNabb necessarily. Afterall, he has said that he won’t sign long-term with the Raiders anyway. But if the Raiders’ and Eagles’ brass have been hot and heavy lately as the rumors suggest, it would be easy enough to simply shift the conversation to McFadden.
In the trade, the Raiders would likely receive a third round pick although, as I pointed out with the Cowboys, they could get a player and a low round pick. If it were a third rounder, there are quite a few good backs in this class that are projected to be available in that range that would excell in the zone blocking scheme. And if Louis Rankin proved anything last offseason, it is that there are plenty of good free agent backs out there who can come in and fill the void left by the release of Justin Fargas.
From what I see, trading McFadden could be and should be the next important move the Raiders make this offseason. And I am more than happy to be that bug in the ear that gets the phones ringing on draft day.