Some exciting things have been happening in Oakland in the past few months. For the first time in nine years, it appears the idea of being a Raider doesn't have a dark cloud hovering over it. With the future looking bright for this team, there is a legitimate chance that free agent players would welcome the opportunity to suit up in Silver and Black.
The shift back to relevancy began in week five of last season when the Raiders were able to remove the monkey off their back by beating the Chargers for the first time in the last 13 tries. Including that win, the Raiders would win four out of the next five games to head into the bye week a game over .500 and take over first place in the AFC West. Though they were unable to hold on to that lead, they remained in the hunt right up until the end of the season.
Now the Raiders have become the up and coming pick to make the playoffs in 2011. Being a part of a young talented nucleus is enticing for veteran players who are looking for a new home. They want to go to a team that looks like it is just a couple of pieces away from being a contender. Veteran players want to be that piece.
But just being a rising team isn't enough. Free agent players also want to be with good coaches. The Raiders have an impressive group of coaches assembled on this staff. It all starts with head coach Hue Jackson. He has risen in the NFL ranks pretty quickly in the past ten years and has gained a tremendous amount of respect from his players and fellow coaches along the way.
The assistants and coordinators on the coaching staff are also impressive. Offensive coordinator Al Saunders has 45 years coaching experience, mostly as an offensive coordinator. The Raiders also brought in Chuck Bresnahan as a defensive assistant and promoted Greg Biekert to linebackers coach. But tthe latest coaching hire may be the most exciting: Hall of Famer Rod Woodson as an assistant defensive backs coach.
Woodson's worth may be in keeping free agents as opposed to bringing in new ones, most importantly the re-signing of Nnamdi Asomugha. Asomugha's first season in the NFL was Woodson's final season. They were teammates on the Raiders in 2003 and no doubt Asomugha learned a lot from one of the greatest defensive backs to ever play the game. That relationship is just one more incentive for Nnamdi to remain in Oakland.
Nnamdi tops a long list of free agents the Raiders hope to retain. Depending on the result of the CBA, the list of free agents could include Zach Miller, Michael Bush, Stanford Routt, and Michael Huff. The Raiders are hoping the first big fish they can reel in are their own. They already retained one when they re-signed Richard Seymour to a two year deal.
The re-signing of Richard Seymour is the final major factor that makes the Raiders an attractive free agent destination. Or more specifically, making Seymour the highest paid defender in the NFL. It is not uncommon for Al Davis to reward his best players with lucrative contracts. In fact, it is expected. He gave Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski record contracts last offseason and he did the same for Nnamdi the previous offseason. And let's not forget when he made Tommy Kelly the highest paid defensive tackle in the NFL a few years back.
What these big contracts accomplish is to send a message to all potential free agents: "If you come to the Raiders and play well, you will get paid." Al Davis is extremely loyal to those who are loyal to him, as evidenced by how many former Raider players are either currently on the coaching staff or have previously coached for the team.
One such coach is Winston Moss who played for the Raiders for four years in the early 90's, later coached for the Raiders, and is now the favorite to land the team's vacant defensive coordinator position. You could consider him a free agent of sorts. Until the position is filled, he has to be the frontrunner. He too no doubt sees the positive environment being built in Oakland. And he would add to the already impressive coaching staff.
So what we have here is a young, talented team on the rise, with a great coaching staff and an owner willing to reward his players with record contracts for their hard work. There isn't a free agent on the market who isn't looking for one of if not all of these qualities in a prospective team.
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