While I believe the Oakland Raiders have a talented set of tight ends, I also think they need help at this position this offseason. With the signing of defensive end Richard Seymour and the fact they can't franchise tag cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, Zach Miller is looking like the player most likely to receive a franchise tag from his team. However, Miller is the Raiders' player representative to the NFLPA – a group that has taken a stance that tags "don't and won't exist" in the new CBA.
Perhaps the Raiders won't tag anybody... what then? In the meantime, here is a look at the Raiders tight ends.
Zach Miller #80:
Miller came to the Raiders via a second round pick in the 2007 NFL draft. While Miller hasn't produced big time touchdown numbers as a Raider, he has managed to lead the team in receptions and yards receiving in his first four seasons. In 62 career games, Miller has caught 226 passes, 11th best on the all-time list for the Raiders. That's almost four catches per game. Good production from a tight end is essential to an offense. Miller has proven that he is the right guy.
Now the Raiders face a situation where his rookie contract, the way it was written when he signed it, calls for him to be a restricted free agent. The Raiders would have first right of refusal to anyone who tried to sign him, and if the other team proceeded to sign said player, the original team receives draft picks from the other team in the upcoming draft to compensate.
Miller has worked with a few different coaches and a few different quarterbacks in his short career. Perhaps he is looking for more stability than Oakland offers, but I doubt it. I think he's a Raider for life and he's about to get the biggest contract in the history of tight ends from Al Davis in 2012 if he can just deal with some kind of tagging this year. With either the RFA tag or the franchise tag, Miller would make a lot more money this year than he did the first four years.
Brandon Myers #83:
Myers is not yet a quality second tight end, but he does have the potential to be. He is nowhere near as advanced in his skills as Miller was over his first two years, though Myers wasn't a second round pick either -- he was a sixth round pick. But Al Davis saw something he liked when he drafted Myers out of Iowa in the sixth round because the Raider owner made a rare trade forward to get him.
Myers has good hands and he's a big guy who blocks well. At Iowa, he helped block for Shonn Green, the talented New York Jets running back who is a former first round pick. Green ran for 1,850 yards and 20 TD's in his senior year at Iowa. Myers sealed a lot of edges for him.
Thus far, Myers hasn't been much of a factor in the Raiders' passing offense, but he helped get them to number two in the league in rushing last year. He also did an admirable job filling in for Zach Miller when he was dealing with a foot injury.
Khalif Barnes #69:
Barnes was brought in during a lot of the Raiders three tight end sets last year primarily as a blocker. I guess he was Cable's last jab at Al. He is a free agent and is not a necessity. However, the Raiders could re-sign him pretty cheap and he is a decent backup tackle for both sides of the line.
Roster Status: Moderate
Also see Position Analyses:
Safety I Linebacker I Cornerback I Defensive End I Defensive Tackle I Special Teams
Quarterback l Running Back l Wide Receiver l Offensive Tackle l Guard/Center
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The reality of the situation concerning Zach Miller is that there is no guarantee that he will be a Raider next year unless he is tagged. Yes, players do not like the "tag" label, but it is necessary to have the "tags" in order to protect franchises from losing key players due to financial inabilities to sign players to long term deals.
The Raiders are not financially strong right now. We haven't been for a while, and as a season ticket holder, I am well aware of the Raider financial state and the problems concerning fan attendance during home games. I really don't see how Al Davis can bring back Asomugah for less than 17 million per season. We have other major areas to address (like the offensive tackle position), and spending that kind of money is foolish on one player, even if he is as great as Asomugah, and even more foolish if you don't have the money to pursue other areas of greater need.
Al Davis likes to reward "true Raiders", but Davis is no fool, and he will pass on players if he can't afford to pay the asking price, regardless of their Raider legacy. Tagging Miller is the right thing to do, and resigning Robert Gallery is a close second. Davis should do these two things now before risking the chance of losing them with the new CBA, and that is a very realistic possibility that the Raiders cannot risk taking a chance on...
Resigning Zach Miller, in my opinion, is among the top two priorities the Raiders need to do in the offseason in regards to their own free agents. Losing this guy would be devastating, especially considering the fact that our current wide receiver corps is so inconsistent and we have no true go to guy. Until the Raiders pick up a legitimate and productive wide receiver via free agency, Miller is still going to be Campbell's main target, and a guy this valuable to our offense has to be tagged and locked up for at least next year, then, during the course of the season, must be signed to a long term deal.
l have to admit, though, that I am a little concerned that Miller is part of a group that wants to abolish "tags" under the next CBA.. The Raiders need to sign him NOW and avoid waiting until the next CBA, as we cannot take any chances of possibly losing this guy...I pray that he is a Raider for life, but there is still a part of me that thinks he carries bitterness over the release of Tom Cable and would seriously test the market if given the opportunity.
@Spartacus Lets be honest here for a minute, I don't any player really wants to keep "tags" around! If they were really that popular with players these guys wouldn't be holding out more times than not when they get tagged.
BTW I can't see Miller going anywhere. It will not surprise me to see Davis make Miller one of the highest paid Tight Ends in the game. One of the greatest things about Davis is that he looks after the true Raiders (a reason I don't see Asomugha going anywhere as well) and he always finds a way to sign these players to big arse contracts and fitting them under the cap.
Would agree with your assessment of the first two. Myers is massively under-utilized and has great potential. Wont agree about the third tho'. 'False start' Barnes is a liability- needs to be cut. This is what sometimes annoys me about the Raiders. We take a guy who basically hasn't made it at his trained for position and try to transform him to something else. E.g. Fred Wakefield, Alex Daniels. Barnes has done nothing at Tackle and if he has to be listed anywhere on the roster would rather be as far down the depth chart as possible. Definitely not as a TE.