The latest CBA proposal from the NFL is the most enticing offer they have made to the players thus far. That by itself is fantastic news in regards to having a season in 2011. But there is one provision in the proposal that is news the Raiders have been dreading.
The players have said that they are unwilling to agree on any deal that has them receiving less than 48% of the revenue. That is the part of the deal that has the players listening to the latest offer. But that proposal also carries with it a provision that has players becoming unrestricted free agents after four years in the league. That would really throw a wrench in the Raiders' plans.
The Raiders have several big name free agents, all of whom are important pieces to the team. The most notable is Nnamdi Asomugha, who is an unrestricted free agent regardless of the new CBA. The other two big names are tight end Zach Miller and running back Michael Bush.
The Raiders placed the highest free agent tenders on both Miller and Bush in an attempt to hold onto them until through this season while trying to work out a long term deal. If the proposal were to become the new CBA, their tenders would be void and both players would immediately be unrestricted free agents.
On the open market, both Bush and Miller would be highly sought after free agents.
Bush is a rising star and would have many suitors offering top dollar in the same vein as the Atlanta Falcons signed Michael Turner a couple years ago.
Miller was a Pro Bowler last year and has been not only the Raiders' best receiver, but one of the best receivers in the NFL over the past four years.
It would be difficult for the Raiders to be able to give both players the kind of money they would command on the open market. Prior to the lockout, they tried very hard to re-sign Miller to a long term deal but were unsuccessful in doing so. It is not certain what kind of efforts have been made in regards to Bush.
The team had 26 free agents heading into this offseason, many of whom were top priorities. Up to this point, Al Davis and company had managed it pretty well, all things considered. The first issue occurred when they attempted to exercise an option in Kamerion Wimbley's contract and it was voided by a little known rule. This forced them to use the franchise tag on him instead of Zach Miller and in turn put a franchise tender on Miller.
Nnamdi's contract voided itself after last season, which was out of the Raiders' control. But with the contracts of the other big names taken care of (or so we thought), the focus could be placed solely on trying to convince Nnamdi to return to the Raiders instead of moving on to greener pastures... or greener something.
What the team is left with now is a choice that may come down to keeping one of these three players and losing the other two. They have prepared for the distinct possibility of losing Asomugha as a free agent. But losing Miller and Bush was not in the plans and would be disastrous.
Miller is invaluable, and I think the team will be able to re-sign him. They will likely have to make him one of, if not the, highest paid tight end in the NFL to do it, but I think Al Davis will get it done. Bush is also a critical part of the Raiders. The team had the second best rushing attack in the NFL last season and if he leaves, they will be left without a power running game. He provided the changeup that ran defenses over either when Darren McFadden was taking a breather, or late in the game when the defense was tired. Also if/when McFadden gets injured again, the team will have only unproven rookie round four pick Taiwan Jones to pick up the slack.
Heading into the offseason the Raiders' free agent situation looked pretty good. They thought Nnamdi was under contract for another season, they could exercise the option on Wimbley's contract, re-sign Seymour to a long term deal, put the franchise tag on Zach Miller and the franchise tender on Bush.
Since that time only the Seymour deal has come to pass. Everything else has fallen apart and this latest news only stands to further deteriorate what once seemed like solid plans.
This new rule, if implemented, would hurt every up-and-coming team like the Raiders and make it even harder to build a winning team. Every season will be a crap shoot. You think "worst to first" is a common term now? Just wait. It will have players switching teams before there is time to build a good nucleus.
It will kill active player trades as well. Why would a team trade anything of value for a player who will be a free agent the next season?
Loyalty and camaraderie will be dead. The moment a good young player develops to his potential, he will be gone to the highest bidder. The players will just be playing for their next contract not for pride in a city or uniform. How could you invest yourself in something when it will be almost completely unrecognizable the next season? Why would you bother? Which I suppose is a question the fans will begin asking themselves as well.
So, while it is great news that the two sides may be close to an agreement and football could be in our near future, it may not be the same game we left last season.
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