The news these days for the Raiders has been mostly about who is not here. Namely, all of their big name free agents. But today, there was a momentary rush of excitement when free agent offensive tackle Jared Gaither was seen checking into the team hotel.
The sighting happened around 2:00pm and instantly the media was in a frenzy. Gaither's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, soon tweeted that his client had not signed a contract. But no one was buying it. Then everyone anxiously awaited an official announcement that never came.
The only announcement was that there wasn't one to be made. Hue Jackson said that Gaither was just stopping by for a visit. He would go on to say that the Raiders are checking Gaither out to see if he is indeed fully recovered from his back surgery. Said Hue Jackson, "There's a question of health, and we're going to do everything that we need to do to make sure that we know exactly where he is."
They aren't looking to rush and sign Gaither to a big contract (a la Javon Walker) only to find out he will never be fully healthy. They would also prefer not to give Gaither a big contract if they can help it. Having Veldheer at left tackle gives them the luxury not to overpay for Gaither.
If Gaither turns out to be healthy in the eyes of the Raiders, they would have a proven commodity at left tackle. And if Veldheer could successfully make a switch to right tackle, that would be a tremendous relief for a team that has not been solid at the tackle positions for a very, very long time. Their record over that span is evidence of that.
The other position in which the Raiders had gone many years without a solid player is strong side linebacker. When the team traded for Kamerion Wimbley last offseason, he instantly fixed that long standing problem. Now the team must sign him long term, not only to keep him around as a valuable part of this rebuilt defense, but to drastically lower his $11.8 million cap number this season.
Wimbley said on Friday that he and the Raiders are hard at work to get that contract done and we can expect to hear the news that he will be locked in long term by as early as Saturday.
Even if Wimbley signs on Saturday, he along with several other Raider free agents will not be able to practice until August 4. That includes restricted recently re-signed Jarvis Moss and Jon Condo, free agent Michael Bush, exclusive franchise tendered Marcel Reece, and all unrestricted free agents.
Four of those unrestricted free agents signed with other teams Friday. Nnamdi Asomugha and Jonnie Lee Higgins both signed with the Eagles. Robert Gallery signed with the Seahawks and Thomas Howard signed with the Bengals. Gallery and Howard had agreed to terms prior to that, it just became official on Friday.
The most important unrestricted free agent is Zach Miller for whom a new deal has yet to be made official.
The Raiders have been practicing at a breakneck pace in these first two days of practice, partially because there are no more two-a-days and partially because that is just how Hue Jackson wants it. Tom Cable was known for having a more laid back approach to practice.
Raider practices so far have had a lot of enthusiasm and yelling from all the coaches, most notably Jackson, Al Saunders, and Chuck Bresnahan. They may have a patchwork offensive line along with several other positions, but they are getting their work in.
Players who have stood out are Louis Murphy, Stanford Routt, and Chris Johnson.
Murphy has been the most consistent catching the ball thus far in camp. He was the lone bright spot among a Raider receiving corps that had a case of the dropsies today -- and that is with 'Drops Hella-Balls' still watching from the sideline.
Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson stood out for different reasons. Johnson looked solid in his new/old starting role. Routt was getting burnt both days and Murphy was the culprit often times. Today Routt was called for pass interference on Murphy.
Rookie round seven pick, David Ausberry, worked at tight end where he is expected to line up despite being listed as a wide receiver. He played wide receiver his first three seasons at USC before switching to tight end as a senior. He too dropped a lot of passes today along with fellow rookie tight end Richard Gordon. But Gordon is considered a blocking tight end. Ausberry must catch the ball well to make this team. That is why he is here. I maintain that he will see the practice squad this season as a developmental player.
The offensive line will not start to take shape until August 4 for sure because many of last year's offensive linemen are free agents. OT Mario Henderson, OT Langston Walker, OT Khalif Barnes, and C Samson Satele are not here and it remains to be seen which of them will be back, if any. Then Bruce Campbell has been watching from the sidelines as he didn't pass his physical due to injury. He wore an ice pack on his knee after practice.
The absences have allowed a lot of rookies to get good work in, work that could land a few of them a job. For instance, undrafted free agent Ben Lamaak played at left tackle and right guard at different times in practice.
Speaking of undrafted free agents, the Raiders added one more on Friday, offensive tackle Cody Habben out of the University of Washington. He was brought in late if for no other reason than to have another body on the offensive line until the team can either re-sign or replace their free agents.
Padded practice starts tomorrow so the hits will really start happening. Also with all the players who have been cut in recent days, expect a busy day in free agency.
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With Asomugha gone, Raidernation has Routt and Johnson and 4 CB's drafted in the last 2 years and new coach, Rod Woodson. You know I heard somewhere he called Al and asked for the job. Somehow, I think we will be just fine.
There's a ton of FA's on the market now and I heard we are talking to WR Malcolm FLoyd, who I'd love to see here cause it also takes away a weapon from Rivers. Dont forget, nobody ever threw at Nnamdi and I dont think we miss that much. The same guys will be getting balls thrown at them as last year only they will not be picked on every play.
with asomugha gone, the raider nation needs a little uplifting, even though it was bound to happen. hopefully he's healthy and can play. espn is showing on tv as a signing for us, but the website says he's not, yet. jackson also said he wasn't signed just yet. we need to resign wimbley and get that franchise tag off so we can get in the free agent market and upgrade some positions. resign zach and then go from there. if free agency starts after 4 years, dmac will be one after this season then wont he? i thought blalock was signed somewhere already? still some quality free agents out there. i dont think gaither will be the end if we get him, would like to see another ol, a vet wr, a cb, and another lb. whats up with nick barnett? would be costly and i dont know how he would perform in a 4-3 defense, but the kid is a baller for sure!
Really hope Gaither passes the physical and becomes a Raider - the two Jareds as our future bookends seems pretty solid with great potential imo!
We also need a G though - i would prefer Justin Blalock as he would fit perfectly into what we are doing, and he would be a great piece in the 'building a powerful bully' theme! Would make for a huge line who would definately be able to physically dominate most Dlines!
A bit worried by B Campbell, hopefully it is just a minor injury, but he definately needs all the reps he can get if he is to compete for a spot!
Still need to sign a couple of quality FA's, but Gaither is a very good start! Hopefully Action Jackson and Big Al gets who they want (and we need)!
It'll happen if his back is good. If it's not, then he'll be denied a contract, go try and get a bigger contract elsewhere ... and WHEN that fails, he'll come crawling back for the smaller contract, just like Barnes did ... I think either way he's going to suit up in the silver and black for this year and beyond. The Raiders are notorious for keeping injured players on their roster, lets hope in this worse case scenario, he is the only one kept on PUP damnit!
Floyd would do wonders as a true #1 receiver. with Chaz and Zach underneath and Ford in the slot, Campbell will have 4 consistent hands to throw to. this is NO JOKE. Muphy will get a lot of playing time i presume, but if he drops any balls, along with DHB... then they'll ride pine, and rightly so. we're going to be playing a lot of tight games with good teams this year, dropped balls are UNACCEPTABLE in those situations ... it's going to happen at times, but it needs to stay at a minimum if we want to have a great mixture of pass and run on offense this year. putting the best 4 hands on the football field will go along way.