I've been talking with Raider Nation a lot on Twitter recently (if you don't already follow me and you're on Twitter, there's a link at the bottom of this article - follow me, I try to tweet a lot throughout the day) about the Raiders moves this off-season.
My opinion is that the Raiders are going about free agency and cleaning up the team's contract situations the right way; I believe this is a necessary period. I thought I would explain some of my thoughts.
With the salary cap and teams revenue sharing, the NFL is as even a playing ground as any professional sport and a good deal more fair than most.
There are some differences in the personal wealth of the owners, which can allow more signing bonuses paid. There are differences in the popularity of the team apparel or merchandise.
But each team splits costs on many items so that there isn't too large a competitive advantage in larger market areas.
The salary cap puts teams on an even playing ground as well. Teams do not have the opportunity to be like the Yankees and overpay for talent in an attempt to make the playoffs every year. Every player signed must fit under the salary cap rules equally.
These are two of the biggest reasons that the NFL is the most popular sport in America and one of the most popular in the world. Every team's fans know that their team has a shot at making the Super Bowl any given year simply because of the way the league is set up.
This year the salary cap is slightly north of $120 million dollars, so we'll use that number for illustration purposes.
The Buffalo Bills signed DE Mario Williams to a reported 6 year, $100 million dollar contract yesterday, with a reported $50 million guaranteed. The $100 million isn't important - he won't get that amount - but the guaranteed money is huge.
According to Andrew Brandt of the National Football Post, who is very good with the contract end of the NFL, the 6th year is mostly a void year or to build up the number. The maximum number of years that a team can prorate a bonus over is 5.
Also according to Brandt, Mario's due a staggering $25 million dollars in salary this season. Not all of that will be against the cap and his cap number may be, in reality, low. Let's say, for argument's sake, that his cap number - the amount of his salary that counts against the salary cap - is "only" $10 million each year for the next 5 years of the deal.
If the salary cap doesn't grow much, or at all, for the next 5 years or so, Mario Williams' contract would account for nearly 1/12 of his teams cap allotment.
The team will still have to pay the remaining 52 players with the remaining 11/12ths. That is a highly disproportional amount to give one player.
Plus, it's not as if highly touted free agents are a lock to be successful, either. Look at Albert Haynesworth, who was the top free agent in his class when Washington signed him. Or Adalius Thomas, who was considered almost a can't miss prospect when the Patriots signed him in 2007.
By staying away from the market frenzy that occurs in the first few days of free agency, the Raiders have put themselves in a better place to get solid, reasonably priced talent.
The best teams do this in a logical way - they do not convince themselves they must have a certain player.
It is a basic tenet of good negotiation that you pre-plan where you feel comfortable with ending and if you cannot get your counterpart into your range, you walk away.
The best teams in the league do an evaluation of the players themselves, they do not rely on the evaluation of others. They determine "what is our comfort range with this player? What number would we like to sign him at? What is our absolute top end?"
They also bring the player in and get a sense of him - "Will he be a good contribution to the team? Does he want to play here?"
Then, they sit down with the agent of the player (or over the phone) and they begin negotiations. They have thought out their strengths and they use them - "Well, Bob, you know that your client has injury concerns. He isn't going to be able to get a $25 million dollar contract at this point in his career."
If the agent disagrees on what his client can get, the team must be prepared to walk away.
There is no player in this league that a team must have. Every player is a piece to the puzzle to winning.
The Raiders have been working on freeing up their cap so that they can sign the pieces they need to put together a solid team in 2012 and it's the right approach.
Ask me questions or tell me what you think on Twitter @AsherMathews
You have some valid points, as football is a team sport, it needs to be approached with a whole team concept in mind. Having a star player without much support from the rest of the team will not make a winner. I remember several years ago the Redskins went on a mass spending spree, loaded up on some very top name talent, and still had a dissapointing season. In an intereview with Shannon Sharpe they asked his opinion of what went wrong. His response: "You can't buy chemistry".
That being said, it is still hard to field a competitive team by waiting around untlil every other team takes what they want and then taking your pick of what is left. It seems like it is a sure way to yield a second rate team. The one thing you can say about these big names is there usually is a reson they are big names. They have done something on the field to prove themselves.
I believe that the team we had last year was a few pieces shy of being competative. Those pieces moslty being on defense. It would be nice to see something built off of that. They instead seem to want to cast off everything and rebuild form the ground up. That would probably mean we ware looking at a few years at least before we have a team ready to compete. After a decade witout a playoff appearance, much of it spent as a laughing stock of the league, I think the fan base is really hungry for something to be proud of again. So hungry that we sold out every home game last year, even though in the end we came up just shy of the playoffs. I don't think having a throw away year would be good for the team right now.
Well, McK not clearing out space earlier made him miss out on both Myers and Wells. That pisses me off.
At least we signed Bartell and Brisiel, right? Eh, solid signings.
High priced FAs rarely pay off. If you're one player away from the Super Bowl - then go for it. Otherwise it's best to just look for the right fit either through the draft or proper training. None of these teams loading up on FAs ever go far - the Philly "Dream Team" being the most recent example. They managed to even make Nnamdi look bad.
Wow, I totally agree with you Asher. This was a great post. But Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tom Brady break the rule. They are players that if anytime you'd ever find in free agency, you must have. Last season we all saw how an awful team the Colts really were, and Peyton drove them to the Super Bowl twice. I'm not complaining about us not trying to get Peyton (he was completely out of our league after all), but I can't blame Bud Adams for trying to lock the man.
@Jososi I think in the long term this will be for the better. If the Raiders can take their pain up front and get the ship righted they can be much more competitive in the future than they would have been hampered by those contracts.
@JarrodRollins Dude, I know you're gonna hate me for saying this, but Bartell's been a much better CB than Richard Marshall so far. He's a bit risky because of the neck surgery, but he's a much more consistent player.
Brisiel is indeed a beast playing at guard and pretty much like Wisniewski he can play guard and center, so I think those were pretty good moves. I'd also loved to see Myers at Oakland, but he got a nice contract form the texans so he was out of the game. Wells was alos a good option, but remember he's 31 and his very first probowl caliber season was last season. We do need a Center, but we have much bigger needs at Defense and we have virtually no money to sign any of them.
@Black_Nightmare First, thank you for the compliment. I'm pretty proud of this post, I felt good about how it turned out, so again thank you. I agree with your point to some extent, I guess, but I don't think that it's quite true. For example, Peyton is available right now and yet I don't see Raiders fans clamoring to have to have him. And they shouldn't, we don't need him. He's a luxury, not a necessity. And with the Broncos reportedly offering him a $90 million contract, he's an expensive luxury at that. No player without question marks hits free agency. If Peyton didn't have question marks he wouldn't have hit the open market. If Brees hadn't had question marks, he wouldn't have hit the open market. Both were similar in that they had or have serious injuries and the team taking them on is taking a risk by signing them. Obviously Brees worked out well and we'll see with Peyton. Sure, if Peyton of 2008 hit the open market you break the bank for him - but that doesn't happen.