Richard Seymour a Short-Term Fix for a Clunker of a Franchise
This is how it works in Oakland: Al Davis makes all the decisions. Most of them are short-term. You know the slogan -- "Just Win, Baby!" It's a great rhetoric, just like "The Greatness of the Raiders Will Continue In Its Future (sic)," is a hollow promise and grammatically challenged, all at the same time.
And while so many of these headline-grabbing transactions send the Black Hole crowd into delirium, recent history proves they are like putting a new spark plug into a blown engine.
At first glance, the Raiders' latest blockbuster deal, acquiring five-time Pro Bowl defensive end/tackle Richard Seymour from the New England Patriots for Oakland's first-round pick in 2011, looks like Davis just made his team competitive in a sad-sack AFC West.
That's the knee-jerk reaction. Then, slowly, reality sets in, and you realize that -- like those front-row concert tickets you scored on Craigslist that turned out to be counterfeit -- most triumphant Raiders swaps this decade have blown up like an exploding cigar.
What looks good today:
-- Seymour is 29, coming off a season in which he matched his career-high with eight sacks. He was a vital cog in all three of the Patriots' Super Bowl championship teams since landing in New England as the sixth overall pick in the 2001 NFL draft.
-- The AFC West is a wasteland, with the exception of the San Diego Chargers (yes, even in the wake of the latest Shawne Merriman fiasco). There are rookie head coaches and chaos reigning in Kansas City and Denver, and a newbie coach in the Raiders' Tom Cable, who is being investigated by the Napa, Calif. police after allegedly attacking and breaking the jaw of assistant coach Randy Hanson during a coaches' meeting in early August.
-- The Raiders defense was 31st in the NFL during the preseason and last against the run, allowing a staggering 192.0 rushing yards per outing while the team finished 1-3. Seymour is great off the edge and a talented run stuffer.
-- With an extension to the collective bargaining agreement between the owners and the players, a lockout is entirely possible in 2011. The Raiders may have just surrendered a first-round pick for a season that could see limited or no NFL action.
The reality of what just happened:
-- Seymour is entering the final year of a contract that will pay him $3.685 million. There is no indication that the Raiders made this deal with a a new contract provision attached. That means Seymour, in all likelihood, will walk away in 2010. Even though the NFL is bracing for no salary cap next season, the Raiders' days of throwing bags of money at players are dwindling, only because the owner is cash-poor.
-- Since reaching the Super Bowl in 2002, the Raiders have, in ascending order, picked 31st (CB Nnamdi Asomugha in '03); second (OT Robert Gallery in '04); 23rd (CB Fabian Washington in '05); seventh (S Michael Huff in '06); first (QB JaMarcus Russell in '07); fourth (RB Darren McFadden in '08); and seventh (WR Darrius Heyward-Bey in '09).
It's a fair bet that Bill Belichick just landed a top 10 draft pick for a player he loves but likely would not have re-signed. Why? Belichick has a knack for cutting the cord on players he thinks may be in decline, and he loves to reload through the draft. Whose instincts do you trust here, Belichick's or Davis'?
-- Seymour turns 30 in a month. He is still an elite player -- in the Patriots' 3-4 defensive scheme that is loaded with talent and character. There are indications from NFL scouts that his speed is waning and his big playmaking days may be behind him. How will Seymour fit on a 4-3 defense that will have 34-year-old Greg Ellis on the other side? Will he still play end? Will he move inside?
-- Seymour just left the NFL's most efficient football operation and lands, without warning, into the lap of the NFL's most dysfunctional. How will this sit with him? Already, multiple NFL sources are saying Seymour is telling people around the league he is reluctant to report to Oakland.
There are some notable high-character guys with the Raiders -- Asomugha is the best cover cornerback in the NFL and is a team-first player, as is All Pro punter Shane Lechler -- but the franchise's lack of leadership and oversight shows on game days when penalties run amuck and opponents run wild.
Already, Ellis, the former Cowboys linebacker who signed a three-year free agent deal with Oakland, has lashed out at his teammates' lack of discipline and commitment.
"Guys, you can't stay out all night," Ellis fumed after the Raiders surrendered 536 net yards (232 rushing) in a 45-7 exhibition loss to the Saints. "Can't expect to come in here and just turn it on. This isn't high school or college football. This is the best of the best in the NFL. So you've got to do those small things that you maybe didn't have to do in college."
In a perfect world, Seymour comes to Oakland and helps change the culture. Then again, Asomugha and others before him have tried. And failed. Ellis, as you can see, already appears to have raised a white flag.
The Raiders, crippled by Davis' autocratic decision-making and barren personnel department, appear too far gone to expect one outstanding player addition to restart a clunker of a franchise, even in a turnaround era where worst-to-first has become less startling.
Good luck, Richard. Here's a bit of advice as you make the move to Oakland -- rent. Don't buy.