The Oakland Raiders are certainly an improving and dangerous football team but their recent decision to re-sign Richard Seymour may slow their rise back to prominence.
In September of 2009, the Raiders traded their 2011 first round pick for DT Richard Seymour just a month before his 30th birthday. Now don’t get me wrong, Seymour is still a very good player and he was when the Raiders traded for him. The problem with the trade and the reason it was viewed by many as foolish is because it was a move that would typically made by a Super Bowl contender looking for the final piece of the puzzle, not a league bottom feeder suffering through a decade of futility. The odds that Seymour would be able to help the Raiders reach a Super Bowl before his play began to decline looked slim.
Fast forward a couple of years and the Raiders are certainly a team on the rise. They swept the AFC West in 2010 but were unable to play as consistently against lesser foes. That inconsistency cost Oakland a chance at the playoffs and the AFC West title instead went to the surprise Kansas City Chiefs, a team they beat twice during the season.
The Raiders entered a critical offseason this year and kicked things off by firing head coach Tom Cable. I originally criticized the decision to fire Cable because of the continued instability another coaching change would bring to the organization, however the promotion of offensive coordinator Hue Jackson provided as seamless a transition the Raiders could have hoped for.
Once they found a head coach, the Raiders needed to decide what to do with Richard Seymour. Oakland inherited Seymour’s contract in the 2009 trade and his contract was set to expire this offseason.
Only Seymour’s contract wasn’t the only one set to expire. The team’s star CB Nnamdi Asomugha is also due to become a free agent. As you know, Asomugha is a shutdown corner that can totally close off one side of the football field. Asomugha is so good that he can usually take out a team’s best receiver all by himself. This allows the Raiders defense a great deal of flexibility as they look to stop opponent’s other offensive weapons.
The issue for Oakland was that keeping both Asomugha and Seymour would much far too expensive. The Raiders foolishly chose Seymour, who will turn 32 this October. Yesterday Oakland announced the team had signed Seymour to a deal that will guarantee him $22 million dollars and that will likely pay him $30 million over the next two years. Unfortunately for the Raiders, the Seymour signing will make it virtually impossible to re-sign Asomugha.
The move is simply boneheaded but the Raiders put themselves in this position by trading for Seymour in the first place. Asomugha is 29 and is in his prime. To not re-sign Seymour now would mean the Raiders basically gave up this year’s first round draft choice to rent the DT for 2009 and 2010. In those two seasons the Raiders went a combined 13-19.
Instead, the Raiders have locked up Seymour and will bid adieu to Asomugha will probably be able to play at an elite level for 2 or 3 more years.
Even more stupefying is that the Raiders finished 2nd in the NFL in pass defense in 2010 while finishing 29th against the run. Yet they chose to sign the older declining defensive lineman instead of choosing to keep their elite, shutdown corner in his prime.
The Raiders are loaded with young talent but you have to wonder what the departure of Asomugha will mean for their defense. Once could argue that the Raiders didn’t do much winning with Asomugha on the team but that can hardly be blamed on the player.
Trading for Seymour was just another in a long line of terrible personnel decisions made by Al Davis. Though Oakland appears to generally be heading in the right direction, it is hard not to think the decision to keep Seymour over Asomugha will knock them slightly off course.
What do you think Addicts? Will the Raiders be able to continue to improve despite the loss of Asomugha? Personally I think they’d have been better off without Seymour and with Asomugha and their 2011 first round pick.