Schadenfreude. It’s impolite to take pleasure from the travails of others.
It’s also hard to pretend that I have any particular sympathy for the Raiders, and free agency is showing why.
Oakland was going to give Dennis Allen and Reggie McKenzie two years to make changes; this may not be the way to prove that.
Departed left tackle Jared Veldheer was held back last season by a triceps injury, but was still Oakland's best lineman, hands down. Naturally, the Raiders - and their $65M in cap room - decided that they wanted to replace Veldheer with the Rams' Rodger Saffold.
Saffold isn’t as good a lineman as Veldheer, but that was Oakland’s decision. Is someone over there channeling the evil spirit of Crazy Al?
Their offseason prompted many, like NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal, to query “What are the Oakland Raiders Doing?”
McKenzie has claimed that Veldheer, “didn't want to play for the Raiders anymore."
Veldheer, who ended up signing with the Cardinals, responded in a radio interview by calling McKenzie's story a pure fabrication - and he has the facts on his side. Oakland showed no eagerness to sign Veldheer before free agency, and the offer he finally got was an obvious low-ball. Arizona felt the opposite way, and they showed Jared that they wanted him there. He’s moved on, and was even classy enough to thank the Oakland area and organization in his AZ interview.
Most of the world finds that doing things in a certain order is healthy. That should include knowing that Saffold is healthy before you let Veldheer leave. Not the Raiders, though. Oakland's first error was letting Veldheer go despite his being a better tackle than Saffold on Saffold’s best day. That wasn’t the biggest problem, though.
Oakland’s larger gaffe was that Saffold is a long way from his best day. He has a torn labrum in his shoulder, which showed up on his physical. Oakland chose to void the deal, leaving the Raiders with no one to speak of starting at left tackle or whatever. They had not decided if Saffold would play guard or tackle anyway, which gives you an idea of the care and caution they put into the deal.
The Raiders then filled Veldheer’s position with Donald Penn, a castoff from the Bucs, who collectively permitted the second most sacks in the NFC last year. Penn didn’t look as bad when he was at left tackle and QB Josh Freeman was rolling to his right, taking the pressure with him. Freeman didn't make it (and went to Minnesota). That exposed Penn’s weaknesses. He was swung like a gate while ‘protecting’ rookie QB Mike Glennon, and was charged with 12 sacks for the season by PFF. Only the Giants' Will Beatty (13) allowed more.
So, Oakland dumped their best lineman, brought in a player with a bad shoulder, and had that deal cancelled. They caulked the resultant opening with a player whom the Bucs don’t even want. It’s not the fast track to claw your way to the top, but it’s Oakland’s. They’re struggling to figure out where last year’s draft pick OT/OG Menelik Watson should fit as well.
At least they know that Matt Schaub will be there, as long as he’s upright.
The Raiders also let Lamarr Houston go to Chicago, which might not have been a bad move. Per PFF, Houston provided six sacks, 16 quarterback hits, and 41 hurries for Oakland last year, and they needed him on defense. They still do.
But Oakland brought in Justin Tuck of the Giants to replace him, which looks like a good move. He was more productive than Houston last season (12 sacks), and Oakland needs all the help they can get.
Still, I’m surprised that they didn’t keep Houston on a one-year contract via franchise or transition tag. Money is okay, and they need his skills. Watch for them to get active around the draft: they could use that fifth-overall pick in a lot of ways.
But, this is Oakland, after all.
The Raiders also lost running back Rashad Jennings to the Giants. They did find the money to keep the unproductive and oft injured Darren McFadden. Through contract legerdemain, they're only on the hook for $100,000 in a worst case scenario.
That’s still how you say ‘idiotic’ in Oaklandish.