AFC West: Nnandi Asomugha
Jesse from San Antonio wants to know if I think the Chargers will go after an offensive-minded coach if Norv Turner is fired.
Bill Williamson: Often, teams usually move away from the type of coach they had just fired. When Turner was hired by San Diego in 2007, the Chargers went for an offensive coach after departing ways with a defensive-minded coach in Marty Schottenheimer. But I think this situation is different. I think the Chargers will look for the best possible fit regardless of what side of the ball a coach specializes on.
Jim from Rock Port, Mo. wants to know if the fact at Ricky Stanzi has not been in the mix is a sign that the Chiefs are not happy with him.
BW: You must remember, Stanzi was a fifth-round pick. He is a project. The Chiefs don’t expect anything from him this year. He is a long-term prospect, who may or may not have a future in Kansas City. The fact that he isn’t playing now means little.
Raider Will from Miami wants to know if I think Oakland cornerback Stanford Routt is having a Pro Bowl season.
BW: Routt has been good. He has done a nice job this season as the Raiders’ No. 1 cornerback after the departure of Nnamdi Asomugha. I think Routt is a good player, whose cover skills are underrated. He may not be a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback, but he’s not far off.
What I want to do is focus on what really matters: The Nnamdi Asomugha situation.
It has struck me in the past day that the Asomugha angle hasn’t been given enough attention. I know Davis talked about a lot. But what he said -- or didn’t say -- about Asomugha's pending free agency is the most important factor.
All the Tom Cable talk, Davis’ continued support of quarterback Jason Campbell and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, his rehash of the JaMarcus Russell era and his desire for new stadium is interesting. But focusing on all that stuff would be missing the point. None of those subjects really matter. What else did you expect Davis to say?
The Asomugha factor is what matters most to this team moving forward. It was both surprising, and perhaps telling, that Davis didn’t go overboard when asked about Asomugha. Davis said he hopes the superstar cornerback would be back. I expected Davis to be more aggressive in his plans.
Just because Davis didn’t come out say he will re-sign Asomugha at all costs, doesn’t mean he doesn’t plan to. But Davis usually doesn’t back down. When he speaks, he speaks his mind.
I sensed the Oakland owner thinks he may not be able to sign Asomugha. He said, had Asomugha’s contract not voided, it would have been a lot to pay the $17 million Asomugha was due this year as part of a record deal Davis gave him two years ago. Davis said the $17 million could be split between two or three players. With several pending free agents in Oakland, Davis may be thinking about the big picture.
It will be difficult to think Asomugha will get a $17 million deal, but he will get a huge, long-term payday from some team. I still think it will be from Oakland. But Davis’ lack of a complete commitment makes me think it is a possible that Asomugha could be elsewhere in 2011.
That's what we should be focused on, not a predictable fight with yet another former head coach.
On Oakland’s quarterback situation headed into 2010:
“You know, getting ready to start the offseason and get to OTAs and minicamp and let the job be competed for. That’s where we’re at in terms of our starting quarterback.”
On whether Oakland will look to draft a quarterback.
“For us, we have to look at a number of things, so I don’t think you would discount that or any other position.”
On Oakland’s other draft needs.
“For us right now probably working a little bit on the line of scrimmage and the secondary and some things like that. And really come away from this combine and knowing what’s going to be available, so you can really put your finger on some of that.”
On whether quarterback JaMarcus Russell has assured he team he’ll take care of himself physically in the offseason.
“It’s really not about him giving assurances. It’s simply, he has a job to do like everybody else. Do your job and do it in a matter helps this team succeed. We have talked a couple of times. I know he’s working and I’m anxious for the offseason program to get started so we can see him all the time.”
On ESPN’s report that the team could trade star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
“We get a ton of calls about a lot of players on our football team all the time. In fact, before I came in here I was on the phone about something. To me, that stuff happens in the NFL. It’s going to happen all the time, so people call you and you listen. And see if anything interests you or doesn’t interest you. Sometimes it’s crazier than you think what they’re talking about. So you just take the call and you listen.”
On whether running back Darren McFadden's injuries have held him back in his two disappointing NFL seasons.
“I think so. Every time he’s gotten himself going and had pretty good production something has happened to either take him out of that game or not let him be as big a part in the next one. He’s a fine player and as he’s able to stay healthy for longer periods of time you’ll see more for what we all hope.”
On how rookie receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey's first season went.
“I think there were some good and some things that were probably disappointing. The injury, to me, is disappointing. I think the amount of pressure that was put on that kid from all angles, the scrutiny came the day he was picked, probably unfair but, hey, this is the NFL and that’s what it is. But with his work ethic and his character, he’s going to be what he’s supposed to be. You’ll be excited to write about him soon.”
Weekend mail call:
Ryan from NJ wants to know what happened to the supposed three-headed backfield in Oakland:
Bill Williamson: There’s no doubt it, Ryan, more was expected from the trio of Darren McFadden, Michael Bush and Justin Fargas. McFadden is about to miss his fourth game with a knee injury, so that has affected the group. But the Oakland running game, expected to be one of the fiercest in the NFL, has been pretty flat. Oakland has the 26th ranked run offense in the NFL as it is averaging 92.9 yards a game. Perhaps when McFadden returns, we will see this unit flourish, but it has been a disappointment thus far.
Tom from Kansas City wants to know how many wins I think the Chiefs will end up with.
BW: Well, they are 1-6 at their bye with nine games to play. The schedule is not bad at all for Kansas City. But I really don’t see this team wining more than three games. It is just not talented enough and it has big problems on both sides of the ball. So, I'll go with a 3-13 record, which actually would be a one-game improvement from last season. Kansas City has back-to-back home games against Buffalo and Cleveland in December, so Kansas City could win a couple of games late in the season.
Bobby from Denver wants to know who I see going to the Pro Bowl from the AFC West at this point.
BW: Fun question, Bobby. Here are my candidates from each team: Denver: Quarterback Kyle Orton, tackles Ryan Clady and Ryan Harris, center Casey Wiegmann, linebacker Elvis Dumervil, linebacker D.J. Williams, cornerback Champ Bailey and safety Brian Dawkins. Kansas City: Punter Dustin Colquitt. Oakland: Tight end Zach Miller, defensive end Richard Seymour, linebacker Kirk Morrison, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and punter Shane Lechler. San Diego: Quarterback Philip Rivers, receiver Vincent Jackson, tight Antonio Gates, guard Kris Dielman, returner Darren Sproles and linebacker Stephen Cooper.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
|Kirby Lee/US Presswire|
|Shane Lechler has a new four-year contract with the Raiders.|
Team executive and spokesman John Herrera confirmed the deal and said Lechler's deal is the best given to a punter in the history of the NFL. Lechler has agreed to a four-year contract that is expected to pay him $4 million a year, which is a monster deal for a punter. It re-affirms the value Raiders owner Al Davis puts on specialists. The Raiders have long had some of the best kickers in the NFL and Lechler's return guarantees more special teams success in Oakland.
It was widely considered that the Raiders were about to lose the perennial Pro Bowl punter to free agency. Lechler and Oakland superstar cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha are free agents. It was widely speculated that Oakland would put the franchise tag on Asomugha, thus allowing Lechler to test the waters. Teams like New England and Denver were expected to make a move on Lechler, who is one of the better punters in the NFL the last 20 years.
There are indications that the Raiders are also trying to lock in Asomugha for a long-term deal. The two sides are working on keeping the cornerback in Oakland, and if a deal isn't finalized, he'll likely be franchised by Thursday's deadline.
If the Raiders can keep both Lechler and Asomugha, it would be a landmark moment for the Raiders, who have won a league-low 24 games in the past six seasons. Both of these are key players, and if Oakland is going to get better, it will be much easier with Lechler and Asomugha in the fold.
Earlier this month, Davis acknowledged that it would be difficult to keep both players, but it wouldn't be impossible.
If Oakland does keep both players, it could limit further movement this offseason, especially after the entire wild spending spree last year. The team will likely release several players, including receiver Ronald Curry and left tackle Kwame Harris. Receiver Javon Walker is also a candidate to be cut.
Keeping its best players is smart business for Oakland compared to last year's disaster in which several big-name players were brought and produced very little. If the Raiders keep Lechler and Asomugha, they are certain to get good value for their money.
Lechler's decision to stay is also good for morale in Oakland. With a player like Lechler deciding to sign on for four more years, it gives the team hope. There was speculation that Lechler, who was reportedly punched by teammate Terdell Sands on a flight home after a win in Denver in November, grew tired of the losing environment in Oakland and was looking to leave.
But he must see something positive there because he would have gotten big money anywhere he went. This was a huge first step for the Raiders as they try to end six seasons of failure.