NFL Nation: Richard Seymour
ESPN.com New York Giants reporter Dan Graziano makes his game-by-game picks for the 2014 season.
Week 1: at Detroit Lions
The Giants are coming off a mess of a preseason, undermanned and overwhelmed, with the offensive line still a mess and the new offense not clicking at all. No one will pick them to win this game. Except me. Prediction: Win
Week 2: Arizona Cardinals
This one's a comedown off the Week 1 surprise, as Arizona's banged-up defense still manages to flummox Eli Manning and collect a few interceptions. It's a bummer of a home opener as reality begins to set in. Prediction: Loss
Week 3: Houston Texans
Houston's defense is as liable as Arizona's to make life miserable for Manning and the offensive line. But Houston has bigger questions on offense than even the Giants, and this is a win for the New York defense against Ryan Fitzpatrick. Prediction: Win
Week 4: at Washington Redskins
Week 5: Atlanta Falcons
The pattern continues, and the Giants overcome two Osi Umenyiora sacks to outscore the Falcons with a furious Manning comeback in the final minutes. The Giants poke their heads over the .500 mark as they make the turn into the most brutal stretch of their schedule. Prediction: Win
Week 6: at Philadelphia Eagles
The Giants don't have Matt Barkley to kick around this time when they visit the City of Brotherly Love. Chip Kelly and the Eagles show them what a truly innovative offense looks like. Prediction: Loss
Week 7: at Dallas Cowboys
The season-long debate about what gives when an anemic Giants offense meets a pathetic Cowboys defense tilts in Dallas' favor in the first meeting. Tony Romo & Co. have more than enough weapons to outscore Manning and his bunch, and the Giants hit the bye with a 3-4 record. Prediction: Loss
Week 9: Indianapolis Colts
After a long break before the Monday night home game, the Giants get taken apart by Andrew Luck, Hakeem Nicks & Co. at MetLife Stadium for a third straight loss. The offense is starting to run more smoothly, but it still doesn't have enough playmakers to outscore one of the league's better offenses. Prediction: Loss
Week 10: at Seattle Seahawks
You're kidding, right? Prediction: Loss
Week 11: San Francisco 49ers
The Giants have obviously handled the Niners in recent years and in some high-profile situations. But by this point in the season, San Francisco's defense is back to full strength, and the 49ers can't afford to lose ground to the Seahawks by failing to beat the team Seattle just beat the week before. Prediction: Loss
Week 12: Dallas Cowboys
A sixth straight loss is by no means out of the question here, as Romo and his crew still have the potential to outscore anyone in a given week. But from this far out, I'll forecast that something goes wrong for Romo late in this game, and the Giants get a gift. Prediction: Win
Week 13: at Jacksonville Jaguars
This is where the schedule starts to soften up, when the Giants start playing teams that insist on not starting their best quarterback. It's unfortunate they're 4-7 at this point and just about out of the playoff hunt, but they will get it going against the bottom-feeders. Prediction: Win
Week 14: at Tennessee Titans
I think the Titans are going to be dreadful this year, and by December they won't be very difficult for anyone to beat, even at home. A third straight victory keeps the Giants' hopes alive. Prediction: Win
Week 15: Washington Redskins
Have to be honest: The NFC East is so unpredictable that, when doing these predictions, I just decided to give the Giants a 3-3 division record with victories in all three home games and losses in all three road games. It's as fair a way as any to do it, I believe. Prediction: Win
Week 16: at St. Louis Rams
After moving back to .500 with four straight wins, the season falls apart at the hands of the St. Louis pass rush. An offensive line that has once again been the Giants' biggest problem all year can't protect Manning in a must-win game. Prediction: Loss
Week 17: Philadelphia Eagles
Tom Coughlin's teams can always find a way to play for pride. The Giants' playoff hopes are extinguished, but they still manage to end the season on a high note and with a .500 record. Prediction: Win
Predicted Record: 8-8
The Raiders have lost their last 10 first games after a bye -- by a combined score of 271-139.
“I think we’re all aware of that, but like I told the players today, the past has no relevance to the future,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Monday. “Any of the outcomes that have happened after a bye in the past won’t dictate how we go out and play against Pittsburgh. What’s going to dictate how we go out and play against Pittsburgh is how well we prepare during the week, and then how well … we go out and execute that plan on Sunday.”
Fair enough, but what’s that old saying about those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it?
Sure enough, a look back at the Raiders’ decade of post-bye blues reveals some interesting moments:
Nov. 2, 2003, Raiders at Detroit: Marques Tuiasosopo, Oakland’s second-round pick in 2001, makes his first NFL start and has a QB rating of 34.3 in completing six of 11 passes for 65 yards and an interception in a 23-13 loss to the Lions. “Tui” would start only one more game in his career, at the New York Jets in 2005.
Oct. 16, 2005, Raiders vs. San Diego: Randy Moss, in his first season in Oakland, went up for a Kerry Collins pass late in the first half and was hit hard by strong safety Terrence Kiel in a 27-14 loss to the Chargers. The groin injury would linger and it was the first time Moss was held without a catch in his career.
Oct. 12, 2008, Raiders at New Orleans: It was an inauspicious debut for Tom Cable as Oakland’s interim coach in the wake of the memorable overhead projector presser announcing Lane Kiffin’s firing. An ashen-faced Cable had no answers as the Saints ran all over the Raiders in a 34-3 blowout.
Nov. 21, 2010, Raiders at Pittsburgh: Richard Seymour had seen enough, so the Raiders defensive tackle went and got himself kicked out of the Raiders’ eventual 35-3 blowout loss to the Steelers. Seymour’s open-hand palm strike to the facemask of Ben Roethlisberger was as swift as it was pretty as Roethlisberger went down like a sack of Primanti Brothers sandwiches.
Oct. 14, 2012, Raiders at Atlanta: Playing their most complete game under rookie coach Dennis Allen, the Raiders were tied at 13-13 and driving for a potential winning field goal when Carson Palmer threw a 79-yard pick-six to Asante Samuel. Palmer responded by driving Oakland 80 yards for a game-tying touchdown. Alas, Atlanta kicked a 55-yard field goal with one second to play for the win.
So what should be expected out of Sunday’s game at the O.co Coliseum? The Raiders have won the last two meetings in Oakland -- 34-31 last season and 20-13 in 2006 -- and the last time the Steelers won in the East Bay was in 1995.
The Raiders’ main goal in their weekend break was getting healthy, while getting revived.
“I think we had a good plan in the bye,” Allen said. “I think we got some guys freshened up a little bit. Now the key is, we’ve got to focus in on the preparation. We’ve got to do the things that are necessary to go out and play well on Sunday.”
SAN FRANCISCO -- A few thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 34-3 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday night:
What it means: The 49ers are making folks forget about their follies of losses to Seattle and to Indianapolis in Weeks 2 and 3. They were outscored 56-10 in those games. Since then, the 49ers have outscored the Rams and the Texans 69-14 and at 3-2 looking like a serious playoff threat. Sunday was a great all-around day for the 49ers. Not only did they dominate a strong AFC team, but Seattle lost to Indianapolis to fall to 4-1. So, the NFC West race just got tighter.
Stock Watch: Tramaine Brock has found himself a gig as the 49ers’ No. 3 cornerback. He played well last week against the Rams with Nnamdi Asomugha out with a knee injury. Sunday night, he had two interceptions, including one he returned 18 yards for a score on the first drive of the game. There is no way Asomugha is going to regain his job anytime soon. Brock is a keeper.
Another hit on defense: Standout defensive lineman Ray McDonald left with a biceps injury. If McDonald has to miss extended time, the 49ers will miss him dearly. They are already without starting nose tackle Ian Williams. Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial will be off the PUP soon. The 49ers have talked to free agent Richard Seymour and they could revisit talks if McDonald’s injury is serious. But Seymour wants a lot of money.
What’s next: The 49ers are navigating to the easier part of the schedule. They host Arizona on Sunday, then are at Tennessee and then play winless Jacksonville in London before the bye. Going from 1-2 to 6-2 at the halfway point is very feasible.
• CBS reported the 49ers reached out to free-agent defensive lineman Richard Seymour after pass-rusher Aldon Smith went to an alcohol treatment center nearly two weeks ago. But the report said the two sides could not come close to financial terms. Seymour would be a rotational player for the 49ers and they don’t have much cap room, so they’d likely not offer much.
• ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the government shutdown is delaying 49ers safety Donte Whitner from dropping the W in his name and becoming Donte Hitner. Whitner's lawyer has filed the paperwork in his home state of Ohio, but it cannot be processed until the government shutdown is over and federal employees are back to work.
Then, once they get back to work, the NFL expects it to take another six weeks for the paperwork to be filed with the league office. Plus, the league still has not decided if it would allow a player to change his legal name on a jersey in-season. Thus, it may take some time before the name change is reflected on his jersey.
Dorsey is a starting-quality player, but the 49ers are thin behind him. San Francisco will surely look to add at the position. But don’t expect any quick fixes. There might be some players on the street who can help, but none will be better than Dorsey. That’s fine. The 49ers just need depth there.
There is one available veteran who could potentially be attractive and that’s former Oakland defensive tackle Richard Seymour. He is best suited as a 3-4 defensive lineman.
But there are issues. Seymour will be 34 next month. His play has declined and there have been reports he is only interested in playing with a big contract. There is little chance the 49ers would break the bank for a player who would come in, need conditioning time and then just be a rotational player.
So, in the end, the 49ers will find someone, but don’t expect a major jolt here.
Houston, a second-round draft pick in 2010, is moving away from being a young player to one of the most vital on the defense.
The versatile Houston will play right defensive end. He is expected to be the anchor of the defensive line. The team moved away from veterans Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour. Houston will be the leader of the group.
Houston is also expected to help with the team's need for a pass-rush spark. Oakland was weak in that area last season and it did not add a reliable pass-rusher to the roster.
Houston is taking all of his responsibilities in stride. He said he understands a lot more will be expected from him, but he is not putting too much pressure on himself.
“It’s a new era on the defensive front,” Houston said. “But it’s just not me. The line as a unit will work to help find a pass rush. It’s a group thing.”
Houston said the key for him will be to continue to work on his technique because it is different on the right side.
“It’s an ongoing process,” Houston said. “But technique is the key for me.”
Steven Jackson. The Falcons signed Jackson to spice up their running game after Michael Turner ran out of gas last season. But Jackson’s not exactly young either. He turned 30 earlier this week, which isn’t always a good age for running backs. But I’m expecting to see Jackson show his legs are a good bit fresher than Turner’s.
How much Tony Gonzalez practices. Part of the reason the Falcons were able to coax Gonzalez out of retiring was because they made a deal that he could go lightly in training camp. I’m guessing Gonzalez’s participation will be extremely limited. But that’s good news because the Falcons know what they have in Gonzalez and they’ll be able to take an extended look at rookie tight end Levine Toilolo.
How the offensive line lines up. Center Todd McClure retired and right tackle Tyson Clabo was released. The Falcons are moving second-year pro Peter Konz from guard to center. Garrett Reynolds appears to be the favorite to take Konz’s spot at guard. Mike Johnson and Lamar Holmes are expected to compete at right tackle.
Stephen Nicholas. The veteran linebacker took a lot of heat from fans after opposing tight ends shredded the Falcons in the playoffs. But I’m not sure Nicholas was completely healthy. The Falcons still must have confidence in him because they didn’t make any dramatic moves at linebacker.
The defensive tackles. The Falcons had some talks with free agent Richard Seymour, but he has not been signed. That means the Falcons seem likely to head into the season with Jonathan Babineaux, Corey Peters and Peria Jerry as their top three defensive tackles. All three are heading into the final year of their contracts and I’m curious to see who steps up.
A look at the one move each team in the NFC South needed to make but didn't.
Atlanta Falcons: There still is time to sign a veteran like Richard Seymour, but I’m surprised the Falcons didn’t do more at defensive tackle during the offseason. The team invested two draft picks in defensive ends but didn’t touch the middle of a defensive line that isn’t exactly a strength. Jonathan Babineaux is aging and heading into the final year of his contract. Corey Peters and Peria Jerry also are headed into the last year of their contracts. The Falcons stayed away from quick fixes this offseason, but they might get to training camp and realize they need another defensive tackle.
Carolina Panthers: This one is almost too easy. The Panthers went into the offseason with a glaring need at cornerback. They signed some midlevel players and have hopes for some of their young corners. But this team doesn’t have anything close to a No. 1 cornerback. In a division in which you’re going up against the likes of Roddy White, Julio Jones, Vincent Jackson and Marques Colston, that’s a scary proposition. The Panthers did put a lot of emphasis on their defensive line, which better generate a tremendous pass rush to compensate for the lack of elite talent at cornerback.
New Orleans Saints: General manager Mickey Loomis worked some minor miracles to get out of a nightmare salary-cap situation in the offseason. But the Saints, who are converting to a 3-4 defensive scheme, didn’t bring in any elite pass-rushers. They thought free agent pickup Victor Butler could blossom into something, but Butler will miss the season after suffering a knee injury during an offseason workout. That leaves the Saints looking to Will Smith, Junior Galette and Martez Wilson as their outside linebackers. Smith is aging and converting from defensive end to linebacker. Wilson and Galette have shown some potential, but neither is a proven pass-rusher.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sources have told me the Buccaneers would have given strong consideration to drafting tight end Tyler Eifert with their first-round pick if they hadn’t traded it away in the deal for cornerback Darrelle Revis. That tells me the Bucs realized they had a significant need at tight end. The shocking thing is they didn’t make some other dramatic move to improve the situation at the position. Instead, they’re going with Luke Stocker and Tom Crabtree. There are indications that the Bucs think Crabtree can be a productive pass-catcher. But I wouldn’t count on the tight ends being a big part of Tampa Bay’s passing game this season.
They’re coming off a 13-3 season and they have a roster stocked with extraordinary talent from veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez right down to rookie cornerback Desmond Trufant. When the preseason predictions start coming out in another month or so, the Falcons are going to be a trendy Super Bowl pick, and that’s totally logical.
From the inside, I get the sense the Falcons are confident, but not totally comfortable with where they’re sitting. That’s probably because they’ve been here before.
It’s fresh in the minds of general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith because it wasn’t that long ago. In 2010, the Falcons went 13-3 and seemed to be just a player or two away from the Super Bowl.
The Falcons certainly thought so. They went out and signed free-agent defensive end Ray Edwards and made a huge trade on draft day to get receiver Julio Jones. But the Falcons quickly learned that if you spend too much time and resources on fixing what was broken in the past, you can take your eye off the present and the future.
That’s what happened in the 2011 season. The Falcons stumbled to a 2-3 start. They finished 10-6, but the New Orleans Saints ran away with the NFC South title. Atlanta got a wild-card berth in the playoffs and got thumped 24-2 by the New York Giants.
Before the dust from that loss settled, coordinators Mike Mularkey and Brian VanGorder were gone. Their replacements, Dirk Koetter and Mike Nolan, came in and helped set the stage for a bounce right back to 13-3.
But now comes the next step, and that’s why the Falcons shouldn’t be feeling too comfortable.
I don’t think history will repeat itself, mainly because the Falcons learned from their mistakes of 2011 and they’re taking a different approach this time around.
The most significant quote I heard this offseason was when Smith said the Falcons were 10 yards away from the Super Bowl last year, but they’re starting at 0-0 in 2013. Smith drilled that message into his team during the offseason program.
That type of self-awareness is nothing but a good thing. It’s hard just to win a game in the NFL. The Falcons have to go out and work as hard, or harder, than last year if they expect a similar season. Actually, they need to expect more. They need to expect a Super Bowl championship.
Blowing a 17-point lead to San Francisco at home in the NFC Championship Game wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t good enough for Smith and Dimitroff and it certainly wasn’t good enough for owner Arthur Blank.
I’m not subscribing to the theory of some who believe Smith needs to win a Super Bowl or Blank will clean house. Blank’s too smart for that. He realizes he has an excellent combination in Smith and Dimitroff. But expectations are justifiably high, and it wouldn’t reflect well on Smith or Dimitroff if the Falcons end up taking a step back.
There’s a reason why I don’t think the Falcons will take a step back. It’s because Smith and Dimitroff didn’t resort to the same gold-rush attitude that they did after the 2010 season. Blame a big part of that on Edwards, who ended up being perhaps the biggest free-agent bust in NFC South history. I think Smith and Dimitroff would make the Jones trade all over again, but that’s a once-in-a-career type of deal.
Dimitroff and Smith did go out and fix one major problem area from last year. They let aging running back Michael Turner go and replaced him with a slightly younger Steven Jackson. That alone should give a huge boost to an Atlanta offense that didn’t have even the threat of a running game last year.
But, more than that, I like the fact that Smith and Dimitroff were proactive. They let a still-productive John Abraham go and replaced him with a slightly younger Osi Umenyiora. They let veteran cornerback Dunta Robinson go and went out and drafted Trufant (yes, they traded up for him, but it wasn’t nearly as dramatic as the Jones trade) and Robert Alford.
Although adding veteran defensive tackle Richard Seymour still might be a possibility (at the right price), Smith and Dimitroff avoided going for quick fixes and big names this time around. They let veteran right tackle Tyson Clabo go, and center Todd McClure retired.
Sure, it’s a little scary having two new starters on an offensive line. But the Falcons have invested draft picks in the likes of Peter Konz, Mike Johnson and Lamar Holmes in recent years. It’s time to get them on the field.
That’s the way you fix things for the long term -- by making deliberate and calculated moves instead of moves that smack of desperation.
That’s how you take a step forward and not a step back.
The Patriots, more than any NFL franchise, are machine-like in their approach. New England is a team which rarely beats itself. That explains why the Patriots have an NFL-high five Super Bowl appearances since 2001.
That leads into quarterback Tom Brady’s comments Thursday that he wasn’t surprised New England let go of leading receiver Wes Welker. The Patriots low-balled Welker this offseason, and he eventually signed with the rival Denver Broncos. New England responded by signing Danny Amendola to a five-year, $31 million contract.
"That's what happens. This is a, like I said, it's a very tough, competitive business, and nobody appreciated Wes more than I did and what he was able to accomplish for our team,” Brady told WEEI radio station in Boston. “He's moved on; he's in a good situation with another great team and a great quarterback. We always kind of kept in touch, we always will. He's one of my best friends."
Brady understands all that goes on around him in New England. However, he is the one player immune to the “Patriot Way.”
New England never thought of letting go of Brady or playing hardball in contract negotiations, like it did with other stars like Welker. The Patriots never considered trading Brady to another team before he got too old, like it did with Randy Moss and Richard Seymour. Brady is so valuable that New England’s usual way of doing business doesn't apply. The Patriots recently worked out a three-year extension that will keep Brady in New England until he’s 40, which is unheard of with the Patriots under head coach Bill Belichick.
You would think a player as productive as Welker, who had five 100-catch seasons in New England and 118 receptions in 2012, would be treated better. But the Patriots proved again that they believe every player is easily replaceable with the exception of Brady.
It’s hard to argue with New England’s results the past dozen years. But you wonder if the Patriots’ harsh way of doing business will eventually catch up to them. Will it be easy to run the team the same once Brady is no longer the quarterback?
Brady has seen many good players come and go in New England, but rest assured the Welker decision impacted him. The two are very good friends and had tremendous chemistry together on the field. However, Brady says his focus is on being the best player he can be in 2013.
"Of course I have feelings, but those feelings are very personal to me," Brady explained. "I used to get caught up in anger and disappointment, but I don't make the decisions. These things aren't up to me. At some point you've got to realize the things that are out of your control, you've just got to let go, focus on my job and what I need to do. The game moves on, the team moves on, there's only so long you can dwell on the past, and at some point you've got to move forward.”
However, the NFL Network reports that Seymour is highly interested in continuing to play. There is very little money out there at this point, so Seymour will not be looking at big money. He has to know that, so it appears Seymour is willing to play for what will be offered. Seymour will likely command a decent salary (for this time of the year) on a short-term deal.
Seymour is 33, his play has declined, and he has dealt with a lot of injuries in recent seasons. Still, the word around the league is he might be able to help a contender in a limited role. Seymour play in multiple schemes, and can play defensive end and defensive tackle. So, he could be attractive for a team looking for a veteran to play 20-25 snaps a game.
Denver was previously mentioned as a possible landing spot for Seymour. Yet, the Broncos have added to their defensive line in free agency and in the draft, so there is no pressing need there.
Could Seymour return to Oakland? I think Seymour would like to play for a contender. But he often said how much he enjoyed playing in Oakland after his 2009 trade from New England.
Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie has not shown much interest in bringing back players from the former regime. But Oakland does have some holes on the defensive line, and perhaps if the price is right, the sides could come to agreement. But as of now, I think the odds are Seymour plays elsewhere.
They’re only $2.183 million under the cap. But there is help, which a lot of people have forgotten about, on the way.
When the Falcons released veteran right tackle Tyson Clabo earlier this offseason, they set themselves up for a boost in cap space by designating him as a June 1 cut. For a few more weeks, the Falcons have to carry what would have been Clabo’s full cap figure ($6.05 million).
But, after June 1, the game changes. At that point, the Falcons will be off the hook for Clabo’s $4.5 million base salary. He’ll still count $1.55 million against this year’s cap and he’ll count $3.1 million against the 2014 cap.
Still, that $4.5 million in June will be big for the Falcons. It will give them more than enough money to sign their rookie draft picks. It could leave them enough to bring in someone like veteran defensive tackle Richard Seymour or maybe an experienced linebacker.
The Falcons also are likely to get a contract extension done with quarterback Matt Ryan sometime this offseason. If structured properly, and I’m sure it will be, a new deal for Ryan could free up additional cap space.
I’m not predicting a big summer surge of signings by the Falcons. But, after June 1, they’ll have enough cap room to make a strategic strike or two.
Reggie McKenzie is finally on the clock.
Welcome to the world of NFL decision-making, sir.
No man in the NFL has been more handcuffed in recent league history than McKenzie has been the past the 15 months.
McKenzie, a career lifer in the front office in Green Bay, got the daunting opportunity to be in charge of the post-Al Davis Oakland Raiders in January 2012, three months after the legendary Oakland owner died at the age of 82. Hand-picked by several of Davis’ former lieutenants, McKenzie, a former Raiders linebacker, has vowed to bring the struggling franchise back to relevancy.
Thursday, McKenzie was finally able to put his general manager's hat on and start the rebuilding process in earnest. Until Thursday night, McKenzie’s job has consisted mostly of cutting players, signing inexperienced players to inexpensive, short contracts and hoping for a better future.
Last year, McKenzie didn’t make his first NFL draft pick until the end of the third round when he had a compensatory pick. The Raiders, who went 4-12 in McKenzie’s first season in charge, didn’t have a first-round pick in the past two years because of trades for Richard Seymour and Carson Palmer, two players who are no longer with the team.
McKenzie delayed his first first-round pick Thursday when he dealt the No. 3 pick to Miami for the No. 12 pick and the No. 42 pick. The Raiders used the No. 12 selection on Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden.
The Hayden pick has its risks (he nearly died after suffering a major heart injury in practice last season), but he can become a good player, and the Raiders have a big need at cornerback. Most teams had Hayden ranked in the bottom half of the first round. I’m fine with the Raiders making the pick; if they think he can be special, take him.
But I am disappointed with the trade McKenzie made. The decision to trade down made it clear he wanted to scramble out of the No. 3 selection and load up on more picks. The Raiders entered the draft without a second-round pick (as part of the terrible Palmer trade made by the previous regime) and without a fifth-round pick. With so many holes on the roster, the Raiders need an influx of talent on both sides of the ball. McKenzie signed several players this year, but most of them were on short, show-me deals, and the Raiders cut and saw several free agents leave.
Talent is needed.
I thought the deal with Miami left too much on the table. It's great Oakland received a solid second-round pick, and another solid player will be added to the team on Friday.
But, overall, I think Oakland needed to get more. Consider what Buffalo got from St. Louis later in the draft. The Bills sent No. 8 and No. 71 for No. 16, No, 46, No. 78 and No. 222. Plus, New England got No. 52, No. 83, No. 102 and No. 229 from Minnesota for No. 29.
Compare those caches to the Oakland deal, and you have to wonder if the Raiders didn’t simply settle just to get a second-round pick. The No. 3 overall pick holds more power than that.
The trade could stem from the fact McKenzie has been so hamstrung. He had to find a way to get more, and he probably figured No. 42 was better than nothing.
Things will get better for McKenzie. The Raiders, after years of being in salary-cap jail, will have a ton of salary cap room next year -- somewhere in the $70 million range (figures subject to change).
McKenzie has already said the extra room doesn’t mean he will revisit wild spending days of the past for the Silver and Black. McKenzie will stick to his Green Bay roots. He will build through the draft, and he will try to keep his best players with extensions. Free agency will be used as a complement and not a focal point.
Things will get better for Oakland. It will take awhile, and the Raiders probably won’t see a quick fix in a league that has been accustomed to microwave improvement.
But the process began Thursday with the addition of a potential dynamic cornerback and the acquisition of a second-round pick with which McKenzie will take the best player available.
Could McKenzie have done better Thursday night? Sure, but for a personnel man finally able to do his job, he has to be happy just to be able to finally act like an NFL general manager.
But after paying the price for years of wild spending, the Raiders will be paroled from salary-cap jail. Next year, after shedding several contracts and being unable to build their program by keeping their own coveted free agents, the Raiders will be in better shape.
ESPN’s John Clayton has a strong grasp on the salary cap and figures that Oakland will have about $69 million in cap space for 2014. That number will likely change based on several things, but it is clear that Oakland will have an abundance of cap room next year as it continues to rebuild its roster. For the first time since Reggie McKenzie took over as general manager in 2012, Oakland will not have to cut players to get under the cap.
Before you start fantasizing about a Pro Bowl stable of free agents coming to the East Bay, a surplus of cap room doesn’t automatically mean that team can sign all the best players. Many teams have cap space good enough to do what they wish; some don’t use their surplus just because they have it. Jacksonville, for example, still has more than $25 million remaining in cap room for this season but has completed virtually all its significant spending.
I expect McKenzie to take a measured approach next year with his newfound salary-cap good fortune. He cut his teeth in Green Bay under Ted Thompson -- who built Green Bay into an elite team by not pursuing outside free agents and keeping his best players.
That’s how McKenzie aims to operate.
So there's no reason to think that good homegrown players will leave the Raiders after the 2013 season. They don’t have a ton of core players, but there are some. Defensive lineman Lamarr Houston, offensive lineman Jared Veldheer and Stefen Wisniewski and receiver Denarius Moore are among the players who should be in line for long-term contracts as the Raiders build from within. Running back Darren McFadden is entering the final season of his contract and if he can stay healthy, Oakland will likely be interested in keeping him.
Once the Raiders identify these types of players and lock them up, Oakland will complement the roster with some outside purchases. But it starts from within for McKenzie.
Two things have hurt Oakland: past wild spending on veterans and poor first-round drafting. We’ve seen that with the departures of such players as Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Carson Palmer, Darrius Heyward-Bey and the likely release of Rolando McClain. Had those players not crippled Oakland’s cap, the Raiders would have been able to keep solid players such as Philip Wheeler, Desmond Bryant and Brandon Myers in free agency this year.
This nasty process has depleted Oakland’s roster. The healing begins next year, when Oakland won't be motivated by pure financial necessity and can start making prudent decisions to build the franchise the right way.
John Elway even released this very pointed, detailed statement.
The bottom line is this wasn’t the first deadline deal in the history of the NFL. Deadline deals happen all the time and they usually finish cleanly. The truth is the ball was in the agent’s hands at the buzzer and it was his final responsibility.
But all either side can do now is move on and solve the issue. Let’s look at options for both sides:
Dumervil: The deal that was left on the fax machine was for $8 million this year. That has been the top dollar this year for a pass-rusher. I doubt Dumervil will command that on the open market. He can shop for the best offer and take it and hope to get as close to the money he gave up as possible. It may be difficult. He can also re-open the line of communication and try to get the best deal possible from the Broncos. A few hours ago, Dumervil felt that was his best option. Perhaps he still feels that way.
Broncos: In a lot of ways the ball is now in their court. They are mad. Once they cool down, they could re-visit signing Dumervil. They must realize the mistake was not with the player. Because of dead money, about four million, it is unlikely Denver will be able to give Dumervil $8 million again. But they if they can get creative, they should think abut. Obviously, Denver felt keeping Dumervil was its best option.
Passing on Dumervil means looking for another pass-rusher. The first player to come to mind is Dwight Freeney. John Abraham and Richard Seymour are also options. Dumervil is probably better than those players, but he might be more expensive.
Whatever happens, Dumervil needs a job and Denver need a pass-rusher. And we all thought this one was over.
Final Atlanta 24 Jacksonville 14 Final Detroit 23 Buffalo 0 Final Indianapolis 7 Cincinnati 35 Final New York 7 Philadelphia 37 Final St. Louis 13 Miami 14 Final Kansas City 14 Green Bay 34 Final Carolina 10 Pittsburgh 0 Final New England 13 New York 16 Final Washington 24 Tampa Bay 10 Final Baltimore 22 New Orleans 13 Final Chicago 13 Cleveland 33 Final San Francisco 40 Houston 13 Final Minnesota 19 Tennessee 3 Final Denver 27 Dallas 3 Final Arizona 9 San Diego 12 Final Seattle 31 Oakland 41