<
>

How will McFadden's future play out?

Running back Darren McFadden said this week he wants to remain with the Oakland Raiders.

McFadden, whose contract runs out at the end of the 2013 campaign, indicated that he will likely seek an extension after the season. If he signs with the Raiders now, he said, it could end up being a bad deal for either the team or for him moving forward. It’s a commendable thought -- but McFadden is also taking a risk.

Here’s how I see it: If McFadden, the No. 4 overall draft pick in 2008, is going to cash in with a big contract after this season, it will be with Oakland.

The only way McFadden is going to get such a deal is if he comes back from a sub-par season and remains healthy. He has missed at least three games in each of his NFL seasons. And in recent offseasons, running backs have not commanded huge free-agent contracts.

So McFadden must have a big season to draw interest, even from Oakland. I can see the Raiders walking away from McFadden if he struggles or his injury woes continue. If that happens, McFadden will still find a job somewhere, but he won’t be in demand, with teams seeing him as a running back on the way down.

If, however, a monster 2013 draws attention from around the league, I’d think the Raiders would be the heavy favorite to land him. McFadden is on record as wanting to stay; he fills a need; he is a fan favorite; and Oakland will have a surplus of salary-cap room in 2014.

In the end, it all depends on what happens on the field.