- Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Staff Writer
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Last month, with the Oakland Raiders immersed in free agency, we broke out a list of the top five free-agent signings in franchise history, moving up from Jerry Rice to John Matuszak to Rich Gannon to George Blanda to Jim Plunkett.
So in the interest of, ahem, fair play, we figured it only right to look at the flip side of free agency in Silver and Blackdom. It’s not pretty.
Checking in at No. 5 on the bottom five Raiders free-agent signings is right guard Mike Brisiel…
Too soon? Perhaps. Because it was not as if Brisiel was terrible; far from it. He was an absolute warrior for Oakland in his two years, fighting through countless injuries. Through the week, he could barely move in the Raiders' locker room, yet there he was on Sunday. He only missed two games in two years.
But he was not terribly effective. Again, not entirely his fault.
You see, Brisiel was the centerpiece of cash-strapped general manager Reggie McKenzie’s first free-agent class, signing a five-year, $20 million contract in 2012 to help with the Raiders’ transition to a zone-blocking scheme with Greg Knapp at offensive coordinator. It was a move made by then-rookie coach Dennis Allen that backfired.
Brisiel, who had been a dependable run-blocker with the Houston Texans, was hampered by an ankle injury that required surgery in the offseason and the Raiders' run game had trouble adjusting to the new scheme as running back Darren McFadden averaged a career-low 3.3 yards per carry.
Brisiel restructured his contract in 2013 and the Raiders, under new O.C. Greg Olson, started to show more power blocking, which was not exactly Brisiel’s strong suit. But Brisiel never complained. He just went about his business and, in Week 6 at the Kansas City Chiefs, Brisiel was pressed into service at center with Stefen Wisniewski already out with a knee injury and Andre Gurode tweaking a knee in the game.
Brisiel said after the game he had last played center in 2007, “in NFL Europe. Maybe in preseason, but not in an NFL game.”
“Mike Brisiel,” quarterback Terrelle Pryor said at the time, “he could barely walk. But I appreciate him.”
Such was Brisiel’s legacy in Oakland.
The Raiders began rebuilding their O-line in free agency, adding Donald Penn, Kevin Boothe and Austin Howard while re-signing Khalif Barnes and still having Wisniewski, Menelik Watson, Tony Bergstrom, Matt McCants and Lamar Mady on the roster.
The writing was on the wall. While many thought Brisiel might retire, the Raiders instead cut him on Monday.