The Raiders have until March 4 to tender those who are among the 212 players who found their status as unrestricted free agents reduced to restricted free agency in the absence of a collective bargaining agreement.
With the franchise and transition tags available for unrestricted free agents Richard Seymour and Sebastian Janikowski, plus the various tender levels the Raiders are in the position of being able to keep every player they deem necessary for future success. The only way any player of substance gets away is if the Raiders allow it to happen.
With that in mind, free agency will serve as a referendum on which players disappointed in 2009 to the level where they’re no longer a part of whatever plan is devised by Al Davis to stem the seven-year tidal wave of 11 or more losses per season.
Oakland’s list of restricted free agents:
(*-players who were originally scheduled to be unrestricted)
— LB Jon Alston* ended was placed on injured reserve with at least two concussions. Originally a third-round draft pick by St. Louis in 2006, the Raiders can keep him for $1.176 million or receive a third-round pick as compensation should another team sign him. Or they can fail to tender him, allow him to test the open market and bring him back for no compensation at all.
— T Khalif Barnes* was a non-factor after sustaining a broken ankle in training camp. By season’s end he was behind Langston Walker and never mounted a threat as a tackle on the left or right side.
A second-round draft pick by Jacksonville in 2005, Barnes is unlikely to receive a tender for the $1.849 million salary. If the Raiders tender him, they’re keeping him, because no team is parting with a second-round pick for Barnes after a poor 2008 and an invisible 2009.
— LB Ricky Brown* was an free agent who received a surprise second-round tender last season which paid him $1.7 million last season and ended up on injured reserve for the second straight year. He’s rehabbing at API in Los Angeles and hopes to return. Chances are he won’t be tendered this season, but could return after a stint testing a difficult market.
— QB Charlie Frye* ended the season as the Raiders starter and was lauded for his work ethic and involvement in game plans. The wild card this year is offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and where he stands on the quarterbacks after JaMarcus Russell, assuming Russell is being given a chance to turn things around. Frye was a fourth-round pick whose original draft pick is $1.226 million.
If the Raiders want to make sure no team makes an offer to Frye, they could give him a second-round tender at $1.849 million. But that’s backup money, not No. 3 money.
— QB Bruce Gradkowski directed come-from-behind victories against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. What modest success the Raiders had on offense in 2009, it came with Gradkowski at quarterback. He said following the season and to the Toledo Blade on Super Bowl Sunday he wants to return to Oakland and is optimistic of competing for and winning the starting job.
A second-round draft pick tender would bring Gradkowski $1.759 million _ or the Raiders could simply lock him up for similar money over two seasons.
— LB Thomas Howard* is one of the NFL’s fastest linebackers and good in pass coverage. He switched to the strong side late in the season, but he’s been on the field an awful lot since coming in as a second-round draft pick in 2006 and the Raider have struggled against the run during that time. A second-round tender for a four-year veteran is $1.759 million.
Interesting to see if another team considers Howard worth a No. 2, and if the Raiders would match a contract offer or take the draft pick.
— C-G Chris Morris, like Gradkowski, would have been a restricted free agent anyway this season because he hasn’t accrued four years in the active roster.
Assuming the Raiders retain the zone blocking system, Morris can be retained for $1.101 million as a reserve at center and guard. If signed by another team, the Raiders could either match or receive a seventh-round draft pick as compensation.
— LB Kirk Morrison* is the most interesting of the RFAs because he’s led the team in tackles five years running, wears his Raiders shield proudly and is a home grown product. We’ll have a good idea if the Raiders think Morrison is part of the problem with regard to run defense depending on how the offseason plays out.
If the Raiders are convinced Morrison is their middle linebacker, they could give him a first and third-round tender, pay him $3.268 million and the compensation level would ensure no one else would sign him. He’d also be safe with a first-round tender at $2.621 million. The second-round tender is $1.849 million, with an outside chance a team might make an an offer which the Raiders could match or receive a No. 2.
The original draft pick tender for a player of five years experience is $1.226 million, which would bring the Raiders a third-round pick should a team make an offer and Oakalnd decline to match.
— CB Stanford Routt* was drafted in the second round in 2005, has a track athlete’s speed and the kind of height and long arms Davis loves. But Routt was bypassed by Chris Johnson last year when DeAngelo Hall flopped opposite Nnamdi Asomugha and remains no better than a third corner on the Raiders. Assuming Routt is tendered, the Raiders would be more than happy to take a another shot at a second-round pick if someone were to sign him.
— RB Gary Russell ended up as an undersized fullback who started when Oakland’s other players were lost to injury (Lorenzo Neal, Oren O’Neal) or suspension (Luke Lawton). He can be retained for $1.1 million and as an undrafted player, brings no compensation if signed and the Raiders decline to match.