The last time the owners and players union were this close to a labor stoppage, Al Davis stepped in with Paul Tagliabue and former Raider Gene Upshaw and helped negotiate an agreement.
This time around, with Upshaw having passed away and Roger Goodell as commissioner, Davis has been content to watch the labor negotiations play out from the sideline.
But Davis is still capable of shaking things up, and while no one’s talking on the record at the scouting combine in Indianapolis, rest assured there is plenty of grumbling about the impact of the Raiders’ spending spree.
Fellow owners are trying to argue that they’re simply not making enough money and that the economic model doesn’t work. It becomes a much tougher sell when a franchise ranked by Forbes magazine as the 31st most valuable team in the league and the lowest season-ticket base (22,000) in the NFL goes on a spending spree before the start of the new league year.
So far, Davis has spent guaranteed $22.5 million to defensive tackle Richard Seymour in a deal that could net $30 million over two years. Cornerback Stanford Routt, coming off his best year but through six years not considered among the elite at his position, has a $20 million guarantee and $31.5 million over three years (although I’m told there’s a roster bonus in there the Raiders would have to pay).
Oakland planned on paying outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley approximately $4.1 million this season including a $3.5 million buyback in the deal originally negotiated by the Cleveland Browns. When the deal was disallowed by the league for violating the “30 percent rule” for raises in an existing contract, Davis simply committed another six million dollars and made Wimbley a franchise player.
There is also a report of the signing of defensive tackle John Henderson to a two-year deal _ it’s been reported at both $4 million and $8 million _ but I’ve yet to see if the deal is backloaded in big way or carries guaranteed money.
Unless Oakland is gambling that a CBA won’t allow players to be unrestricted free agents after four years, don’t be surprised if Zach Miller gets a megadeal making him among the NFL’s highest paid tight ends. Free safety Michael Huff could also cash in.
The Raiders are driving up the price players league wide as well as their own, and the more players he signs to big money, the harder it will be for his fellow owners to complain about their share of the financial pie.