It seems players and owners are inching along toward a settlement during a lockout which is going pretty much as expected.
If various reports are to be believed (and no one truly knows what’s going on unless they’re sitting in a negotiating room), economic forces and the looming deadline of training camp are collaborating to give fans what they want and expect _ a relatively full training camp experience and a 16-game regular season.
So why all the bluster since the NFL draft?
Because players for the most part were OK with passing on mandatory minicamps as well as voluntary ones that really aren’t voluntary at all. The same goes for participating in the weight program, something most players do simply to stay in the good graces of the organization but could easily do with the help of personal trainers on their own.
The owners were fine with the shutdown because they aren’t truly going to be out any big bucks until game revenues are lost. The economic pie will begin to get smaller once preseason games are lost _ and that’s money out of the pockets of both sides. So suddenly, everyone is getting more serious about getting a deal done.
Once an agreement is reached and the lockout lifted, the Raiders will take a quick look at the new set of rules, probably all of which were anticipated in various scenarios, and throw together the 2011 roster.
(Checked in with a team official this week and was told team is moving forward to train in Napa. Two other teams, the Ravens and Jets, switched from off-site camps to their club facilities because of the lockout).
Here’s a list of their priorities.
— Bring back tight end Zach Miller. He may be an unrestricted free agent depending on the rules. Or he could be retained with a first and third-round tender applied before the lockout. Chances of it happening: Very good.
— Bring back running back Michael Bush. Reports have surfaced (courtesy of Adam Caplan of Fox Sports) that Bush was never actually on the Physically Unable to Perform list for his rookie year but the non-football-related injury list because his broken ankle happened in college. Therefore, Bush in theory is a restricted free agent. Caplan is normally spot-on when it comes to transactional matters so I’ll take his word for it.
Strange that the Raiders would apply a first-and third round tender to a restricted free agent, though _ although I suppose it speaks to the fact they have no intention of letting Bush go anywhere. Chances of it happening: Excellent.
— Bringing back cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. Yeah, I know. He’s a Raider until he’s not, etc. Sorry, but when Al Davis publicly floated the possibility of Asomugha going elsewhere to bring back other players, and then Richard Seymour and Stanford Routt got big contracts it was no coincidence. Chances of it happening: Not good.
— Bringing back free safety Michael Huff. No other way to say it than Huff was a major disappointment for three years before he rebounded with a pair of decent (but not great) seasons. If any team out there looks at Huff, remembers him as the No. 7 pick in the draft and writes a big check, expect the Raiders to sit this one out. If Huff can be had for a decent price, it’s a different story. Chances of it happening: About 35 to 40 percent. Some team will offer more than Raiders are prepared to pay.
— Signing an offensive tackle. Langston Walker, Mario Henderson and Khalif Barnes are not under contract. Hard for the Raiders to be truly comfortable with rookie Joe Barksdale penciled in as a starter opposite second-year player Jared Veldheer. Chances of it happening: Oh, it will happen. The question is whether it will be one their own players not under contract or someone on the free agent market who caught the eye of Hue Jackson and line coach Bob Wylie.
— Bringing back left guard Robert Gallery. Perhaps the strangest moment of the offseason occurred when Gallery said he decided to move on after discussions with the Raiders, with John Herrera doing something the organization almost never does _ saying Gallery wanted too much money, anyway. Daniel Loper was signed to a four-year contract. Chances of it happening: Less than zero.
— Bringing back quarterback Bruce Gradkowski. There was zero communication before the lockout between the Raiders and Gradkowski about returning and Kyle Boller was signed to a contract. The team has been turned over to Jason Campbell. Davis has been public in his support of Campbell as well as being concerned (and rightly so) about Gradkowski’s history of injuries. Chances of it happening: Less than zero. Gradkowski is best suited to be someone’s backup, but it won’t be in Oakland.
— Taking Terrelle Pryor in the supplemental draft. You look at Pryor’s physical skills and there’s no way the Raiders aren’t intrigued, and that’s even if they don’t think he’s a quarterback. But without second- and fourth-round picks, the question is whether they are OK with spending a third-round pick on Pryor. That means they would expect something out of him right away _ as a wildcat quarterback in some packages and playing some receiver. Chances of it happening: I’d call it 50-50. No date has been set for a supplemental draft.
— Signing the draft class. With only one exception, the Raiders bring in their entire class on time every year. Without a first-round pick and with the probability of a rookie wage scale, it will be even easier this time around. Chances of hit happening: A mortal lock.