When you've got a strategy that works, you stick with it. So it comes as no surprise that the Raiders retained the services of place-kicker Sebastian Janikowski by offering him a stack of cash that could look Robert Gallery in the eye.
Think of it as the Raiders' administrative equivalent of being stubborn with the run.
By any name, you'll recall it as the same move the team put on homegrown free agents Nnamdi Asomugha and punter Shane Lechler last offseason. Both were intrigued by the thought of cashing in with a team that wins more often than the Raiders have since 2002 (then as now, there were 31 to choose from). But both were enticed to remain in Oakland by the prospect of independent wealth.
In fact, the Lechler and Janikowski contracts, as reported, are almost identical — four years, $9 million guaranteed. They're also so far removed from industry standards that general managers around the NFL are grabbing their heads and asking, "Did Al Davis discover oil in Tom Cable's back yard?"
Even Janikowski's agent, Paul Healy, called it a "monstrous contract." Quick primer: Agents generally take it on the down-low publicly when they've scored such a deal, not wanting to embarrass the organization they have just fleeced. But when it comes to embarrassing the Raiders, heck, everybody's doing it.
Adding it up, Lechler, Janikowski and Asomugha (three years; $28.5 million guaranteed over the first two) are due a combined $22.25 million or so in 2010. And you can make the case that it's money (mostly) well spent.
For starters, it's being spent on proven quality. Lechler could retire as the best punter in NFL history. He's a game changer, to the extent you wonder how bad the Raiders might have been these past seven years without him constantly tilting the field toward the opponent's goal line.
Asomugha is regarded by many as the best cornerback in the game. His impact is mitigated somewhat by the Raiders' porous run defense. Opposing teams have almost no incentive to throw to Asomugha's side of the field as it is; when they can run at will, he might as well be standing there filing his nails.
Janikowski's a slightly different story. He was drafted in the first round in one of Davis' bold I'm-smarter-than-you-are strokes, leading to unrealistic expectations that weren't his doing. He's coming off his best year (89.7 percent on field goal tries, 9-for-12 from 40 yards and beyond). On the other hand, he's never been voted to the Pro Bowl.
Beyond that, there is psychic value in retaining the few players of recent vintage whom you have drafted and developed to an appreciable degree, especially when the fans have an emotional attachment. It helps take the edge off Darren McFadden's six-carry, 19-yard games.
Is this any way to build a team? Not really. Would-be quarterback JaMarcus Russell, in the likely event he returns, will be due $9.45 million in 2010. Add him to the homegrown power trio, and the tab comes to roughly $31.7 million for four players.
Should the Raiders stick defensive lineman Richard Seymour with the dreaded franchise tag, he'll be making around $12.3 million. Now you're looking at a $44 million layout for five players, only three of whom engage in the elemental tasks of blocking and tackling.
That doesn't leave much for the other 48 roster spots. Last season the NFL salary cap was $127 million per team. If owners and players don't agree to a new collective bargaining agreement in the next three weeks (they won't), 2010 will be an uncapped season.
That's good news for some teams. But it's not so good for the Raiders, since it's widely believed Davis doesn't have the wherewithal to spend past last year's cap even if he wanted to. So using $127 million as our guide, he would have $82.7 million left to build a team around Janikowski, Lechler, Asomugha, Russell and Seymour. That's an average of $1.73 million per player.
For comparison purposes: That's marginally more than linebacker Ricky Brown made last season.
Therein lies the problem with paying monstrous money for psychic assets. It forces you to be unrelentingly shrewd where the rest of your roster is concerned. And Davis' recent track record suggests he no longer does relentlessly shrewd.
It's uncertain where this will take the Raiders in 2010, only that Janikowski, Lechler and Asomugha will be going along for the ride. So they've got that going for them.
Which is nice.
Contact Gary Peterson at email@example.com.