Several options for Raiders' franchise tag
Richard Seymour took well enough to being named the Raiders' franchise player a year ago that he was the first man off the bus along with undrafted rookies and free agents when a bus arrived at the Napa Marriott.
Seymour said all the right things about wanting to serve as a leader to a young nucleus of players and hoped some day to be signing a long-term contract.
Before the Raiders head into a period of uncertainty with a potential lockout, the question is whether they'll franchise Seymour again. Teams can still use the franchise tag, although it's impossible to be sure exactly what it means.
Most informed observers believe a new collective bargaining agreement, if and when one is reached, will include franchise tags. When the Raiders have used the tag in the past, they've done it twice -- first to Charles Woodson, and then to Nnamdi Asomugha.
Seymour's exclusive rights tag brought with it a salary of approximately $12.9 million, and doing it again tacks on another 20 percent, meaning he would come in at approximately $14.8 million.
As the Raiders begin to plan ways of reshaping and refiguring their roster when a CBA is reached, tagging Seymour seems likely but not a certainty. In fact, an NFL.com report suggested a league source as saying the Raider most likely to be tagged is tight end Zach Miller, the club's leading receiver over the past four years.
Although Asomugha's deal voided automatically when he failed to reach performance incentives, Raiders owner Al Davis said at the press conference announcing the hiring of Hue Jackson he would be reluctant to pay him the scheduled $17 million or more he was due in 2011 under terms of his contract.Davis said he had to weigh that kind of salary against the ability to bring in "two or three" players that could help the team win. The message seemed clear enough -- the Raiders were interested in bringing Asomugha back once he hits the open market, but at a more reasonable price.
It's the same dilemma with Seymour, whose yearly salary would dwarf anyone else on the 53-man roster.
Seymour finished the season injured with a hamstring strain. In his absence, rookie Lamarr Houston moved inside from end to tackle and played extremely well, as did second-year defensive lineman Desmond Bryant as Oakland dominated the AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs.
Most believe Houston's ideal position is at three technique -- the same position he moved to full time in 2010 after playing both end and tackle in 2009.
Oakland could tag someone other than Seymour and gamble they can re-sign him anyway -- he has said he'd like to finish his career in Oakland -- but would also run the risk of losing him.
Seymour's family lives in South Carolina and he goes back whenever he can -- something which would be much more convenient in-season if he played in a place such as Atlanta.
Seymour in another uniform would also mean the Raiders got essentially two seasons out of a player who cost them their first-round pick in the 2011 draft. With Oakland's 8-8 record, the No. 17 pick goes to New England this year.
--First Steve Wisniewski, now Greg Biekert.
Wisniewski a former Raider Pro-Bowl guard, was named the Raiders' offensive line assistant. The most recent staff announcement was that Biekert, an assistant to linebackers coach Mike Haluchak last year, has been promoted to linebackers coach.
"I'm excited to reconnect with one of the true and great Raiders," Raiders coach Hue Jackson said in a statement. "His vision and mine are right in line with each other."
Biekert, who played 11 seasons as a middle linebacker for the Raiders, can be particularly influential with Rolando McClain, the 2009 first-round draft pick who started at middle linebacker.
The elevation of Biekert to linebackers coach heightened speculation that Chuck Bresnahan, hired Feb. 1 without a specific title other than defensive assistant, could end up being the team's defensive coordinator.
Bresnahan served the Raiders in that capacity from 2000 through 2003, the first three years during which the Raiders won AFC West titles, once advanced to the AFC title game and once won an AFC championship.
The Raiders still have not hired a defensive coordinator, but were reportedly interested in both Darren Perry (a former Raiders assistant) and Winston Moss (a former L.A. Raiders linebacker who has interviewed for positions with the organization before).
Should an outside hire come in to succeed John Marshall, particularly a first-time coordinator, Bresnahan could oversee that development as well as concentrate on something specific, such as the nickel package.
Bresnahan has coached both defensive backs and linebackers in the NFL in addition to being a coordinator. The Raiders currently have two defensive coaches on staff who work the defensive backfield, Lionel Washington and Kevin Ross. That doesn't include Willie Brown, the director of squad development who also works with defensive backs.
--For the second consecutive year, former Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown failed to make the first cut for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Also failing to make the final cut was former Minnesota wide receiver Cris Carter. Buffalo's Andre Reed made it to the Round of 10, but ultimately was not inducted.
Carter is third all-time in receptions (1,101) and Brown fourth (1,094). Brown is fourth all-time in receiving yardage (14,934) and Carter eighth (13,899).
When talking about Raiders' players who ought to be in the Hall of Fame, Raiders owner Al Davis never mentions Brown, concentrating on longer-range omissions such as quarterback Jim Plunkett, punter Ray Guy and wide receiver Cliff Branch.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "No one knows exactly what way the CBA is going to go, but I'm very confident in our process and how we go about maintaining our roster and how we go about getting better players."
-- Raiders coach Hue Jackson.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The ascension of Greg Biekert is another indication that although the Raiders may be interested in a coordinator with experience in a 3-4 defense, they're unlikely to become a 3-4 team in light of their staff, recent history and personnel on hand.
Both Darren Perry and Winston Moss both served on the Green Bay staff, molded to a 3-4 under coordinator Dom Capers. Perry, however, worked for the Raiders from 2005 through 2008 as the secondary coach and Moss has background in both systems.
Raiders defensive line coach Mike Waufle has always run a four-man front, Biekert has been a middle linebacker in a 4-3, and some of the Raiders' best young talent -- in particular defensive lineman Lamarr Houston and Matt Shaughnessy -- are better suited for a 4-3 defense.
The Raiders have yet to cut any players or sign any to new contracts in advance of the March 3 deadline, after which all business will be suspended in the event of a lockout.
Among the many issues to address are how to best deal with four key players who are scheduled for unrestricted free agency because of voidable years on their original contracts -- cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, left guard Robert Gallery, free safety Michael Huff and linebacker Kamerion Wimbley.
Davis was non-committal on Asomugha, with the Raiders looking to compete but not necessarily overpay once he hits the market. Gallery's status is up in the air with a new offensive line staff and his commitment to former coach Tom Cable.
Huff is the only single deep free safety with considerable experience on the roster and he generally had a solid 2009 season, if not representative of a player taken No. 7 overall in the 2005 draft.
Wimbley played as a rush end in nickel situations and as a strong-side linebacker. He had nine sacks, the most since 11 in his rookie year.
1. Offensive line: Could be a guard, center or tackle. The Raiders will continue a transition to a power blocking team, with only second-year tackle Jared Veldheer an absolute lock to start.
2. Cornerback: Asomugha and Stanford Routt are both scheduled for unrestricted free agency and both are starters. Might the Raiders look hard at Denver's Champ Bailey in free agency?
3. Tight end: Hue Jackson likes to use packages with more than one tight end, and after Zach Miller, who may or may not be an unrestricted free agent, only Brandon Myers was on the roster.
MEDICAL WATCH: The Raiders went through the season in pretty good health. Rush end Trevor Scott was lost to a torn ACL after 10 games and was well into his rehab at season's end. Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski is rehabbing an injured throwing shoulder and will be a free agent, either restricted or unrestricted.