Are the Raiders getting Sapp(ed) production?

Now that defensive tackle Warren Sapp has traded one team with a pirate team for another, the question begs – which player will the Oakland Raiders get after signing him away from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

The fact that the Raiders signed him for a seven-year, $36 million dollar deal is hardly a surprise. The Raiders have been known to sign players who others thought were either too old or too much of a problem for other teams. Sapp was rumored to become a Cincinnati Bengal as recently as Saturday, the day Oakland signed him, for a four-year, $16 million dollar deal.

The money that the Raiders offered him is curious to say the least. Not that anyone should blame Sapp, of course, because he did what any other player would have done. However, the money Oakland signed Sapp for is normally the amount of a player in his prime.

The Buccaneers drafted Sapp in the first-round from Miami (Fla.) in 1995 and he helped turn them from perennial laughingstocks to contenders. He helped the Bucs beat the Raiders 48-21 in January 2003.

Which player then are the Raiders getting now? Is it the one who recorded 16.5 sacks in 2000, the third highest total for a defensive tackle in NFL history? Or is Oakland getting the player who recorded 18.5 sacks over the last three combined seasons? Well, it's one thing to have one "off" season, maybe "two" but three in a row clearly suggests a pattern. Therefore it's easy to see why the Bucs were indifferent about resigning him despite a career worthy of Hall-of-Fame consideration.

It's also worth noting that defensive Rod Coleman, the same player the Raiders let leave via free agency, has recorded 22.5 sacks over the same amount of time. Coleman signed with Atlanta (six years, $20 million) and assuredly would have come cheaper than Sapp.

Sapp, while still better than many at his position, also looked ordinary at times that teams sometimes got away with not double-teaming him.

The Bengals' four-year, $16 million deal was twice the money being discussed among the other suitors, the Chiefs, Giants, Ravens. Oakland also threw an extra $20 million on top of that. Granted, NFL contracts are not guaranteed but the Raiders gave Sapp $7 million to sign, something one would normally do for a franchise player in his prime, not a declining player who is 31 years old.

Keep in mind that the Raiders also signed Ted Washington from New England with John Parrella also coming back. How are the Raiders going to jam three players into two positions? What does this mean for cornerback Charles Woodson, who is a free agent the Raiders tagged as their franchise player? Especially, since Woodson has been requesting a king's ransom like the one Sapp received.

There's another factor as well. Sapp brings baggage in terms of being outspoken and at times controversial. Those were two qualities the locker-room reeked of under now deposed head coach Bill Callahan. New head coach Norv Turner's job about cleaning that up will not get any easier. Sapp has been known for his outbursts, disagreements with teammates and on-field antics.

Those things were tolerated when he was an elite player but less so as his play declined. Who knows, maybe Callahan is better off at the University of Nebraska but that's a whole separate argument.

Perhaps this moves has a little "take that" jab at the Bucs. Sapp was one of a few players to woo former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden to Tampa Bay. Sapp then helped the Bucs beat Oakland in the Super Bowl. Former Raiders senior assistant Bruce Allen then joined the Bucs in early January.

If Sapp plays like he did in pre-2001, the Raiders are geniuses. If not, they got him for the wrong reasons.


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