Seemingly, there could be only one explanation and that would be that cornerback Charles Woodson would soon find his way on a bus out of Oakland in a trade.
Not so, coach Norv Turner said.
It appears the Raiders have run up the white flag on the notion they can find a taker for Woodson. They appear ready to merely swallow the high cost of doing business with a franchise cornerback for one more year.
They budgeted for it, so they will just deal with it.
Turner said it point blank Saturday -- the Raiders 1) did not attempt to trade Woodson on Day 1 of the draft, 2) expected him to be around to fulfill the $10.537 million franchise player contract for at least one more year and 3) figured on both Woodson and Nnamdi Asomugha as starters.
And neither at safety.
"We're in a great position with Charles at one corner and Nnamdi at the other," Turner said after the team drafted Routt. "We can put these young guys behind them, they can learn.
"You're not dependent on saying these (new) guys have to play, but certainly, if you look at our early games -- New England, Kansas City, Philadelphia -- they're teams that use three receivers a great deal. Two of the teams have outstanding tight ends that you have to contend with. So it's going to give us flexibility in those areas."
Flexibility, in this case, translates into playing time.
But not necessarily on the starting unit. With the No. 23 and No. 38 picks of the draft, wouldn't somebody who was drafted to start on the NFL's 30th ranked defense seem to be in order?
DRAFT REVIEW -- Name one trait the Oakland Raiders cherish more than any other?
Answer: speed. Always speed.
With that in mind, the Raiders targeted the two fastest cornerbacks in the draft with their first two picks. Both Fabian Washington of Nebraska and Stanford Routt of Houston ran 4.29. Other than wide receiver Jerome Mathis, they were the second fastest times recorded at the come over the last four years.
The Raiders were so determined to get Washington that they traded their fourth round pick to Seattle to swap places and move up in the first round from No. 26 to No. 23 to make sure they got him.
The trades they made in advance of the draft, sending cornerback Phillip Buchanon to Houston for draft picks, then using one to package with tight end Doug Jolley to move into the first round was designed specifically to get to Washington.
"He was a guy we really wanted," coach Norv Turner said.
Aside from his speed, there are no guarantees with Washington. He does not have a solid reputation as a tackler or as a physical player. But at the very least, he appears to be a more coachable alternative than Buchanon who suffered from the same drawbacks as well as another -- making poor decisions.
Likewise with Routt, he is not a finished product. He is a track man with remarkable times of 10.15 and 20.03 in the 100 and 200 who never played spring football at Houston.
But the Raiders saw something they liked.
"He is physically as gifted as any of the corners who have been taken in the draft to this point (sixth pick of Round 2)," Turner said.
"I don't consider myself a finished product, but I don't consider myself a slab of Clay either," Routt said. "I can still get a whole lot better, but I consider myself a pretty darned good football player right now as we speak."
That the Raiders took a quarterback was not surprising either. They finished the 2004 season without a real No. 3 quarterback. What might have been a surprise was that with all their defensive needs, they took one with their third pick, the first of two in Round 3.
But when 6-6 Andrew Walter of Arizona State was there, the Raiders couldn't resist. Having broken John Elway's Pac-10 record for touchdown passes (85 to 77), it was too tempting.
Turner made it clear Walter was not drafted to dislodge Marques Tuiasosopo from the No. 2 position. He said it was an augmentation to the quarterback crop, not a replacement.
On the other hand, the second third round pick, linebacker Kirk Morrison from San Diego State, has a chance to play right now. The Raiders went into the draft with only two inside linebackers -- Danny Clark and the often-released Tim Johnson.
Oakland didn't draft again until Round 6 and made a trade, sending a fifth round pick in 2006 and their 2005 seventh round selection to move up to the first pick of Round 6 to make a pick that could pay dividends or be a total bust.
Wisconsin defensive tackle Anttaj Hawthorne was originally expected to be a second round pick and had greatness bestowed on him in a forecast by coach Barry Alvarez. However, he was already sliding down the board due to concerns about his competitive nature when he caught on a marijuana charge at the combine.
While other teams were saying no thanks, the Raiders waited until they felt it was time to take a chance.
"The thing about him that really helped us was the experience of coaching him at the Senior Bowl," Turner said. "We ... spent a week with him, got to know him extremely well. It helped us in terms of what his situation was, where he is and where we think he'll be. We believe we're getting an outstanding football player."
Speculative decisions were also made on the Raiders final two picks of the draft in Round 6, both compensatory picks for the loss of Charlie Garner to Tampa Bay.
The first, there was Cal's Ryan Riddle, a 6-2, 253-pound defensive end that the Raiders think can be an outside linebacker after he broke Andre Carter's Bears sack record with 14.5. He has had difficulty keeping his weight up to function on the line but has shown a big motor that has drawn poor man's comparisons to New England's Tedi Bruschi.
Their last pick was a giant with very little agility and speed. Iowa's 6-8, 328-pound Pete McMahon is the picture of speculation.
Which is largely what the Raider draft was.
BEST PICK: In terms of just walking in and capturing a starting job, Oakland's fourth pick, Morrison, would seem to have the best chance of any of the draftees. Morrison impressed Raider scouts at the Senior Bowl with his adaptability when asked to play outside on the weak side. At San Diego State, he played mostly inside but also went outside on the strong side -- meaning he has possibilities at all four of the Raiders linebacker spots. As an added bonus, he is a local Oakland kid whose family were PSL holders at Raider games dating back to their return and during the Los Angeles years, made one trip south a year to catch a Raider game there.
COULD SURPRISE: Whether Hawthorne surprises or not may have as much to do with his reputed character issues as his abilities. He is a massive specimen who can jam up the middle with the best of them. The pot bust may make him a level one substance abuse risk but in fact, another Raider tackle who eventually made good had the same rap. That would be Warren Sapp, who admitted to marijuana use before he was drafted.
A closer look at the Raiders' picks:
Round 1/26 -- Fabian Washington, CB, 5-11, 188, Nebraska
How badly the Raiders wanted this speedy corner was evidenced in the machinations they made to get in a position to take him. The trades of Phillip Buchanon and Doug Jolley got them back into the first round at No. 26 and then, when Washington was still on the board after Baltimore made the 22nd selection, they made another move to jump ahead of Seattle, Green Bay and Washington. Fearing one of those teams would take him, they traded with the Seahawks. He had 11 interceptions in three years with Nebraska and has the speed (4.29) to recover if not the physical style to bump.
Round 2/38 -- Stanford Routt, CB, 6-1, 193, Houston
Has the potential to be a more physical corner than Washington and boasts the same 4.29 speed, however Routt is not polished yet. He could figure strongly in the team's nickel and dime packages and has the size to cover the AFC West's dominant tight ends, Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates.
Round 3/69 -- Andrew Walter, QB, 6-6, 233, Arizona State
Fills the need for a third quarterback, something the Raiders did not have last year after Rich Gannon went down. Known for last-second heroics such as six-touchdown performance against UCLA, Walter threw 85 touchdown passes for the Sun Devils, starting for three years. He cut down on his interceptions significantly as a senior and had a 30/9 touchdown to interception ratio. He had shoulder surgery in December after suffering a third-degree separation and did not perform at the combine. However, he has since begun throwing and will be able to throw in this week's minicamp.
Round 3/78 -- Kirk Morrison, ILB, 6-1, 240, San Diego State
Adaptable, physical and productive, Morrison could step right in alongside Danny Clark as an inside starter in the team's 3-4 defense. The Raiders found him to be combative and versatile while coaching him at the Senior Bowl and took him even though he was not expected to go until the second day. Thought to be too light to play inside, he was listed from 230 to 235 pounds but will arrive at his first minicamp at 240. Even if he doesn't start immediately, he will be a big special teams contributor.
Round 6/175 -- Anttaj Hawthorne, DT, 6-3, 325, Wisconsin
Fell like a rock after testing positive for marijuana at the combine, the Raiders traded a fifth round pick next year and their seventh this year to move up to the first spot in the sixth round to grab him. The Raiders said that their background checks came out positive. His ability to hold the point of attack makes him a potential successor to Ted Washington. Although downgraded in the motivation department, Turner said Wisconsin coaches recommended him highly. At the Senior Bowl, Turner said, he did not show a lack of motivation. "I think he's a guy who's going to grow, be a good player and gives us competition and depth right away," Turner said.
Round 6/212 -- Ryan Riddle, OLB, 6-3, 252, California
Although he was a small defensive end for the Golden Bears, Riddle had to bulk up to reach 260. When he entered junior college he was barely 200 pounds and will probably play at around 230. A walk on, he had 14.5 sacks last year and broke the Cal record held by Andre Carter, a former first round pick of the 49ers.
Round 6/214 -- Pete McMahon, T, 6-8, 329, Iowa
Far from the idea tackle, McMahon does not have the footwork or the agility to play left tackle, but as a power blocker at right tackle, there is a chance he could become effective. Former Hawkeye teammate Robert Gallery gave scouts the thumbs-up when asked.
First round pick Fabian Washington grew up in Bradenton, Fla., and always wanted to play for Florida State. Given his speed, his Florida upbringing and the Florida schools' reputation for producing speedy corners, how did he wind up in a Nebraska cornfield?
"It was my decision," Washington said. "I knew I was going to play my first three years at Nebraska and (figured) why not go there."
Washington replaces the traded Phillip Buchanon, an outspoken Miami corner with comparable speed and a knack for self promotion. He called himself "Showtime."
Washington doesn't lack for confidence either.
"I would have to say my technique is tops in the draft among the corners," Washington said. "Speed is my big asset but my technique is another one."
Saying his fastest clocked 40 times were 4.23 and 4.25, Washington said he hadn't returned kicks (Buchanon's side job) since high school but was looking forward to it.
--Rich Gannon will not be at the Raiders' mandatory minicamp this week according to Turner but a wire story saying Turner was projected him to retire was not true.
Although most close to the situation acknowledge that the neck fracture that ended his season in Week 3 of 2004 will probably force him to do so, what Turner actually said was that it was Gannon's call to make ... and that he had yet to make it.
--To say that third-round pick Kirk Morrison was delighted to be drafted by his hometown team would be understating it.
"I haven't come down yet and I don't think I ever will.
"This is a dream come true," he said. "I can't believe I am going to be on that field ... at the Network Associates Coliseum, in front of the Black Hole."
Morrison's family has always held Raider tickets and sat in the upper deck of the south stands, above the fans in the lower stands known as the Black Hole.
He said he was nervous at the Senior Bowl when it turned out Turner and his Raider staff would be coaching in Mobile.
"I wanted to impress them but here I am with some of the best linebackers in the country," Morrison said. "I wondered how was I going to stack up ... coming from a non-BCS school.
"As it turned out, I think they liked what I had to offer."
Turner confirmed it.
"The thing about Kirk is he's been highly productive throughout his career," Turner said. "We had five days with him and when we came back here and looked at the tapes with the scouts, we obviously liked him.
"He's got very good quickness in those tight areas and he's a physical player. He takes on blocks and he has good range. We just think he's going to be an outstanding football player."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--CB Charles Woodson (tendered at $10.541M).
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--RB Chris Downs (not tendered as ERFA).
--RB J.R. Redmond was a virtual unknown until the Raiders favored him as a third-down receiver this year. He still flies under the radar of most clubs and is likely to be back.
--OT Chad Slaughter is a long-time deep sub with virtually no action. He's stuck due to his 6-8, 340-pound build but has never really come into his own. Figure he returns only under minimum salary conditions.
--SS David Terrell isn't a major need assuming the return of injured SS Derrick Gibson although he could get a sniff if '04 starter Marques Anderson is given his release.
--RB Amos Zereoue showed little aside from a 60-yard touchdown run in Week 4 at Houston. He will not be a priority to re-sign and probably will only be of interest to other teams as a backup.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--SS Marques Anderson (tendered at $656,000 with 3rd-round pick as compensation) served as a last-second September starter with season-ending injury to Derrick Gibson and on occasion showed why Green Bay was willing to let him go back in August with occasional erratic play. Also got involved in an embarrassing public intoxication incident along with Charles Woodson late in the season. Team may not bother to exercise right of first refusal if he gets outside offers.
--LB Tim Johnson (tendered at $656,000 with no compensation) served the club well as a stopgap starter when injuries struck, but has never engendered outside interest in the past and will probably wind up in Raiders camp again with another shot at making the roster.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
--WR Ronald Curry (tendered at $380,000) is a must-tender former seventh-round pick who developed last year into a big-play wide receiver before tearing his Achilles in the 12th game.
--S Keyon Nash (tendered at $305,000) has been around for several years and will probably continue to do so because of his uncommon size (6-3, 215).
--QB David Rivers (tendered at $230,000) will likely be tendered since the Raiders are shallow at the backup quarterback position.
--WR John Stone (tendered at $305,000) showed some promise late last year after Curry's injury and shows promise as a deep threat.
--S Jarrod Cooper: UFA; terms unknown.
--LB DeLawrence Grant: FA, had been released by Raiders; terms unknown.
--DE Bobby Hamilton: UFA; terms unknown.
--FB Chris Hetherington: UFA; $690,000/1 yr, $25,000 SB; 2005 cap: $455,000.
--WR Jerry Porter (Potential UFA; $20M/5 yrs, SB unknown).
--OG Ron Stone (FA, had been released by Raiders; $12.6M base salaries/5 yrs, SB unknown).
--DE Derrick Burgess: UFA Eagles; $14M/5 yrs, $6M bonuses.
--CB Renaldo Hill: UFA Cardinals; terms unknown.
--RB LaMont Jordan: UFA Jets; $27.5M/5 yrs, $7M SB; 2005 cap: $1.95.
--FB Rob Konrad: FA Dolphins; $700,000/1 yr, SB unknown.
--WR Randy Moss (trade Vikings).
--DT Kenny Smith: UFA Saints; terms unknown.
--CB Ray Buchanan (released), CB Phillip Buchanon (traded Texans), LB Napoleon Harris (traded Vikings), TE Doug Jolley (traded Jets), OG Frank Middleton (released/failed physical), DT John Parrella (released), RB Tyrone Wheatley (released/failed physical), TE Roland Williams (released).