Raiders Free Agency Outlook: Nnamdi Asomugha

The most important free agency decision the Oakland Raiders face this off-season pertains to one of their own. Nnamdi Asomugha is one of the best cover corners in the game and it is vital they lock him up. Will they franchise him if a deal cannot be struck?

Nnamdi Asomugha

2007 in review: Played exceptionally well even though he doesn't have the numbers to show for it. Opposing quarterbacks made it a point to avoid his side of the field for the most part, and while he's had a few mishaps along the way, Asomugha has been rock solid all year.

Grade: B

Market interest level: Very high

Along with New England's Asante Samuel, Asomugha will be one of the most coveted cornerbacks available when free agency begins.

Raiders interest level: Very high

While those close to Asomugha believe the Raiders will use the franchise tag on the former first-round pick, insiders say that the team is actually more willing to give Asomugha the long-term contract he desires, even if that means making him one of the highest-paid defensive backs in the NFL.

According to league sources and those close to the team, Asomugha and his agent, Steve Baker, are seeking a deal that will make for the 2003 first-round draft pick the highest paid cornerback in the NFL. That distinction currently belongs to Denver‘s Champ Bailey, who is earning $8,998,100 this year.

The Raiders were in a similar situation three years ago with Charles Woodson, who was facing free agency and had designs on being the league's highest-paid cornerback. Oakland was unwilling to give Woodson the lucrative, long-term deal he was seeking and instead slapped the franchise tag on him in 2004 and 2005.

The Raiders wound up paying Woodson $21 million for the two years before removing the franchise tag prior to the 2005 season, which opened the door for Woodson to sign as a free agent with Green Bay.

This is also the deal the Raiders want to get done first because it will set the tone for how the rest of their run in free agency goes. A workable deal for both sides could give Oakland some flexibility to make some other moves but if the team is forced to mortgage the farm to keep Asomugha, it keep prevent the Raiders from being very active on the open market.

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