Should Raiders let Asomugha walk?

What if the Raiders decided not to franchise Nnamdi Asomugha and instead let him become an unrestricted free agent? Unless they're absolutely certain they can lock the Pro Bowl cornerback up to a long-term contract, that's exactly what Al Davis and company need to do.

That might not make sense considering Asomugha is considered the preeminent player at his position, a true shutdown corner in every sense of the word whose reputation alone prevented opposing quarterbacks from throwing his direction much in 2008.

He's also one of the Raiders' locker room leaders and one of the most well-respected players around the entire NFL. Letting him just walk away seems, on the face, a silly argument.

Here's why it's not and why it would make more sense to use the tag on punter Shane Lechler. First, let's talk strictly from a financial point of view. As a franchised player Asomugha will earn nearly $12 million in 2009 based on a 120 percent raise he'd be due having been the team's franchise player last year. Lechler, according to numbers released by the NFLPA, would make $2,483,000.

That savings of almost $10 million is critical for a team whose revenue has been hurt by playing in one of the most antiquated stadiums in the NFL. It's also money the Raiders could use to address some of their other problem areas.

Oakland could lock Lechler up to a four- or five-year deal with the money it would take to keep Asomugha for one season. Or it could try to find help for its offensive and defensive lines, both of which were issues for the team in 2008.

Asomugha certainly makes it easier to play defense but given that he's almost certain to walk away in 2010, is it worth paying him that much to stick around for one more year? He's been reticent to sign a long-term contract because of the direction of the franchise over the past two seasons and has dropped several not-so-subtle hints about his feelings in the past.

While he's classy enough of a player to not let it become an issue in the locker room, there's no doubt that his contract status would be a constant topic among reporters if Asomugha is franchised again. Letting him leave would create a major hole in Oakland's secondary, but again, if he's intent on leaving in 2010, why not get the process of replacing him started early?

Whatever the Raiders decide to do, we'll find out fairly soon. NFL teams have until Feb. 19 to designate which players they will use the franchise tag on. After that, the two sides are permitted to negotiate on a long-term deal until July 15; after that, the players can only the one-year tender from their team.

Davis acknowledged that the situation facing him regarding Asomugha and Lechler is a difficult one but added that he's not resigned to keeping one over the other. There could be a situation in which the Raiders are able to keep both.

But it says here that unless Asomugha has a change of heart and inks his name to a extension rather than a one-year deal, it's time to let him go.


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