Raiders should have kept Grove

Re-signing right guard Cooper Carlisle was a good move but letting center Jake Grove get away could be one that the Raiders regret, though at the price you could hardly blame them.

Grove had been plagued by injuries through most of his career with Oakland and hadn't really played up to expectations as a result. After undergoing microfracture knee surgery last year there were even more questions and concerns, leading the Raiders to sign veteran center John Wade.

But Grove not only outplayed Wade in the preseason to win the starter's job, he came up with arguably the best season of his career. Is it coincidence that it was a contract year? Perhaps, but that doesn't take away from how well Grove played. He's strong at the point of contact and is quick enough to get out and move some. He also does a good job of calling and changing the protections.

While he wasn't on the elite level of centers around the league, Grove was solid enough and was well-versed in Tom Cable's zone-blocking schemes. If there has been an issue with him, it's that he's not been consistent from year to year and he also has problems in the shotgun.

Still, Oakland would have benefited by keeping him. Unfortunately, salaries being the ridiculous thing that they are, it made no sense for the Raiders to even try to come close to the five-year, $29.5 million contract that includes $14 million in guaranteed money.

Grove is good, but not that good.

Carlisle has been an instrumental part of the Raiders' running game the past two seasons and was the team's least-penalized offensive linemen in 2007. Though he had a down year in 2008, the 31-year-old Carlisle was still valuable and his return enables Oakland to move forward with the core of its offensive line still intact.

The two tackle spots remain in doubt, though. Left tackle Kwame Harris was released after one disappointing season, and while Mario Henderson remains the favorite to win the starting job, the Raiders will likely try to bring in a journeyman to push him in training camp. Right tackle Cornell Green will also have his starting job on the line when camp begins.

Veteran Erik Pears could be the one to push Green. Signed by the Raiders earlier this week, Pears started 16 games at right tackle and 10 games at left tackle in two seasons with Denver. He spent the first seven weeks of the 2008 season on the inactive list before undergoing an appendectomy in October, he was placed on the reserve/non-football illness list.


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