Extra Points: Dysfunctional Raiders exposed in Saffold drama

By The Sports NetworkMarch 13, 2014 at 12:26 PM
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Philadelphia, Pa. On the surface, the Oakland Raiders' signing of Rodger Saffold seemed like a ludicrous deal.

So much so that Christopher Bridges (that's hip-hop artist/actor "Ludacris" for those of you who don't know) could have sued the team for gimmick infringement.

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie shouldn't be held responsible for the sins of Al Davis during his waning years in Oakland, but the Raiders' current football chief also hasn't reminded many of his former boss in Green Bay (Ted Thompson) during his stint in Northern California.

The thought process of most NFL front offices these days, and certainly the successful ones, is to reward your own, especially if they have developed into significant contributors.

Yet, despite possessing a war chest of well over $60 million to spend -- more than any other team in the NFL -- McKenzie allowed three of his young stalwarts to leave in free agency (left tackle Jared Veldheer, defensive end Lamarr Houston and running back Rashad Jennings), and promptly gave a player many project inside at guard a big-ticket deal.

The biggest head-scratcher was the decision that Saffold, who has missed 17 games in four seasons with St. Louis with a variety of injuries, was a better fit in Oakland than the highly-regarded Veldheer.

The Arizona Cardinals gladly gave Veldheer, a proven left tackle, $7 million a year after McKenzie effectively cut ties with him by signing Saffold for more than $8 million annually.

Reggie Mac reportedly believed Veldheer is best suited to play on the right side and a few Oakland apologists chimed in by saying Menelik Watson, the team's second-round pick out of Florida State a year ago, could develop into a franchise left tackle.

But, even if you stipulate all of that, that still means McKenzie gave one of his projected guards or, at best, a right tackle left tackle money, and that's a bad business decision any way you slice it.

Most of the critiques of the signing were not kind to the Raiders or McKenzie and the whole thing fell apart before Saffold was able to put pen to paper in the Bay Area due to a "failed" physical.

Saffold, who thought he would be signing a five-year deal worth up to $42.5 million, with $21 million guaranteed, instead had to reverse course and return to St. Louis, inking a five-year, $31.7 million contract with the Rams, although $19.5 of that was guaranteed to him.

As far as dollars promised, the Raiders about face only cost Saffold $1.5 million and speaks to a rather large disagreement on the Indiana product's physical condition.

Saffold's agents -- Alan Herman and Jared Fox -- told ESPN that the Raiders had serious concerns about a shoulder issue and the Rams, as evidenced by he contract they quickly delivered, had "no concerns whatsoever."

Herman and Fox also claimed they allowed Dr. Frank Cordasco of the Hospital For Special Surgery in New York to study Saffold's MRIs, and his review indicated nothing was wrong with Saffold's shoulder.

So what's the real story here?

More than one has speculated that Mark Davis, fearful that his marquee free agent could be facing surgery, got rabbit ears and pulled the plug on the deal, a scenario which would expose just how short McKenzie's leash currently is and just how dysfunctional the Raiders are.

Most of us have become predisposed to believing the Raiders always make the wrong decision for good reason -- they almost always make the wrong decision.

Oakland takes no financial hit here by reversing course on Saffold but the missed opportunity is huge, considering the best left tackles on the market like Veldheer, Branden Albert and Eugene Monroe are now long gone.

For better or worse, McKenzie is still in charge of the Raiders' football operations and deserved to sink or swim with his own decision here.

The fact that he was sinking is just business as usual in Oakland.


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