Al Davis gets played like a Hammond organ
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Sep 06, 2009
Bill Belichick should get together with his pal Jon Bon Jovi and form a new act.
Bon Jovi can handle vocals, natch, and play rhythm guitar. Old bandmate Richie Sambora can play lead guitar. And Belichick can play Al Davis.
Belichick, you might have heard by now, shipped New England defensive stalwart Richard Seymour off to old Al's Raiders Sunday in exchange for a first-round pick in 2011. Considering the fact that Oakland is mired in an institutional funk and has suffered double-digit losses for six straight seasons, there's little reason to believe that New England's 2011 pick from the Raiders will be anything but a very high selection.
Not a bad deal for New England.
And here's the problem in Oakland: the Raiders get Seymour for one season. Which begets the question? Is Davis out of his friggin' mind?
Sure, Seymour has had an outstanding eight-year career: five Pro Bowls, four conference titles and three Super Bowl rings. The only thing missing from the resume are two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree. So Davis gets a proven NFL performer even if Seymour might be on the back nine. But Davis gets this proven NFL performer for just one year – and sacrifices a No. 1 pick in the process.
Davis's fitness to be an NFL executive has been called into question before. The Patriots have certainly taken advantage of his missteps in recent years ... as have a long line of other teams and free agents.
It was just two years ago that Davis unloaded Randy Moss on New England for nothing but a fourth-round pick. Moss, of course, set an NFL record the following season with 23 TD receptions as the Patriots became the first team in history to go 16-0. It was one of the great trade bargains in history.
The Raiders in the deal got something shorter than the short end of the stick. They used that fourth-round pick from New England – No. 110 overall – on cornerback John Bowie. Bowie has yet to start an NFL game and spent the 2008 season on injured reserve.
Last month, the Patriots traded a third- and fourth-round pick in 2010 to Oakland in exchange for a fifth-round pick and defensive end Derrick Burgess, a two-time Pro Bowler who led the NFL (and set an Oakland franchise record)with 16 sacks in 2005. The winner of that trade has yet to be determined, but the Raiders had little leverage in the transaction: Burgess was holding out of camp and they had to unload him.
Belichick is by no means the only guy who's played Davis like Booker T. at the Hammond organ in recent years.
Remember Warren Sapp? Sapp knew a sucker when he saw one. In 2004, Davis went over market value, signing the Buccaneers defensive tackle to a $37 million deal even though his production had declined drastically in recent years. Sapp was never the same player in Oakland as he was in Tampa. He registered just 19.5 sacks in his four years with the Raiders – a mere shadow of what he produced in his peak years in Florida (46.5 sacks in his four-year prime).
But Sapp was a bargain compared to Davis's DeAngelo Hall deal last year: the Raiders sent Atlanta a second-round pick in the 2008 draft and a fifth-round pick in the 2009 draft, while signing the cornerback to a monster $70 million deal. Hall didn't even make it through the season. He was cut halfway through the 2008 campaign, taking $8 million with him for his effort. Davis got rolled like an Oktoberfest keg in that deal.
Remember Javon Walker? Davis apparently outbidded only himself when he dished out big bucks for the former Broncos wide receiver last year – even though Walker had a career marred by controversy and injury in Denver. The deal was reported at six years and $55 million, with $16 million guaranteed. It's gone well so far: three months after inking his Oakland contract, Walker passed out on a Vegas street after a night of clubbing and ended up in the hospital. If he had his wallet stolen, it would have reminded us of one of Davis's recent transactions. Of course, Walker rebounded nicely to catch 15 passes in eight games with the Raiders last year, and then – of course – missed the rest of the season with an injury.
And how 'bout the Kerry Collins deal? Davis signed the struggling veteran quarterback to a three-year, $17 million deal in 2004. Collins could do nothing in an Oakland uniform. He led the league with 20 picks in 2004, went 7-21 as a starter and was cut in 2006. Curiously, Collins emerged with the Titans in 2008, helping the team to a 13-3 record.
The Patriots may someday regret unloading Seymour, the signature defender of their dynastic run in the 21st century. Or they may bring him back for short money in 2010 after his contract runs out in Oakland and win another Super Bowl with their old stalwart. By the 2010 off-season, the free agent Seymour will probably be happy just to get out of Oakland and he'll welcome the opportunity to play for a team that can win Super Bowls and has stocked up on plenty of draft picks ... at Old Al's expense.
In either case, it seems that playing Al Davis is just too easy – for the Patriots and for just about any team or cast-off veteran looking to cash in on his Davis's misguided largesse.
The Raiders legendary executive certainly lost his fast ball years ago. All he's got left, apparently, is the belief that all it takes to sign a player, even those past their prime, is a jaw-dropping amount of a cash and/or some high draft picks that would serve no purpose other than helping the organization build for its future.
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