Yeah, yeah ... we know. When it comes to football writers and the Oakland Raiders, we're guilty of picking the low-hanging fruit far too often. While the Raiders' methods are, um, "unconventional," and far from successful over the last few years, I sometimes wonder if we bash this franchise as a reflex action. After all, the Raiders are far from the only dysfunctional NFL team, and there are great seasons not too long ago. Sometimes, it even seems like they might even start to turn things around.
And then, days like Wednesday happen, and I realize that Al Davis is an evil genius, writing our jokes for us. In case you didn't catch it, the Raiders put a third-(original)round restricted free agent tender on linebacker Kirk Morrison(notes), despite the fact that Morrison has been one of the NFL's more consistent defenders over the last few years, and has missed only one game since 2005. They then placed a second-round tender on quarterback Bruce Gradkowski(notes), despite the fact that Gradkowski (who I actually like a lot) saw only limited action behind (you'll pardon the expression) JaMarcus Russell(notes). That Gradkowski is infinitely better than Russell is totally irrelevant; Davis has repeatedly expressed his commitment to Russell no matter what the tape shows.
But throwing a bigger tag on their backup quarterback than they did on their starting middle linebacker wasn't the wackiest thing Oakland did Wednesday -- it put the highest tender, the first- and third-round version, on nickel cornerback Stanford Routt(notes). This move will require the Raiders to pay Routt over $3 million in 2010 despite the fact that Routt has never shown anything remotely approaching starting cornerback ability. The only time Routt was ever in competition with Chris Johnson for the starting corner job on the other side of Nnamdi Asomugha(notes) was when head coach Tom Cable put a few veterans through trumped-up position competitions in an attempt to enforce discipline and accountability. Routt is fast on the track, but he has never been more than a reserve defender in the NFL, and he gets burned so often in man coverage, his nickname should be "Fire Marshall Bill."
Are we surprised? No. Are we gratified? Not really. We don't WANT the Raiders to be this bad. I remember the days of Ken Stabler and Fred Biletnikoff and Marcus Allen and John Madden, and I miss the teams they used to have. But if Vampire Al is going to keep planting orchards of low-hanging fruit ... it'd be a sin to pass it up.
Addendum: The Raiders also placed the second-round tender on linebacker Thomas Howard(notes). Also, courtesy of Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz, are the top defenders in Defeats (efficient defensive stops) from 2006-2009. Morrison is fourth, behind Lance Briggs(notes), DeMarcus Ware(notes) and Jared Allen(notes).