Raiders' Rodger Saffold mistake leads list of head-scratching free agency deals

Friday March 14th, 2014

2014 NFL free agency mistakes: Rodger Saffold, Aqib Talib among missteps The Raiders' brain trust has not been so ... brainy. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

With an incredible number of deals and more than $1 billion in total contract dollars already given to this year's crop of free agents, it stands to reason (and the law of averages) that there will be a few clunkers. With three days of free agency in the books, here are the five deals we can't quite wrap our heads around.

Oakland Raiders: OT Rodger Saffold -- Five years, $42.5 million, $21 million guaranteed (deal pulled/failed physical)

Well, this was just goofy from the start. The Raiders came into the 2014 free agency period with about $64 million in cap room after dropping dead money for years to atone for Al Davis' final mistakes. And then, they let their best offensive lineman (left tackle Jared Veldheer) and their best defensive lineman (end Lamarr Houston) walk right out the door. Veldheer signed a five-year, $35 million contract ($10.5 million guaranteed) with the Arizona Cardinals, which is perfectly commensurate with his skill level -- not elite, but reliable and dependable and physically dominant at times.

Then, general manager Reggie McKenzie took a real flyer on former St. Louis Rams tackle/guard Rodger Saffold, who had missed 17 games in the last three years with a variety of injuries. For some unknown reason, McKenzie offered Safford far more than Veldheer, which was odd given that Veldheer is the better player, and the team didn't seem quite sure whether Saffold would play guard or tackle.

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Not that it mattered, because the torn labrum Saffold was recovering from had owner Mark Davis (Al's son) voiding the offer. Saffold returned to the Rams and signed the offer originally made to him -- five years, $31.7 million, with $19.5 million guaranteed. Perhaps still an overpay, but more reasonable than what the Raiders were offering ... since the Rams appeared to be in agreement that they actually wanted the player.

The Raiders signed Justin Tuck to replace Houston, but they're basically without a left tackle ... or left guard ... or whatever Saffold was supposed to be. And with all the talk about a new administration under McKenzie, it has to be especially disheartening to Raiders fans that this team still can't seem to get it together on a level demanded by the rigors of the NFL. This was a historic franchise embarrassment, which is saying a lot, considering everything that's happened in the last decade. The Raiders still have over $50 million left in 2014 cap space, and goodness knows what they'll do with it.

Atlanta Falcons: DE Tyson Jackson -- Five years, $25 million, $11 million guaranteed

Jackson was Scott Pioli's first draft pick as the Kansas City Chiefs' general manager in 2009, and the now-assistant general manager for the Atlanta Falcons wasted no time in setting up a reunion. Pioli was tasked with making Atlanta's defensive line bigger, stronger and more physically talented (which is also why they picked up former Dolphins tackle Paul Soliai). However, this kind of money for Jackson, who's been a fairly historic bust in all but one of his seasons, seems specious at best. Jackson turned into a pretty decent run defender for first-year defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, but with a career total of 38 pressures (your better, bigger ends will put that up in one season), this may be an example of Pioli trying to save face in his new position.

Washington Redskins: OG Shawn Lauvao -- Four years, $17 million, $5 million guaranteed

It appears that even with a new-ish administration, the Redskins can still overpay for average-at-best line talent as if Vinny Cerrato were still in the building. The money given to Lauvao is hardly franchise-changing, but considering his performance in 2013, it doesn't make sense. Lauvao logged 771 snaps for the Browns last season, allowing four sacks, four quarterback hits and 18 quarterback hurries, frequently grading poorly as a run-blocker. He dealt with an ankle injury last year, but Lauvao's numbers from previous years aren't any better. It's a weird move for a team that just got out of two years of league-imposed salary cap purgatory.

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Jacksonville Jaguars: OG Zane Beadles -- Five years, $30 million, $12.5 million guaranteed

Yes, the Jags needed help at left guard, but this is an odd and highly-priced move for a team in love with advanced film study and sabermetrics. Yes, Beadles gave up just one sack in each of the last two years, but anyone with a cursory knowledge of football understands how Peyton Manning's quick release helps his linemen, and Beadles gave up seven sacks in 2011, the last time he had to play in front of a guy who isn't a lead-pipe lock for the Hall of Fame. Had Beadles come at a price similar to Lauvao's, that would have been outstanding, because Beadles is the far better player. However, this represents a serious commitment for a team still very uncertain about who its long-term quarterback will be.

Denver Broncos: CB Aqib Talib -- Six years, $57 million, $26 million guaranteed

Apparently, the Broncos were going to throw a deal like this at the first willing cornerback they found. According to ProFootballTalk, they offered Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie a six-year, $54 million contract to stay on as their best cornerback (which he was in 2013), but for some reason, DRC turned that down. At that point, per PFT, the Broncos reached out to Darrelle Revis to take his temperature about a similar deal. Revis maintained that he wanted to be the highest-paid (per year) cornerback in the league, which led him to accept the one-year, $12 million deal with the Patriots. So, Denver turned its attention to Talib, whose departure from Foxboro made the Revis deal a reality.

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