The only other owner in sports comparable to him, George Steinbrenner, appeared to realize when enough was enough and put his kids in charge while he faded to the background.
But Al Davis? Not a chance.
A year after the worst free agent class in perhaps the history of the NFL—$70M to CB DeAngelo Hall, $55M to WR Javon Walker, $36M to S Gibril Wilson, etc. (and by the way, Hall and Wilson are no longer with the team, and Walker is close to getting released)—he recently signed Shane Lechler to a record four-year, $16M contract for a punter and Nnamdi Asomugha to a record three-year, $45M contract ($28.5M guaranteed) for a CB.
I’ll assume Davis anted up for Lechler based on his projected number of kicks in ’09. If the Raiders offense is as anemic next season as it was in 2008, Lechler should have about twice as many punt opportunities as nearly everyone else in the league. So perhaps he’s being paid on a scale.
Asomugha is the killer though.
The fact that he’s the best CB in football is moot at this point. How many wins did that translate into last season? Five. Yep, having that stud lining up against the opposing team’s best receiver really made a difference…
Now by committing so much money to one player, who really can’t impact the game as Deion Sanders once did (NFL rule changes), it’ll leave less in the pool (of money) for other quality defensive players, which is what you’ll need to put a winning product on the field.
But that’s Oakland’s problem. And a winning product doesn’t appear to be a part their plans.
Now to why this could become an NFL problem.
First and foremost, the notion of “team” could go out the window. Every league is full of suckers—Pro Football has their fair share of them, and teams will now overpay for guys who otherwise would’ve stayed put and played for a chance to win even if it meant taking a few less dollars as a hometown discount.
Look at Gibril Wilson. After winning a Super Bowl with the Giants, he decided to follow the pot of gold to Oakland. Less than a year later, he’s a high-priced vet who was cut after one season and looking for work once again. Usually once you’ve been cut, your value is a fraction of what it was before.
Second, teams will now have to overpay for their own talent because Oakland’s adversely affected the market. There will be guys out there who say to themselves, “He’s not that much better than me, so if he got $45M over three years, I must be worth at least $30M-$35M or so.”
Unless you find a senile owner who has no idea how to run a franchise anymore, it’s not going to happen.
Now I am all for players getting paid what they’re worth, but this is not it. This is an outrageous price point based on an inflated valuation of a player’s worth.
Sound familiar? It’s what took place in all equities prior to the market collapse of 2008.
The end result, if something isn’t done to prevent Al Davis from creating a bubble that will inevitably burst, is that the poor teams will continue to vastly overpay for talent, while good teams will have a harder time keeping their talent at reasonable prices.
And that’s not good for the NFL, the fans, or the quality of the game.