Raiders surprise with competence, 'Hawks upgrade; more draft Snaps
Along with landing Jason Campbell, Oakland made a safe pick in Rolando McClain
Seattle addressed a glaring need, trading for LenDale White and Leon Washington
The Lions continued building a strong core, adding another pair of blue-chippers
NEW YORK -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight from the third and final day of the NFL Draft, when a couple teams way out west -- Oakland and Seattle -- thrust themselves into the spotlight with some eye-opening headline moves. ...
This is a little like using a muscle I didn't know I had -- it's painful at first -- but the Oakland Raiders really looked like they knew what they were doing in this draft.
And it's got to do with a lot more than their sending a 2012 fourth-round pick to Washington for quarterback Jason Campbell on Saturday, who immediately becomes the Raiders best option at the game's most pivotal position. (And I've got it Campbell, Bruce Gradkowski, and only then JaMarcus Russell.)
More on both the Campbell trade and what to do about Russell a little later, but there was lots to like about Oakland's work this weekend. Such as:
Taking Alabama middle linebacker Rolando McClain, who's one of the safest prospects in this draft, at No. 8 in the first round. Grabbing underrated Texas defensive tackle Lamarr Houston at No. 44 in the second round. Correctly identifying small-school standout Jared Veldheer, of tiny Hillsdale in Michigan, as a third-round offensive tackle worth taking a flyer on (some say he's this year's Sebastian Vollmer). Waiting until the fourth round to select Maryland offensive tackle and workout warrior Bruce Campbell. Only giving in to their perpetual urge to take the draft's fastest runner -- in this case, Clemson receiver Jacoby Ford (who ran 4.28) -- later in the fourth round.
Shoot, we can't even blame them for giving away veteran middle linebacker Kirk Morrison to the Jaguars in trade. He got run over in run defense in Oakland last season, and throwing him into the deal helped the Raiders land the pick they used to select Ford.
Lauding the Raiders for their draft acumen. This is going to take some getting used to. Maybe Al Davis has a future in this business.
It's difficult not to see the 2010 Seattle Seahawks in a whole new light after this weekend. Starting off their picks with Oklahoma State offensive tackle Russell Okung, Texas safety Earl Thomas and Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate was impressive enough; but stealing, I mean, dealing for veteran running backs Leon Washington and LenDale White on Saturday addressed the team's glaring need to upgrade its running game in a rather unexpected way.
Seattle's quarterback situation still concerns plenty of folks, given Matt Hasselbeck's shaky health and Charlie Whitehurst's lack of an NFL track record, but how can you not like what Pete Carroll and John Schneider have accomplished so far in their Seahawks makeover?
If Washington can fully recover from that compound leg fracture he suffered last season, he's one of the finest change-of-pace runners in the league, and in 2009 he was clearly New York's best offensive weapon before the injury. For a back whose cutting is a big part of his game, Washington's leg injury was no small development, but indications are he'll be ready to go for the regular season.
The Jets simply weren't going to pay him the big money he wanted as part of a long-term deal, and when New York traded up in the fourth round to take USC running back Joe McKnight on Saturday, it was pretty clear that Washington would soon be headed elsewhere. Especially with Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson already on hand in the Jets backfield.
As for White, maybe his being reunited with Carroll, his collegiate coach at USC, will entice him to lay off the doughnuts once and for all, and provide a jumpstart for his career as a power runner. He can be effective in short-yardage and goal line situations, as he proved in Tennessee, but Chris Johnson's meteoric rise in Tennessee left White totally eclipsed.
Maybe the story in the NFC West this season will center on more than just the showdown between Arizona and San Francisco after all. Seahawks fever. I might have just caught it.
To get back to Campbell's departure from Washington after five seasons: Was there ever a moment since the Redskins took him 25th overall in the 2005 first round when the ground didn't seem to be shifting beneath the feet of the former Auburn quarterback? Change has been a near constant in the Daniel Snyder ownership era in D.C., and Campbell was forever learning a new offense, working with a new coordinator or head coach, and greeting a new teammate or seven.
Clearly there was no way for him to put the genie back into the bottle in Washington, and it was time to move on and start over elsewhere. But his failure to make it big with the Redskins isn't entirely his fault. The zig-zag approach of the Washington organization bears a healthy dose of the blame for Campbell's lack of development. While Oakland certainly hasn't been a bastion of stability or quarterback success recently, anywhere but D.C. has to be looking pretty good to Campbell.
As part of the trade, the Raiders reportedly awarded Campbell a new contract that includes $3.14 million in salary this year, with a workout bonus of $100,000, and then calls for $4.5 million next season. And even if Oakland cuts Russell tomorrow, they're already on the hook for a guaranteed $3 million to him this season, which would up its total commitment to him to a staggering $39.4 million since they took him first overall in 2007. And for what?
That, my friends, is why whatever the NFL and its players eventually settle on regarding a rookie wage scale in the next CBA, it will have largely been inspired by the enormous disappointment that has been Russell's career.
Maybe Campbell's presence as the presumed starter in Oakland, combined with the arrival this year of new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, can evoke Russell's last, best effort to become at least a serviceable quarterback. But I'm not optimistic. How could you be?
There are reports that Oakland intends to ask Russell to accept a pay cut, and that he's made it known he'll refuse the request. (I think the Raiders should ask him for some money back, not just a pay cut, but that's just me). The end game isn't hard to figure out. The Raiders releasing the guy who led off the draft just a scant three years ago is now a distinct possibility.
NFL Truth & Rumors