Still Work Ahead for Raiders
Earlier, the Raiders had traded their No. 7 pick for Randy Moss, who is certainly better than former USC receiver Mike Williams, who is generally figured to fall into that slot in the draft.
That had left them without a first-round pick, so they traded tight end Doug Jolley to the New York Jets, so they could get the Jets’ pick (26) in the first round.
That concluded a fast two days of trading in which they sent cornerback Philip Buchanon to the Dallas Texans for a second- and third-round pick (the second-rounder was sent to the Jets as part of the Jolley trade) – and good luck to the Texans.
Tight end had become an overloaded position for the Raiders last season, especially because Norv Turner’s offensive system doesn’t use a tight end as much as the modified Bill Walsh offensive system the Raiders had used before.
Courtney Anderson, the 6-7 rookie from San Jose State, had supplanted Jolley as the starter, but I think the one to watch this year will be Teyo Johnson, who spent most of last year in Turner’s doghouse.
Johnson is a player with great physical talent, who had the hands and speed to play wide receiver at Stanford and the size to play tight end in the pros.
He has also had a problem with authority. As a basketball player in college, he often butted heads with Mike Montgomery, who was glad to see Teyo go early to the pros. Last year, his lackadaisical attitude in camp sank him deep on the depth chart early, and it took most of the season before he got any significant playing time.
That finally taught him a lesson. We talked on the set during a taping of an episode of “The Last Honest Sports Show” and he said he had skipped the Super Bowl this year because he was working out, not partying, in the off-season. He said he intended to show up for training camp in the best condition of his life. If he does that, he can become a star, not just a starter.
BUCHANON IS another player with an attitude problem, and the Raiders couldn’t wait to get rid of him.
He was a first-round pick in 2002, and it appeared for a time that he was going to be a great player, with a penchant for making key interceptions and great kick returns.
Then, teams discovered that Buchanon, in his eagerness to make interceptions, often bit on fakes, which enabled receivers to beat him deep. Though the Raiders coaches pointed this out to him, he refused to change. His attitude needed changing more than his technique, and the young man who likes to refer to himself as “Showtime” couldn’t change.
The problem became worse when he, in effect, refused to return punts, calling for a fair catch or just letting them bounce instead of fielding them. Whether it was because he didn’t want to do it any more or just lost his nerve, I can’t say. If it was the first, he got his wish, because Turner put him on the bench.
The Texans think they can change Buchanon’s attitude and make him a player again. Perhaps. It wouldn’t be the first time a player has changed his attitude when he changed teams. I wouldn’t be surprised if linebacker Napoleon Harris, a serious disappointment with the Raiders who was included in the Moss trade, becomes a good player for the Vikings.
But it wasn’t going to happen for Buchanon with the Raiders, so they were wise to unload him, especially when it helped them to make the deal with Jolley that got them back in the first round.
THE MOST telling indictment of the Raiders defense of last season is that it’s been improved by the subtraction of those two players.
Charles Woodson doesn’t fall into that category, though there are many Raiders fans who would like to see him leave.
Woodson is still a good player, but he creates financial problems for the Raiders because, as a franchise player, his salary, which has to be in the middle of the top five at his position, will probably be somewhere around $10.5 million, which far exceeds his value.
Reality has not yet overcome illusion when it comes to NFL cornerbacks. For years, teams looked for a “shut down corner” who could neutralize star receivers. Then, the NFL changed the rule on contact, so corners have much more trouble staying with receivers now. The value of even the best corners has diminished, but the salaries that were driven up earlier are still there. Eventually, the market for corners will reflect reality, but until then, Woodson will be rather dramatically overpaid.
But, that’s exactly the reason the Raiders can’t trade Woodson. Who would pay his salary for his production? Maybe they can sucker the Redskins, whose owner, Dan Snyder, overpays for everything. But even the Redskins have to be concerned about the salary cap.
ECONOMICS ASIDE, the Raiders need to keep Woodson because they can’t afford to lose any good defensive players. They need help at just about every defensive position.
That’s why it was so important for them to make the Jolley trade, so they could have a chance at a good defensive player in the first round. They now have four picks on the first day, one each in the first and second rounds and two in the third. They should use them all on defensive players/
Otherwise, the improved offense with Moss may mean only that the Raiders will lose a lot of 42-38 games.
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