The more things change the more they seem to remain the same. When all of the free agency madness began earlier this week the Raiders appeared poised to pursue available offensive linemen. Jared Gaither’s name began to swirl around Raider Nation and looked likely to be seen in the opening day program.
There were rumors of Gaither agreeing to terms. There was a sighting of Gaither in Napa. There appeared to be every indication that the Raiders had a new tackle in the mix.
By the end of his first supposed day as a Raider we learned Gaither wasn’t actually a Raider. Better yet, Gaither was a Raider-in-waiting.
First his agent Drew Rosenhaus tossed some cold water on all the Gaither to Oakland reports. Then it would be Hue Jackson that set the record straight before eventually closing the book.
Oakland took a good look at Gaither and determined he’s not ready to return to the NFL just yet. Having missed all of last season with a back injury Gaither needed to prove he was physically capable and ready to play again. Coach Jackson has moved on but left a slight crack in the door.
“I was laughing everybody said we signed him. I told you, we hadn’t. No, I mean, obviously when you check a guy out it goes back to the same thing. I want to make sure we’re putting healthy players out here. Nothing to him, he knows everything he knows to do. He’s just not where he needs to be to compete on a physical level all the time. But he’ll go back and keep working. It just didn’t work this time. So we’ll move to the next opportunity.”
Perhaps Gaither will become a Raider at another time. For now Oakland needs more options on the O-line. So, when all else fails, re-sign Khalif Barnes.
For three years running it’s been the same song and dance between the Raiders and Barnes.
When he first became a Raider there were rumors the only reason Barnes signed was because he was promised Oakland would not draft another tackle. Whether or not that was true hardly matters as the Raiders did in fact refrain from draft an offensive tackle in the OT heavy draft of ’09. If the Raiders were planning on Barnes being their answer at OT it would have to wait as a broken leg cut short his first camp.
After returning from injury there were more rumors claiming that Barnes had no desire to move to the right side of the line. Eventually he did play some right tackle but did so sparingly. Once his first year as a Raider had concluded Barnes seemed likely to leave seeking a more long term contract. Well…that didn’t happen and once again the Raider inked Barnes to a one-year deal.
Khalif’s second season as a Raider was infinitely more productive than his first. Barnes was involved in a multitude of packages including the double-tackle set Oakland employed on occasion and at times utilizing Barnes as a tight end including a TD in one contest.
With all that being said…here we are again.
Barnes was once again a free agent. The Raiders once again haven’t found any other options. So once again Barnes re-ups with the Raiders and we’re right back where we were when free agency began.
Coach Jackson knows what he’s getting in Khalif Barnes as opposed to the huge question mark that is Jared Gaither. Barnes will have every opportunity to compete and should emerge as the starting right tackle.