With NFL free agency set to begin in the very near future it looks like the Oakland Raiders will once again be on the sideline. Not since the ill-advised Al Davis spending tsunami of ’08 have the Raiders actually been players in free agency. Instead free agency lately has been limited to giving hefty raises to players before they hit the open market and signing marginal veterans such as Khalif Barnes and Kevin Boss.
This year, even with all the swirling change around the East Bay, won’t be much different.
What will be much different is Oakland’s approach to retaining their players. Mr. Davis never shied away from paying whatever price it took to keep his men in Silver and Black. I don’t pretend to be an Alameda insider but I’m guessing that Davis didn’t see much value it keeping Michael Bush around.
Sure, Davis rolled the dice on drafting the talented but injured prospect. Davis was willing to pay Bush for an entire year while all he did was rehab on the Raiders dime. Davis was the one who insisted on keeping Bush despite the constant inquires from teams seeking to trade for his services.
Davis was also the man that didn’t even try to talk contract with Bush last offseason. Davis was more than willing to give Bush the highest contract tender possible for a restricted free agent but nothing more.
With or without Al Davis in the picture the Raiders were headed to this very moment of deciding on keeping Bush or letting him walk.
The gamble wasn’t much of one at all. There was every reason to think Darren McFadden, at some point, was going to miss time due to injury. It’s happened every year he’s been in the NFL. What else has happened is that during those moments when McFadden is out Bush has stepped in and stepped up. The Raiders knew there was a great chance of Bush putting together a career year thus raising his value on the open market.
Wouldn’t you know it? Guess what happened? Michael Bush put together his best season as a pro including a record setting game against the San Diego Chargers.
Reggie McKenzie didn’t put himself in this bind but he’s the one to deal with it now. Like so many things in life, the easiest way to deal is to do nothing at all.
In my estimation the Oakland Raiders will do little to try and retain Bush. For the $7-million it would cost to franchise him the team could go out and get themselves a true number one corner. For the number of years Bush is seeking and the amount of carries he’ll expect he’d be better suited going elsewhere.
This relationship has run its course.
Bush has been fantastic in the absence of McFadden. However in his first season as a feature back you saw what the wear and tear did to the former Louisville Cardinal. He, like the rest of the roster, wore down. Chalk that up to whatever you want to but I never saw Justin Fargas run out of gas when Lane Kiffin was slamming him into a brink wall 25+ times a game.
To be sure McFadden can’t be counted on to remain healthy. But that alone cannot make Bush an affordable luxury. Not to mention between the two there is no comparison.
Bush is a remarkable athlete with plenty left in the tank. Still, he’s nothing close to being the explosive game breaker McFadden is. Bush can wear down a defense then explode whereas McFadden can take a game over with his first touch. Look around the league and you’ll see plenty of runners that resemble Bush but few that are McFadden-like.
This is not meant to disrespect Bush in any way. This is just the business of football. A business Bush got a taste of last offseason. Let’s not forget how long it took Bush to sign his tender and report to camp. He wasn’t a holdout by any means but he was the last man to show up. That should say something about how the franchise viewed him then and how he felt about the way his situation was handled as well.
These days the Raiders are all about cutting costs. Bush doesn’t, in any way, factor into that equation. He’s a quality back for sure but in Oakland is nothing more than an insurance policy. In due time the Raiders will be at the crossroads with McFadden too. Don’t be surprised if we’re having a similar conversation then depending on how his health issues go.
Such is the life of an NFL running back. With or without Bush the Raiders could have missed the playoffs last year. That will factor in heavily on many of the roster moves that are coming. A $7-million security blanket just isn’t in the cards on McKenzie’s watch.