Just two years ago the Oakland Raiders boasted of three of the NFL’s top-10 cover corners according the somewhat meaningless ‘burn rate’ stat. After today all three are no longer with the franchise. Nnamdi Asomugha left via free agency last offseason. Stanford Routt was recently released and has since found a new home in Kansas City. And today Chris Johnson was given his walking papers. Joining Johnson on the way out is safety/special teamer Hiram Eugene.
The obvious storyline is that the Raiders are still in the process of creating more cap space. The reality is neither Johnson nor Eugene had much of a future in Oakland and perhaps not in the NFL at all for that matter.
Johnson came out of nowhere back in 2008 when he stepped up his game giving Al Davis all the more reason to quickly sever ties with DeAngelo Hall. Johnson earned the biggest contract he’ll ever see in his pro career and since has battle injury and ineffective play. 2011 was pretty much a wash for Johnson as he began the year with surgery, never to regain full health.
Eugene was another Al Davis project. The speedy safety entered the league as an undrafted free agent and managed to stick around the Bay by being a part-time contributor on defense and a fulltime asset on special teams.
Of all the questionable contracts Mr. Davis handed in recent years the deal he struck with Eugene last offseason is right up there with the Javon Walker contract. While not nearly as lucrative, that the Raiders gave Hiram a four-year contract worth over $8-million was obscene.
Eugene is a terrific athlete that has the unique ability to cover a lot of turf in a little time, a highly valuable trait as an NFL safety. His was also a valuable member of the special teams. However there is no way to justify a four-year contract for a man that only became a starter no thanks to a highly unimpressive collection of safeties (not talking about you, Tyvon Branch) and who had only one pick in his career.
A hip injury in the preseason ended the year for Eugene and there is some speculation that his career could be over. Despite my feelings about his out-of-whack contract, I truly hope he can catch on somewhere else. I have nothing for respect for the UFAs of the NFL. They are truly made men in a brutal sport.
All that being said it was time to terminate both of these scholarship contracts. While the moves are both expected and necessary it leaves the Raiders even thinner in their already Angelina Jolie waistline of a secondary. Johnson was by no means going to make much of a difference going forward but the Raiders are now without any corners capable of stepping in and starting next season. These moves could get Oakland within cap compliance but even more transactions must be made before they can consider pursuing free agents starting next Tuesday.