Since being drafted in the third round of the 2010 draft from Hillsdale College, Jared Veldheer has started 43 of the 48 games he has appeared in. All but one of those starts has been at left tackle. On some pretty bad teams, Veldheer has been one of the lone bright spots, grading as a premier offensive tackle in Pro Football Focus’s rankings.
Entering his contract year in 2013, Veldheer did not have a chance at a contract extension. Oakland was extremely over the cap and working to clear old inflated contracts, leaving the team with $60 million in dead money. Veldheer would have to play through his final contract year and wait until the following offseason to re-sign.
However, during training camp, Veldheer partially tore his triceps. In his place, head coach Dennis Allen started underwhelming backup Khalif Barnes for the first 11 games. Over the course of the season, Barnes accumulated a severe negative grade in Pro Football Focus’s rankings.
Veldheer also earned a negative grade, but far smaller, while returning from injury. While they didn’t put up monster yards in his five games back, Veldheer did bring a sense of consistency to the line.
Despite some lackluster options outside of center Stefan Wisniewski, offensive line coach Tony Sparano turned out a decent line for 2013. If Veldheer returns in 2014 with Wisniewski, along with Menelik Watson being installed at right tackle, Oakland can field a mid-tier offensive line to make things easier on whoever starts under center.
He still possesses great pass protection skills, as you can see here going against the All-Pro linebacker Tamba Hali.
He also still got push in the run game despite a weakened triceps. In week 14 against the New York Jets, the Raiders rushed for 100 yards off their left side, including Marcel Reese’s 63 yard touchdown run where Veldheer sealed off All-Pro defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson.
While he did struggle at times, Veldheer is clearly one of the only serviceable offensive linemen on Oakland’s roster. If Reggie McKenzie wants to keep his job in the coming years, he needs this from Veldheer
And not this from replacement level talent like Barnes.
With $70 million in cap space this offseason; McKenzie doesn’t lack the resources to resign Veldheer. Between him and Lamarr Houston, Reggie McKenzie can help build a solid core of players already on the roster before looking elsewhere.
Although he is a top-10 left tackle, Veldheer won’t command Joe Thomas type money. A more reasonable goal is a Jason Peters-type of deal. Beatty signed a six-year, $60 million deal, with $25 million guaranteed.
Veldheer knows he is a hot commodity to the talentless Raiders. Although he says he wants to be a lifetime Raider, contract talks have gone nowhere. Teams like Miami, San Diego, Atlanta, Arizona, and New Orleans are primed to hunt for a left tackle this offseason, and Veldheer could be a big target. It is promising however, that he wants to get a long-term deal done with Oakland.