The NFL’s deadline for teams to use the franchise tag on any free agent expired at 4pm ET on Monday. The Oakland Raiders were one of the many teams who elected not to use it.
While not surprising, as the franchise tag guarantees a one year salary equal to the average of the top five paid players at that position, it is concerning that general manager Reggie McKenzie is not working feverishly to resign his two best players, left tackle Jared Veldheer and defensive end Lamarr Houston.
Veldheer and Houston have been productive cornerstones of the team since being drafted in 2010. Veldheer has been one of the most underrated pass protectors in the league, while Houston has been a dominant run defending end.
Houston is not a known hot commodity amongst a stacked free agent market, so the Raiders may be attempting to gauge his market and resign him at a team-friendly rate. He isn’t a high profile pass rusher like Jared Allen or Michael Johnson, but is a beast in run defense and a high motor pass rusher. Houston should be resigned by the Raiders at all costs. Despite being a member of some of the worst defenses in team history, he is a highly talented team leader, and someone the Raiders know what they can get from him.
Veldheer isnt as likely to come back to Oakland if he reaches the open market. Teams are aware of his talents and he will have suitors on the market. Miami, Arizona, Kansas City, San Diego, Carolina, and Indianapolis all have holes at left tackle and will be looking for a talented player like Veldheer. But Veldheer should be able to return and help turn the Oakland franchise around.
It is understandable however that neither were tagged. The tag for offensive linemen this year is $11 million, while the tag for defensive linemen is $13 million. Veldheer might be worth $11 million, but the team would like to see if they can hammer out a deal for a little less over a longer period of time. Houston, although a great player is not worth $13 million. That kind of money is reserved for 14-sacks-per-season types of players, something Houston is far from.
There still is hope that McKenzie can resign both. Other teams won’t have access to outside free agents until March 8th, and cannot sign any outside players to contracts until March 11th. With $66 million in cap space, there is no reason he should not sign either.
The key in the building of successful teams is to draft well, identify players to build around, and keep them. The road to rebuilding in Oakland is going to be long, but can be assisted by retaining talented players like Houston and Veldheer.