It hasn’t been the case too often over these last few years that an impact player has expressed a strong desire to stay with the Oakland Raiders long-term. Losing — and losing a lot — as the Raiders have done since their Super Bowl appearance following the 2002 season tends to scare some players away from wanting to commit to a team for an extended period of time. It’s understandable. Players want to win. Well, they want to get paid and win, but to hear most tell it, winning is the most important thing. Which begs the question — why are GM Reggie McKenzie and the Raiders screwing around by leaving Jared Veldheer twisting in the wind?
McKenzie is already on record having stated that he wants to keep Veldheer in the fold. For his part, Veldheer is on record having stated that he wants to remain in Oakland. So what is the hold up? Why is there, as Veldheer put it, a “lack of urgency” in signing the big left tackle who is a very necessary piece if the Raiders are to improve their offensive line moving forward? In a recent interview with ESPN radio, Veldheer said:
“I’m hoping that some kind of deal happens here soon. I’ve expressed many times that I want to stay here; I really love the team. I love the teammates, the coaches. I really feel like this is the place for me and it would be good to kind of have some urgency in this and move this along so it doesn’t creep up to that date where maybe something has to happen that’s not in the long term.”
And by that “something happening that’s not in the long term,” he is referring to the possibility that the Raiders might slap him with the franchise tag for a season. Yes, being tagged with the franchise label will mean a big payday for Veldheer. The average of the top five salaries would net him a little over $11 million for the season. That’s a lot of money and it’s all well and good, but it’s not the long-term deal he is looking for. The team should be giving him a long-term deal. And fast.
Not getting a deal done and getting it done soon is a dangerous game to play — the sort of dangerous game the Raiders absolutely cannot afford right now. By not getting a long-term deal done and hitting Veldheer with the franchise tag, McKenzie is running the risk of alienating an exceptional player and a cornerstone piece the Raiders can build their offensive line around. Veldheer loves the team but he’s not feeling the love in return. In the same interview, he said:
“It would just be nice to have more security in being a Raider for longer than just one year. This is a place that I want to be at for the rest of my career if I could. It’s tough when that kind of stuff happens because … (a one-year tag) goes against everything that’s been said about, ‘We want to make you a cornerstone of the team, build around you.’ It doesn’t really back up any words with the right action.”
If McKenzie is serious about turning this franchise around and making it a contender again instead of the laughingstock of the league it has become, he needs to back up his words with action. Veldheer is the type of player he can build the offensive line around, and it’s an offensive line that needs to be rebuilt. Desperately. Veldheer is a solid player and a solid character guy. He should be one of the two biggest priority signings this offseason, the other being Lamarr Houston. Veldheer is the kind of guy the Raiders need on their squad moving forward. And best of all, he wants to be a Raider for life.
If ever in Raider history there was a time for urgency, that time is now. It’s time to for McKenzie to stop screwing around and put the pieces in place to make the Raiders a winning organization again. Veldheer is one of those pieces. A deal needs to get done right now.