Perhaps Jared Veldheer is upset that the Reggie McKenzie and the Oakland Raiders didn’t show more urgency early on. Perhaps he’s simply trying to gauge his own worth with other teams. Or perhaps he’s just engaging in a bit of gamesmanship. Who really knows?
The Raiders reportedly offered Veldheer a contract late last week which would have paid him nearly $10 million a season for six years, and guaranteed him a reported $23 million. According to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, Veldheer was going to take the weekend to think about it, and weigh his options — in other words, the Raiders made him wait for a contract offer, so now he’s going to make them wait for a decision.
But with the free agency window getting ever closer to opening, the Raiders are already making contingency plans. If Veldheer isn’t careful, he could find his contract offer pulled off the table.
With the Arizona Cardinals reportedly taking a good, long look at signing Veldheer away from the Raiders, Oakland is being forced to prepare for the possibility of moving forward without him. The Arizona Republic reported on Sunday that the team’s top free agent target, Branden Albert, is expected to sign with the Miami Dolphins; as such, the team has turned their attention to nabbing Veldheer.
According to the report, the Cardinals believe they’ll be able to get Veldheer at a cut rate price. With an offer reportedly already on the table of six years, $55 million from Oakland, the Cardinals would logically have to shell out about the same amount of money to sign the offensive tackle unless Veldheer gives Arizona a discount he was unwilling to give to the Raiders, a team he once said he wanted to spend his entire career with.
But McKenzie isn’t content to sit around waiting for Veldheer to say yes or no. He obviously doesn’t feel like getting stood up on prom night. McKenzie is operating as if Veldheer is already gone, and the team is moving forward without him. Given how fast and furious the action is once the free agency windows open, this is probably a sound plan. To that end, the McKenzie is talking to and sizing up other offensive tackles around the league. Reportedly, the team is making progress in negotiations with St. Louis Rams OT Rodger Saffold.
Though teams cannot officially sign free agents until Tuesday afternoon, they are now able to talk contracts with them during the NFL’s “legal tampering” period. And according to a report that appeared in the Baltimore Sun, Safford and the Raiders have at least hammered out the preliminary structure of a deal that would pay him roughly $8 million a season.
If the report is true and the Raiders do sign Saffold when the windows open on Tuesday, that doesn’t necessarily preclude Veldheer coming back to the team as well. Saffold is versatile enough to play both tackle and guard, so if Veldheer did return to Oakland rather than go waste his life in the desert, the Raiders’ offensive line situation would suddenly look a whole lot brighter.
Rumors and speculation spread like wildfire this time of year, so its wise to take everything with a grain of salt. Players use other teams as leverage for better contracts all the time, just as teams use other players for the same reason. It all adds to a big, confusing smokescreen, and leaves us not knowing who or what to believe.
Veldheer may wind up back in Oakland, or he may bolt for Arizona. Saffold may come to Oakland, or he could wind up any number of other places. Nothing is for certain until the ink is dry on the contract. But if nothing else, all of the talk, intrigue and suspense certainly keeps the offseason interesting, doesn’t it?