Saturday, July 19, 2008

Lamont Jordan navigates himself into a corner..but still collects a check...for now

Just a few short years ago the Raiders rushing attack was on Lamont Jordan's shoulders. He was awarded a sweet multi-million dollar package to be an Oakland Raider after subbing in admirably for Curtis Martin with the Jets for four seasons. Since 2005, Lamont's performance has been mixed. He did well in some games but most observers saw an overall mode of decline after suffering through injuries, some lingering. His rehabbing from injuries never seemed fully in synch with the demands of being a premium dollar, every down type of back. The decline of Lamont Jordan and rise of Justin Fargas was no surprise to anyone really. Life as a pro team means re-shuffling the deck continually. LJ is now lost in that shuffle.

Frustrated, Lamont committed the worst possible sin he could commit as a Raider. He spoke unfavorably about his diminished role to the media. Those in the bay area may not have seen Lamont on the many post-game sports talk shows where he is interviewed. LJ became a broken record, stating he is unhappy with one thing or another, mostly that he is not getting his carries. Compounded with mounting Raider losses there was just no way to justify his trade demands anyway. He looked real stupid thinking his value was above the team's need to win games.

The problem is Lamont was unable to accept his lifecycle as a starting back had a short window. LJ went from good to adequate to serviceable to barely serviceable. But let's be fair, we don't know where LJ stands now as far as capabilities on the field. He has been shut out of practices thus far.

With his history of injuries, he could very well still be the borderline serviceable backup we believe he is or...Al could be right in his resistance to simply release LJ or trade him without getting fair value in return. Al's strategy considers the bottom line which is Lamont's contract. This was originally a 20 something million dollar deal. There are all kinds of ins and outs with cap space. In fact, LJ's contract has been renegotiated to accomodate Raider cap space needs in the past. There seems more to the picture than on the field realities. Cap talk is complicated so it's beyond my ability to address intelligently.

Realistically, LJ needs to prove he is even capable of being a backup at this point. He's a serious gamble as a starter in Detroit or New Orleans or elsewhere. Teams don't have to offer anything as trade bait for backups. Bottom line is there is no fair trade value for Lamont. Being a long time astute observer of player value, it is hard to fathom Al Davis does not see the angles. The sticking point seems a stubborn refusal to simply cut his losses and release the player. There must be a painful pill of cash outlay involved for it to be this problematic as to interfere with the team's ability to sign all their 2008 draft picks. Is LJ's value on the Raiders depth chart heading into training camp really that important in this era of precious roster spots...or is this personal?

On one hand it seems Lamont is intentionally being punished by the front office for speaking his mind to the media. That is why he is still on the roster as of this writing. The longer you keep a guy out of another team's reach, the less value he is on the market as teams work with the players they already have under contract. It becomes harder to learn other teams' systems in short time spans, teams are less likely to take a chance on you unless they are desperate. This punishment strategy resonates with similar situations over the years where Al seems to have no problem continuing to pay malcontents while they sit on the Raiders bench, behind the scenes sending a message he is imposing his will and forcing them to live up to their contracts one way or the other.

On the other hand, there is realistically no team to trade his 4 million salary to and if he is waived that is a salary cap hit.

Still, a pro player needs to be graceful when losing their starting job. If you say "I'm not happy" or "I want to be traded" that immediately puts you in the doghouse. It's a cardinal rule of professionalism, don't speak through the media to management. It does not work in the Raiders organization and it does not work anywhere in pro football.

It's too late for him now but where LJ needed to ply his trade was as a short yardage pounder. He may have hung around as a situational back. Now, he will be lucky to catch on with another team if/when he is released.

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