Last week, the Raiders secured defensive lineman Richard Seymour for $30 million over two years, and they essentially made him the highest-paid defensive player in the entire league. Granted, Oakland owner Al Davis deserves all the criticism he receives for grossly overpaying Seymour — the Patriots' first-round draft pick in 2001 — but this offering shows something important: Teams aren't afraid to spend money despite the fact that the league is mired in the middle of some curious crossroads.
For now, there's no telling if there will or won't be a salary cap in 2011 and beyond, and there's obviously no certainty about the franchise tag. Still, the Raiders extended themselves for a wild contract that makes sure they've got a trench warrior locked up for two more seasons.
First, from a Raiders perspective, the overspending has to be a bit nauseating, but at the very least, they're committed to seeing it through with Seymour, who was acquired from the Patriots in 2009 for a 2011 first-round draft pick.
Two years ago, the trade was curious on the Oakland end, but Seymour has helped the Raiders' defense gain ground during each of the last two seasons, and the team clearly considers him to be an important cog in its long-lasting transitional period.
However, this isn't about Seymour's value to the Raiders. More than anything, it's a sign that teams can still get deals done with their prized assets, and the Patriots should take notice while they deal with left guard Logan Mankins, who was franchised against his wishes.
Do the Patriots need Mankins? Of course. There's no debate that they were a better team with him during the 2010 season. Do they want Mankins, though? Well, to this point, that's a question they've failed to answer.
Over the last year, the Patriots have held all of the power with Mankins, who was a restricted free agent in the 2010 offseason and was eligible to be franchised during the 2011 offseason (despite the uncertainty of the long-term legitimacy of the franchise tag). To those points, the Patriots have been well within their bounds of dealing with their best offensive lineman, regardless of the fact that they've been unwilling to match his contractual desires.
Technically, the Patriots don't owe Mankins anything. But in terms of keeping him happy — or, at the very least, interested in re-signing with New England — they've fallen well shy of his expectations.
If Mankins and the Patriots are going to reach a long-term deal, they've got to find some common ground, and there's no credible source that will hint which side is closer than the other on that front. Still, the Patriots have been able to hint that the labor situation has been a crutch that will hinder their ability to go all out in contract discussions with big-time players.
Whether or not the Patriots want to spend the resources to retain Mankins is one thing. But as the Raiders recently displayed with the Seymour negotiations, don't for a second believe this year's labor uncertainty is a true detractor in the contract talks between the Patriots and their top-rated offseason priority.
Do you believe the labor uncertainty should affect the way teams deal with their own free agents? Leave your thoughts below.