When Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis opted not to retain Tom Cable as head coach, the general feeling in the locker room was that it was a bad mistake. Punter Shane Lechler predicted there would be an exodus of free agents, despite the team’s encouraging 8-8 finish.
Now it appears the exodus might be starting.
Nnamdi Asomugha, one of the NFL’s best cover cornerbacks, has had his contract voided, allowing him to become a free agent and preventing the Raiders from using their franchise tag to keep him, according to ESPN.
Asomugha’s contract has a little-known clause that voids if he doesn’t reach unlikely-to-be-earned incentives in 2010. It includes a stipulation that the team agrees not to designate him a franchise or transition player if he is unable to reach his incentives.
Among the incentives were that Asomugha needed to surpass his interception, fumble recovery or sack totals this season. He also needed to take part in more defensive plays than he did in 2009, which he didn’t.
Asomugha’s three-year, $45.3-million contract had one year remaining and would have paid him $16.8 million next season, or the amount of the quarterback franchise tag, whichever is greater. In one sense, the voiding of the contract may be to the benefit of the Raiders, who could choose to spend the money on signing other players. But it would cost them one of the best corners in the league.
Is Asomugha likely return to Oakland next season? Although he didn’t speak out in support of Cable when Davis decided to make a coaching change, Lechler did, calling it a “huge mistake” and adding, “I just want to know what the hell's going on. I just want to know ... how do you justify firing somebody when you just went 6-0 in the division and 8-8 in the season after we put in so much as a group, as a unit, as a team with our leader being Tom Cable, how do you just go ahead and whack this guy with, I mean, no reason?”
It’s possible Asomugha may get to ask Davis that question personally, or that, if offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is hired as coach, he’ll be happy to jump back on board for his ninth season.
It’s also possible he’s ready to go elsewhere for an opportunity to finally play in the playoffs after so much losing and dysfunction.
If he chooses the last option, there isn't a team in the league that wouldn't want him.
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