The Oakland Raiders saw their starting left tackle, Jared Veldheer, depart from the team in free agency to sign with the Arizona Cardinals. One of the best players on the Raiders the past few seasons, many were surprised if not shocked that general manager Reggie McKenzie was unable to retain his services. Since then, a wild fire of speculation and unsubstantiated reports has fueled a large portion of the Raider Nation to blame McKenzie rather than Veldheer for what happened.
Just when it looked like things were settling down and the Raiders could move on from the subject, McKenzie whipped up a frenzy in an interview in Orlando by stating that Veldheer did not want to be in Oakland
He didn’t want to come back. It wasn’t about finances. The kid didn’t want to play for the Raiders anymore, and I struggled with that.
So, given the incredibly large amount of information and mis-information that has spread across the interwebs, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on what we know about the situation and what is just speculation based on reports.
WHAT DO WE KNOW?
We know that Veldheer signed a 5 year contract worth $35 million with the Arizona Cardinals. $10.5 million is fully guaranteed with another $6.5 million in guaranteed money that can be earned by Veldheer throughout the life of the contract.
We know that Veldheer has said he wanted to return to the Raiders. We know that McKenzie said that he wanted Veldheer to return to the Raiders. We know that McKenzie claims he offered fair market value and that Veldheer did not want to play in Oakland. We know that Vedlheer’s mom said that Oakland’s offer was not reasonable.
That’s it folks. Everything else you think you know, you don’t. Every single other piece of information about the Veldheer contracts is based on unsubstantiated reports and rumors.
RUMORS AND REPORTS
Two different contract numbers were reported in relation to Veldheer and the Raiders. First was one by Bleacher Report writer Chris Hansen. He reported that the Raiders offered a 6 year deal worth $55 million. Clearly any offer made was not accepted but if this was offered, it seems highly unlikely Veldheer would have rejected it.
The other report of an offer to Veldheer was by CSN Bay Area’s Scott Bair who reported that the Raiders offered a 5 year deal worth $30 million with $10 million guaranteed.
At this point it is important to note that both of these reports only cite a “source”. Hansen does not cite who his source was affiliated with but Bair noted that his source was NOT a source within the Raiders but rather, was an “NFL source”.
There was also a report from John Middlekauff, former NFL scout and current radio host on 95.7 The Game that Veldheer’s agent, his brother, played a major role in the deal in Oakland not getting done. According to Middlekauff, who also merely cites to “sources”, the Veldheer camp took the business negotiations personally and became offended. He also said that Veldheer’s brother was unreasonable and difficult if not impossible to deal with.
WHAT TO MAKE OF IT ALL
The first and most important takeaway from this all is that no one except the parties involved know what happened in the Veldheer negotiations. Everyone else is working with rumors, reports, speculation and innuendo. But there are some things to be looked at.
For example, we also know that much of the Veldheer situation has been compared to the Rodger Saffold deal. Many of those angry with McKenzie cite the fact that he likely offered more money to Saffold as a justification for claiming he must have low balled Veldheer.
At this point it should be noted that there is another fact present in this situation. Rodger Saffold WAS IN FACT paid more than Veldheer, and not by the Raiders. After failing his physical he signed with the Rams for 5 years worth over $35 million when you include incentives that can be earned. It also came with $19.5 million guaranteed. The contract was not massively bigger than what Veldheer signed but did come with significantly more guaranteed money.
This throws out the notion that if the Raiders offered more to Saffold, they MUST have low balled Veldheer. The Rams showed that they too were willing to, and did in fact pay Saffold more than Veldheer.
Now let’s look at what Veldheer signed compared to what he was reportedly offered. We will stick with the numbers reported by Scott Bair because they are taking the worst scenario into account and the numbers reported by Hansen seem very unlikely.
Veldheer signed a 5 year deal for $35 million with $10.5 million fully guaranteed and an extra $6.5 in guaranteed money that can be earned through bonuses. The contract reportedly offered by the Raiders was for 5 years $30 million with $10 million guaranteed. Lower than the Cardinals contract but not by crazy amounts. Only $5 million less in total money with half a million less in fully guaranteed and potentially $7 million less in guaranteed.
Here is something else to consider, the offer from the Raiders was reported as their first offer. Typically a first offer is just that, a FIRST offer. It was reported that the Raiders did not make additional offers because the Veldheer camp was so far off with their demands (read: unreasonable) that there was no point in making a second offer.
In my day job as a lawyer I have done a lot of contract negotiations as well as negotiations over settlement in civil cases. I also work as a mediator helping other parties reach successful deals. In my experience, no first offer is ever a last offer unless things get emotional.
In all likelihood, McKenzie would have been willing to offer a contract very close to, if not matching that of the Cardinals. That is what his initial offer signifies since it is really not that far below the deal signed by Veldheer so even going with the worst case scenario, saying the Raiders were “low balling” seems a bit harsh.
While it is possible that McKenzie low balled Veldheer, the combination of reports and facts also points to another very likely possibility. That Veldheer overvalued himself in negotiations with the Raiders, hit the free agent market and realized he could not get the massive contract he wanted and chose to sign with a team that had a much higher chance of making the playoffs for very similar money to what he could get in Oakland.
In fact, this seems much more likely than the Raiders low balling Veldheer.
None of this matters, of course. Veldheer is gone and nothing is going to change that. We will also never know what happened and whose fault it was, but at the end of the day, the concept that this was clearly McKenzie’s fault is as flawed as any theory associated with Veldheer.