CBS Sports is reporting that CB Brandon Flowers has inked a one-year deal with the San Diego Chargers. The Raiders are hardly stacked in the the secondary, particular among the cornerbacks. So the question naturally arises: should the Oakland Raiders have pursued Flowers more vigorously?
No. Absolutely not.
Oh, what’s that? You would probably like an explanation of that unequivocal no? That seems fair.
As you are likely already aware, the Kansas City Chiefs have released CB Brandon Flowers just two seasons into the five year/$48.5 million extension he signed back in 2011. The move frees up some $15 million in cap space against $7 million in dead money, leaving the Chiefs with a nice chunk of change to begin deals with soon-to-be free agents such as Justin Houston (2015) and Tamba Hali (2016), not to mention a certain starting quarterback whose contract negotiations have already veered toward protracted status.
Of course, that all makes perfect sense, and is no indictment of Flowers’ play. Flowers’ performance on the field last season, however is. Flowers allowed 1.70 yards/cover snap last season, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), 74th out of 81 qualifying corners. In comparison, Mike Jenkins, who was hardly brilliant and was accordingly not retained by the Raiders, was 55th on that list, with 1.34.
Perhaps more damning than Flowers’ substandard play is the Chiefs’ depth chart sans Flowers. That leaves Marcus Cooper and Sean Smith as the presumed starters – assuming of course, Smith stays out of trouble after his recent DUI arrest; if not, we are looking at Ron Parker or rookie Phillip Gaines, neither of which is an especially picturesque view. In a division that includes Peyton Manning and Phillip Rivers, letting flowers walk is akin to erecting a picket fence in Tornado Alley.
The Raiders have post-current-injury DJ Hayden, Tarell Brown, and Carlos Rogers penciled in as starters. If his 2013 was any indication, Flowers would not pass any of the three on the depth chart. After that triad, the Raiders would like to develop fourth-round pick Keith McGill and late-round selection TJ Carrie, the latter of whom has been a stand out in camp. That requires game experience, which would be impeded by Flowers’ presence.
Moreover, the Raiders have had more than enough experience with aging corners on short-term deals. Ron, Bartell, Shawntae Spencer, Porter, and Jenkins all came and went, with little to show for it (Porter might be the lone exception, but nevertheless, he is gone, too). It is time for the team to begin to develop DB talent in house rather than blowing cap space on one-year prove-it deals that rarely, if ever, seem to be proven.
Some may point to the Raiders’ $10 million in remaining cap space for 2014; some might also say the moon is made of blue cheese. It does not mean either group is correct. As you may remember from 2013 and 2012 and 2011 . . . this could go on for a while, but the point is, injuries happen mid-season. Playing on a baseball infield, as the Raiders alone among NFL teams do, means that it happens a lot. That money is far better utilized as an insurance policy to sign free agents during the season when the team actually knows where the positional need lies.
The Raiders defense going into 2014 looks more solid than it has in years. There is simply no reason to jump the gun on an expensive veteran on the down slope of his career. I am more than happy to let the Chargers play with fire in the secondary. After all, they did excel at getting burned last season.