Dec 9, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers (24) breaks up a pass in the end zone intended for Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon (13) in the first quarter at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland Raiders: Was It a Mistake to Pass on Brandon Flowers?

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.

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: Brandon Flowers Oakland Raiders

  • Darryl Victor

    Hell yeah, but it is just one of the many we’ve made so hopefully we’ll be alright.

  • netraider

    Totally agree with passing on Flowers.

    However CB is the weakest position on the Raider roster. Hayden was horrible when on the field last year. He could not tackle, was nearly always out of position and chased plays. He was easily burned on third downs. Personally I see him as a bust. Hopefully I am wrong, but betting on him is a mistake.

    We should keep watch for help at the position without wasting money or acting desperate. Keep one eye on the waiver wire as we approach the season for depth.

    • Ben Greenberg

      Thanks for your comment, netraider.

      As to Hayden, what you say is fair. I am a bit more optimistic,but perhaps I am deluding myself. When you watch his U of Houston tape prior to the grievous injury, he does have incredible raw talent, particularly recovery speed. If he manages to stay healthy throughout the season, I think that he may well live up to the high-round draft status accorded him. That is a Godzilla-sized if, however.

  • Raider Grant

    Not picking up Flowers was most likely based on price tag to production ratio. I believe McKenzie will be looking for a solid option now that Hayden is injured….AGAIN. If Hayden doesn’t produce this season it is safe to say he was a busted pick. Regardless of how well he does in another 2-3 years down the road, we could & should of have drafted an impact player with the 12th overall pick. It would show great character if McKenzie severes the tie if Hayden has another buster season. Best of luck to him though, but it’s put up or shut up time for Hayden! Go Raiders

    • Ben Greenberg

      Excellent analysis, Raider Grant. Please see my comment below regarding Hayden. Suffice it to say, I don’t think it is time to give up on him quite yet.

      How do you feel about the other two (presumable) starters, Brown and Rogers?

      • Raider Grant

        Ben, I’m not giving up on Hayden yet, but if this season goes by & he is no where close to the player McKenzie gambled on him being, then game over. As far as Brown/Rodgers; they are solid, but are on last legs of their careers. I’m sure there are plenty of reason 49ers let em go, but I’m optimistic they can fill the void this & possibly next season. I’m really excited to see TJ Carrie play in preseason games. The kid could prove to be better then the average bear. Hey Boo-Boo, how bout them Raiders!

        • Ben Greenberg

          Grant, you are smarter than the average bear. I guess I do not think that it is yet time to fish or cut bait on Hayden yet – or even to consider it. I think that we should allow him at least one more season before thoughts of release cloud the air. So think good thoughts; he will need them.

          I could not agree with you more on Brown/Rogers. These are aging veterans from whom we can hope for two good season at most.

          I am also sanguine about Carrie. Especially for a seventh round pick. Speaking of, Jonathan Dowling is another name that comes to mind for me. That guy hits with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. He will obviously need to clean up his technique a bit and put on a bit of weight, but I think that he can really stick in the League.

          Thank you so much for reading, and even more so for commenting. Keep the excellent thoughts from Jellystone Park a-coming.

  • James Schroeder

    Hopefully a lot of the young new talent at the cornerback position can step up and get it done. They already brought int two proven veterans to help mold this young group. Bringing Flowers in at this point would just take snaps away from the young draftees trying to make the roster. The Raiders are trying to build through the draft with a veteran presence to help teach and mold these young players. They’ve already got enough veteran defensive backs to do just that.

    • Ben Greenberg

      Hi, James. I think we are pretty much on the same page here.

      In terms of development, who do you think is best positioned to take the reins for the aging veternas and oft-injured Hayden?

      • James Schroeder

        I’m hearing good things about TJ Carrie. When the Raiders had selected him in the seventh round there were articles that came out comparing him to Richard Sherman. That’s a pretty tall order since he’s arguably the best defensive back in the game. I do like Keith McGill as a project as well. I think with the right coaching and leadership they could both end up having promising careers.

        • Ben Greenberg

          You have taken the words right out of my mouth once again.

          Carrie can be a special teams ace at worst, and in the best of circumstances, may even start at corner. The last DB we took out of Ohio was not too shabby. As they say, once is chance, twice is a coincidence, and a third time is a pattern. Perhaps we should visit Bobcat territory more often.

          I also agree wholeheartedly with you about McGill. He is, as you say, a project. They can compare him to Superman for all I care; it does not make it so. He has room to grow – saying that for a 6’3” man is no small shakes – but he is apt to be beaten badly deep far too often at this point in his development.

          Thank you again for your thoughts.

  • Richard Gene Faller

    Paying out 5 mil for a guy who lost his starting role at KC would have been a big mistake. Hayden has an ankle sprain just like 62 other players after ota’s. The fact he had complications from surgery when in college pretty much does not have anything to do with the other. So many will doubt his durability. I do not. He will be fine!

  • Mark Shafer

    I think the Raiders are in better shape at the cornerback position that the Chargers. Flowers is a much better acquisition for them than he would be for us. We are looking much better at the position than a year ago. We look to have a better pass rush, on paper, than a year ago which will help our DB’s.
    I think it would be better to sit on that cap space to see who comes available during training camp. I would rather see that money spent on a tight end.