Oakland Raiders Really Shouldn’t Inject A Cancer Into The Locker Room

Oct 23, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson (91) on sideline during second half against the Baltimore Ravens at MetLife Stadium. The New York Jets defeated the Baltimore Ravens 24-16.Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 23, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson (91) on sideline during second half against the Baltimore Ravens at MetLife Stadium. The New York Jets defeated the Baltimore Ravens 24-16.Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports /

The Oakland Raiders have momentum and are building toward greater things – but adding a player who’s proven to be a cancer in the locker room would be a terrible idea.

Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie has put a lot of thought and care into crafting his roster. Through the draft and free agency, he’s brought in guys that are not only high impact on the field, but are solid locker room guys as well. McKenzie has gone out of his way to make sure the guys he brings in have talent, of course, but also character.

This Raiders team is built on talent as well as chemistry and cohesiveness. For the most part, this is a group of guys that genuinely likes each other. The “band of brothers” cliche is often overused, but in this case, it seems apt. You can hear it in the way they talk to and about each other.

Which is why the idea of making a deal for a known locker room cancer makes absolutely zero sense.

And yet, according to Sean Tomlinson of Bleacher Report, that’s exactly what the team should do.

In a recent column, Tomlinson advocates for the Raiders dealing for Sheldon Richardson – because potentially ruining the tight bond and chemistry of a team on the rise is the smart thing to do.

It’s true that the Raiders need an upgrade along the interior of their defensive line. Oakland’s meager 25 sacks last season, as well as a lack of consistent and sustained pressure on the quarterback is well documented. And with 18 of those sacks coming from two guys – Khalil Mack (11) and Bruce Irvin (7) – it makes the need for an upgrade all the more glaring.

But the team can do a lot better than trading for Richardson.

It’s not a question of talent when it comes to the big man. He’s got all the talent in the world and when he has his head on right, he’s an absolute force on the defensive line. But that’s the problem with Richardson – his head isn’t always on right.

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It’s not a question of talent. It’s a question of maturity.

After posting 11.5 sacks and 145 tackles in his first two seasons in the league – taking home the Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 2013 – his last couple of seasons have been a little bit less than stellar. Over the last two seasons, Ricahrdson has racked up 6.5 sacks and 92 tackles – down significantly from his first two seasons in the league.

But what’s even more troubling are the five games he spent on the league’s suspension list – four for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and an additional game for his part in leading police on a high-speed chase through a St. Louis suburb.

Even more than that though, has been his intransigence when it comes to his team and his teammates. Granted, the Jets aren’t the most stable organization around and make a billion head-scratching decisions. But to have Richardson continually air out the club’s dirty laundry – and call out specific players – is absolutely toxic to a locker room.

The most recent example of that, of course, is his not-so-subtle jab at the former Jet turned New York Giant, Brandon Marshall.

"“I enjoy being here. Other than that, yeah, the locker room’s a whole lot easier to get along with now, so, yeah. Y’all so thirsty. Let’s just say we’ve got 15 reasons why it’s better.”"

Marshall, obviously, wore the number 15 over the course of his tenure with the Jets – making Richardson’s reference crystal clear – and had an ongoing feud with the big defensive lineman. But what’s the point of making a comment like that? Unless your goal was to make you sound like a petty, immature buffoon.

If that was the case, hey, mission accomplished.

But that is the exact sort of toxic behavior that this Raiders team has actively avoided, and given the cohesiveness and chemistry of that locker room, can’t really afford to have. And let’s not pretend that Richardson sounding off on Marshall like that is an isolated incident, either. He’s got a long history of being – ahem – a little outspoken.

All of these red flags about him, mind you, before we even begin to discuss the money aspect. Richardson is in a contract year and is earning $8 million for the year. After giving Derek Carr his extension, the Raiders are just south of $18 million in cap space – with a good chunk of that needing to be earmarked for Gabe Jackson‘s contract extension, as well as signing their top three draft picks, Gareon Conley, Obi Melifonwu, and Eddie Vanderdoes.

And let’s not even think about what it would cost to keep Richardson in a Silver and Black jersey next season. But for 2017, unless he agrees to take a sizeable pay cut, the Raiders are simply not going to be able to afford him.

The money issues aside though, Richardson is simply radioactive to a locker room. For the last couple of seasons, he’s not been a leader on a defense that really needed one, and has proved to be a horrible distraction – not to mention a locker room cancer – on and off the field.

As the Jets jettison everybody who can actually play in their effort to tank this year and begin preparations for the 2018 season, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, suggests that a source has informed him there is a 50/50 shot the Jets move Richardson at some point this summer.

The cost of his contract and the draft pick they’d have to give up to get him aside, the Raiders really cannot afford to bring a guy like Richardson in – a guy who is a known cancer and has the ability to turn a locker room upside down.

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Things are trending the right way for Oakland. And chemistry is a key component of that. Adding somebody like Richardson – while sure, might net a few more sacks – could potentially be a chemistry killer.

The Raiders would be far better off developing who they have, rather than risk the cohesiveness of their unit by adding Sheldon Richardson.