Bear with me a moment, because I'm about to do something that goes against the grain of every right-minded amateur and professional general manager or football expert.
The incentives that voided the contract of Raiders Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha make complete sense.
Across the e-mail, blog, Twitter and talk radio landscape, crazy ol' Al Davis has been taken to task, and the Raiders vilified for being so incompetent as to not realize there was language in Asomugha's contract which could set him free after two years.
On the heels of dumping coach Tom Cable, much to the chagrin of a large part of its roster, Asomugha will -- after a Collective Bargaining Agreement is reached -- be able to field offers from anyone willing to write a big enough check for his services.
The Raiders know all about this, because they wrote the book on writing the check. The three-year deal Asomugha signed following the 2008 season for $45.3 million was met with dismay by 31 other teams because the market had been reset impossibly high.
If you want to know why Darrelle Revis didn't show up to training camp with the Jets this year, look no farther than the Raiders' deal with Asomugha.
At the time, the Raiders had both Asomugha and Pro Bowl punter Shane Lechler up for free agency. Asomugha had been franchised for $9.8 million in 2008, and Lechler's contract had expired.
The Raiders reeled both in by paying over the going rate. Way over the going rate.
Within Asomugha's deal, unknown until uncovered by ESPN's Adam Schefter Sunday, were likely-to-be-earned incentives that if not met, would automatically void the deal.
One was playing time, and Asomugha played less in 2010 than he did in 2009 because of an ankle injury, missing two games. The others were performance based. If Asomugha had so much as a single interception, a single sack, a single fumble recovery or a single forced fumble, there was no void.
In that case, the Raiders would have to decide whether to pay Asomugha $16.8 million or the average of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL, whichever was higher. In a year when Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees were in line for new contracts, no less.
There's a famous ``Seinfield'' episode about a television pilot about ``nothing.''
That's Asomugha in a nutshell.
Because he is so good at covering receivers, Asomugha is the most lonely member of the Raiders defense. Quarterbacks simply don't throw in his direction. He didn't give up a single touchdown pass this season.
That's all well and good, but it's a bottom line business, and the Raiders still gave up 29 touchdown passes and had 12 interceptions this season. If there's a ripple effect from Asomugha's lockdown skills, it's impossible to detect.
Over the past three seasons, including his franchise year, Asomugha has played 45 of 48 games. In those three years, the Raiders gave up 65 touchdown passes and Asomugha had two interceptions. The Raiders were 18-30 overall, but 2-1 when Asomugha was out of the lineup.
For that, he was paid $38.3 million.
Asomugha is the Raiders' most thoughtful interview, a team leader, a consummate professional and someone who thinks well beyond football in terms of philanthropic interests.
His picture could go next to the word ``class'' in the dictionary.
When Charles Woodson was with the Raiders, he was known for late nights, sleeping during meetings and letting his prodigious athletic skills make up the difference.
Yet in the two years when Woodson was franchised, pocketing $19.3 million for 19 games (he missed 13 due to injury), he was just as ignored as Asomugha by opposing quarterbacks and managed two interceptions, 2 ½ sacks, 11 passes defensed and three forced fumbles.
In those 19 games, Woodson had 103 tackles, and while tackles aren't an official statistic, Asomugha has 76 tackles and one forced fumble in his last 45 games. He played 14 games this season and had 19 tackles. That's three less than Hiram Eugene, two more than Rock Cartwright.
Woodson was a football player, Asomugha an able tackler himself but more of a cover guy. He's a specialist in the way that Lechler, Sebastian Janikowski and long-snapper Jon Condo are the highest-paid specialists in the NFL.
Lechler, Seabass and Condo actually have duties with the football far more often than Asomugha.
Even if the Raiders are at least partially at fault for scheme and not putting Asomugha in position to make enough plays, there is zero justification for paying a guy who covers receivers without making plays in the same ballpark as you would pay for Brady, Manning and Brees in terms of yearly salary.
So while the Raiders are getting criticized for including a contract void for no statistical production on a $16.8 million (or more) option year, I have a question.
Why wouldn't they include one?
If you're scheduled to pay a player that much and he doesn't have any one of those statistics in his favor, maybe you shouldn't be paying him that much.
The Raiders should absolutely do whatever they can to bring Asomugha back, but weigh it against his contributions to the bottom line, how they'll use him and what the market will bear.
If Asomugha chooses to join Revis with the New York Jets for bigger money or what he believes is a better chance at the Super Bowl, so be it.
As brilliant as Asomugha was at covering receivers in Oakland, it didn't begin to cover for weaknesses elsewhere. He was a luxury on a team not yet good enough to afford one.
Contact Jerry McDonald at email@example.com.