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Nnamdi Asomugha’s deal wasn’t as bad as the Jets suggest

We’re not in the business of defending the Oakland Raiders, one of the worst NFL teams of the past seven years and a shadow of what the franchise once stood for. But in order to properly assess the contract given in 2009 to cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha by the Raiders, a contract which has been assailed by a Jets team that doesn’t want to give similar money to Darrelle Revis, the full context needs to be considered.

In early 2009, Asomugha was poised to enter his second straight year under the franchise tag. The Raiders were fully prepared to continue using the franchise tender to keep Asomugha from leaving. So instead of playing the year-to-year game of multi-million-dollar tag, the Raiders came up with a deal that pays Asomugha $28.3 million in 2009 and 2010 combined, the estimated cost of using the franchise tag in those two years. Then, for 2011, the Raiders hold an option to pay him the greater of $16.8 million or the quarterback franchise tag number.

(This year, the quarterback franchise tag has a value of $16.4 million. Assuming that the franchise tag survives for 2011, it most likely will surpass $16.8 million.)

Given the leverage that Asomugha had, the deal was a good one for both sides. The Raiders paid what they would have paid under the franchise tag, and Asomugha avoided for at least two years the burden of the injury risk.

So from the Jets’ perspective when dealing with Revis, the better argument arises from the leverage that Revis had or, more accurately, didn’t have in January, when the team approached him regarding the possibility of ripping up the three years left on his rookie contract.

In hindsight, the Jets should have done nothing, forcing Revis to broach the subject. Then, when Revis asked for Asomugha money, the Jets should have said, “He got his deal with maximum leverage, which he earned by playing out his rookie contract and spending a season under the franchise tag.”

The belated effort to throw stones at the Raiders, then, misses the mark. But why should that stop the Jets from picking on a team led by a man perceived by many to have lost his fastball at some point between 2002 and 2005? Rather than blame themselves for failing to manage Revis’ expectations a lot better than they have, the Jets can now simply say that paying Asomugha $15.1 million per year constitutes proof positive that Al Davis no longer can make sound football decisions, and few in the NFL will doubt the proposition that Al Davis no longer can make sound football decisions.

This argument also overlooks another key fact. If the salary cap had survived in 2010, Asomugha wouldn’t have even been the highest paid cornerback in the league. Per a league source, Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey would have had a cap number of $15.395 million.

Maybe the Jets will respond by calling the Broncos stupid, too.