When Adam Schefter of ESPN reported last Sunday that the contract of Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha will void, making him a free agent in 2011, it was widely assumed that Asomugha will leave Oakland.
The assumption likely was fueled by the abrupt firing of coach Tom Cable, who led the team to an 8-8 record in 2010, and the dire words from punter Shane Lechler that Raiders free agents may flee. Along with the perception of many that playing for the Raiders is equal to an involuntary stay at Alcatraz.
Regardless, Asomugha isn’t planning to jump the wall just yet.
“There’s a chance, there’s a good chance,” Asomugha said during a recent flurry of appearances on ESPN and ESPN Radio, according to Vittorio Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s funny because I’ve been doing interviews all day and I hear a lot of people saying, ‘No longer an Oakland Raider,’ . . . but anything could happen at this point.”
He’s right, especially with the uncertainty surrounding the labor situation. Peter King of Sports Illustrated recently mentioned that, if the labor dispute results in a lockout that lingers deep into the offseason and/or into the regular season, all free agents could be assigned to their current teams for one more season, at a markup over their 2010 salaries. Even without such an extreme, but not implausible, scenario, the void of Asomugha’s contract means only that he’ll be permitted to sign wherever he wants to sign, including Oakland.
“When you go into free agency and have options, any team is up for you to be on — and the Raiders, obviously with me having been there for so long, have a great shot at it,” Asomugha said.
Asomugha’s contract voided based on a failure to achieve basic performance levels. The contract would not have voided, for example, if he had only one interception. If the contract hadn’t voided, the Raiders very likely would have cut Asomugha, since past performance under the contract had pushed his 2011 salary to the equivalent of the franchise tender for quarterbacks, a number that’s expected to exceed $17 million in 2011.
As we recently surmised, the Raiders potentially included the voiding mechanism so that they would be in line for a compensatory draft pick, if Asomugha leaves as a free agent. If the Raiders had cut him, Asomugha’s departure would not have counted toward the convoluted formula based on net free agency losses.
The move also increases the chances of keeping him, since he hasn’t suffered the public indignity of being released. “I would love to be back,” Asomugha said.
And he probably wouldn’t be saying that if the Raiders had cut the cord on his contract in order to avoid paying him franchise quarterback money.