On Tuesday, the NFL announced its Pro Bowl rosters for the 2009 exhibition/all-star game and the Oakland Raiders, owners of three wins on the season, found out they would be sending two players to this season's game -- cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, and punter Shane Lechler. Both players are more than deserving, so it's nice to see the voters ignore the team's record and send two players that are clearly worthy of the honor.
The problem for the Raiders is, both of these guys just happen to be free agents at the end of the season, and both, I'm guessing, would like to play for a team that has a chance to win more than five games a season, something the Raiders haven't done since 2002, when they played in the Super Bowl against Tampa Bay.
Having said that, Jerry McDonald of the Oakland Tribune decided to ask the two pro bowl players -- and free-agents-to-be -- which one should be designated as the franchise player following the season.
In a perfect world, where everything is black and white and you're choosing between the two players in a vacuum, there isn't a general manager in the NFL that would choose Lechler -- a fantastic punter -- over a cornerback like Asomugha who, essentially, cuts the football field in half with his coverage ability. I don't think there is, anyway. I hope there isn't.
So, to me, the question shouldn't be, which one of these guys do we franchise? The question should be, should we cash in our chips with Nnamdi Asomugha, strike while the iron is white-hot, and trade him while his value is at its peak?
Coming into this season, Asomugha had been playing in relative obscurity, overshadowed by cornerbacks with more interceptions and bigger mouths, despite not being anywhere near as good, or valuable -- guys like DeAngelo Hall.
As the season has gone on, Asomugha has rapidly been getting the praise and respect he deserves on the football field. For example, Mike Shananan, who has probably never said a positive word about the Oakland Raiders, called Asomugha the most underrated player in the history of the NFL a few weeks ago. Now, he's going to his first pro bowl. His value would be sky-high, and a trade -- after he was franchised, of course -- could net the Raiders a plethora of picks.
McDonald points to this past offseason's Jared Allen trade as an example, where the Chiefs picked up a first-round pick, two thirds, and a swap of sixth-round picks in the '08 draft. For a team like the Raiders, who have glaring holes at wide receiver and along the line of scrimmage -- and pretty much everywhere else -- the picks could be huge. But it's not that easy.
First, you have to ask yourself, should you ever trade a guy with Asomugha's ability? The answer, of course, is yes. Every player has a price, and if some team is willing to pony up enough, then you should do it. The price for a player like Asomugha, however, would have to be substantial, comparable to the deal the Chiefs received for Allen, in my opinion.
The second, and perhaps most important, question is this: do you trust the Oakland Raiders to make the right move and get equal value? If recent history is any indicator, the answer to this question is a clear and definitive no. The past two high-profile trades the Raiders made involved them sending Randy Moss to New England for a fourth-round pick, and sending a second-round pick to Atlanta for DeAngelo Hall, and then signing him to a huge contract extension.
Moss has caught 30 touchdowns -- and counting -- since the trade, while Hall played in eight uninspiring -- and very expensive -- games for Oakland.
If I'm the Raiders, my first choice, obviously, is make Asomugha the priority, and if he refuses to sign on long-term, go the Jared Allen route and attempt to cash in on a trade.
In the case of Lechler, McDonald points out that he could receive the largest free agent contract ever for a punter. It's possible, if not likely, that the Raiders' two pro bowl players in 2008, could be suiting up for another team in 2009.
Oakland Sends 2 to the Pro Bowl for First Time Since 2002; Will They Be Raiders In 2009? originally appeared on NFL FanHouse on Wed, 17 Dec 2008 15:45:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.