The Raiders will have plenty of new faces on defense this season, including Nate Allen, a likely starter at safety next to Charles Woodson.
Oakland went into the offseason seeking help at the position and made attempts at bringing in other veterans aside from Allen, a starter the past five seasons with the Eagles. The Raiders made an offer to restricted free agent Sean Richardson of the Packers, which Green Bay matched. Oakland also courted veterans D.J. Swearinger and Stevie Brown.
But Allen was the only veteran free agent of significance signed, and to get him the Raiders signed him to a whopping four-year, $23 million deal – which raised eyebrows across the NFL.
Shortly after Oakland signed Allen in March, an SB Nation fan website for the Eagles, Bleeding Green Nation, posted a story with the headline, “You won’t believe how much money the Oakland Raiders paid Nate Allen.”
“Crazy,” wrote Brandon Lee Gowton. “This just a year after Allen tested the market and re-signed with the Eagles on a one-year deal worth $2 million (with another $1 million in play-time incentives).”
Now, on the eve of training camp, which opens this weekend, the Raiders’ deal with Allen continues to draw negative notices.
While Allen, 27, may prove to be an upgrade this season for the Raiders – the veteran has been a starter with the Eagles every year since being taken in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft – many continue to believe the team paid way too much to land him.
This week, Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com’s Grantland, put Allen on his “All-Bad-Contracts Team” for 2015, labeling him a “marginal player.”
Barnwell said the signing of Allen is another example of Oakland needing to overpay “to try to lure veteran talent to its never-ending rebuilding project in the East Bay.”
“The Eagles were reportedly interested in trading for a safety last year to replace Allen, but after they let him leave in free agency, the Raiders gave Allen nearly $12 million guaranteed,” wrote Barnwell. “He’ll have the seventh-largest (salary) cap hit of any safety in 2015.”
Allen went into the free-agent season ranked sixth among available safeties by the analytics website Pro Football Focus, yet wound up with a larger payday than more touted veterans, such as Rahim Moore, who signed with the Texans.
Yet Pro Football Focus assesses Allen as a player who may still be on the rise. Though he took abuse in Philadelphia for sometimes giving up big pass plays – such as a game-winning touchdown pass against Arizona in 2014 – PFF sees Allen as a player who is getting better. PFF says his overall grade as a safety has improved the past two seasons.
“Last season he graded positively in both run defense and coverage while playing primarily as a deep safety, though he also saw snaps near the line of scrimmage and in the slot,” reads the PFF assessment. “Got his hands on six passes in 2014, including four interceptions.”
The PFF report says Allen “still has a chance to reach his potential.”
If that’s the case – that Allen continues his ascent and provides the Raiders defense with solid play in 2015, and that it helps Oakland to a big turnaround season under new head coach Jack Del Rio – the Raiders likely will consider the contact money well spent.
For his part, Allen is excited to start a new chapter of his career, with the chance to play alongside Woodson, a future Hall of Famer.
“Just to be able to work alongside a dude like that, I mean, I couldn’t ask for a better situation,” Allen told a reporter this spring. “… He’s been around the game for what, 18 years now? This is his 18th year, so he’s seen just about everything and been through just about everything so I just feel like I have a lot that I can learn from him.”