Aug. 2, 2011
RAIDERS PAGE RAIDERSVIDEO
A late blitz from Seattle crushed the Raiders' hopes at re-signing free-agent tight end Zach Miller, who agreed to a reported five-year, 34-million deal with 17 million guaranteed with the Seahawks on Tuesday.
Miller, 25, visited Seattle on Monday and was wooed by the Seahawks brass, which includes Tom Cable, the former Raiders coach who is now Seattle's offensive line and assistant head coach. Miller said the Raiders were in constant contact with him and made an unspecified offer but acknowledged it would be fair to say Cable's presence in Seattle was the tipping point in his decision.
"Coach Cable gave me a call Saturday morning, I believe, and definitely made me feel wanted, how important I'd be to them," Miller told CSN California. "It wasn't about the money for us. It was about the way we felt and how positive things are going in Seattle.
"By no means was this easy. I was drafted by the Raiders, brought in by Al Davis, who was instrumental in the early part of my career."
But Miller was also swayed by his familiarity with Cable's offense the past two seasons and, also, the presence of former Raiders left guard Robert Gallery in Seattle.
"There's a trust and familiarity there," Miller said. "That played a big part."
Also, the 2007 second-round draft pick said he was "surprised" he had not been signed to a contract heading into the final year of his rookie contract.
"I was hoping for an extension, but it didn't happen," Miller said. "That's business."
And when the four-and-a-half month-long work stoppage ended, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulated that fourth-year veterans, rather than the previous sixth-year rule, would be unrestricted free agents.
It is purportedly one of the reasons Davis and the Raiders abstained from ratifying the owners' version of the CBA as Miller, Oakland's most productive and valuable offensive weapon the past three seasons, hit the open market. Ironically, Miller was the Raiders' union player rep.
It had been quiet for Miller, who had not been linked to any potential suitors, until this weekend. Enter Cable, who had been eviscerated by Davis in that epic January media conference presenting Hue Jackson as Cable's successor.
"I got a feel and the fit felt right with me and my wife," Miller said. "It felt like somewhere I was wanted and somewhere my wife and I could be."
Still, Miller said he was in "constant communication" with Jackson and Raiders tight ends coach Adam Henry.
While Miller was being wined and dined by the deep pockets of Seahawks owner Paul Allen, the long memory of Cable and the deft recruiting of Pete Carroll on Monday, the Raiders were finalizing a long-term extension with linebacker Kamerion Wimbley that alleviated some of Oakland's salary cap issues. The Wimbley deal would have purportedly allowed the Raiders to present a respectable offer to Miller and his people.
"I definitely had to take my time," Miller said, "with a decision as tough as this.
"Mr. Davis signed a lot of defensive players."
Miller is coming of a breakthrough season in what seems to be a Golden Era for tight ends in the NFL. He played in his first Pro Bowl after catching 60 passes for 685 yards and a career-high five touchdowns in 15 games. This despite missing one game with a foot injury and being limited in others.
The Raiders were off Tuesday, but after practice Monday, Jackson was asked about Miller.
"Zach was a Raider last year, we want him to be a Raider now," Jackson said at the time. "That thing is going to come to a head here soon. It has to. I feel good about where we are and, hopefully, hell get back to us, well get back to him, and well try to get something resolved.
Done. Just not to the Raiders' satisfaction.
In four seasons, Miller caught 226 passes for 2,712 yards and 12 TDs and developed into the Raiders' most dependable short-yardage threat on third down. Perhaps more impressive, he was starting to be mentioned in the same breath of former Raider great tight ends Dave Casper and Todd Christensen.
Now, Miller is "ghost," ala Casper.