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Jared Veldheer wanted to be a Raider for life. The left tackle used those exact terms following a season-ending loss to the Denver Broncos. He said he believed in the coaching staff and the direction the franchise was headed. He said he wanted to be a part of a transition from bad to good to great.
On paper, words can be flat. But, if you were there and you heard him speak that night in the locker room, the tone and emotion and conviction made one thing clear. This wasn’t lip service.
Neither was general manager Reggie McKenzie’s offseason statement that he wanted to keep Veldheer around.
That’s why it’s so strange to be writing that Jared Veldheer is an Arizona Cardinal, gone for good with a five-year, $37.5 million contract ($17 million guaranteed) agreed upon moments after free agency began Tuesday afternoon.
[RELATED: Veldeer flies to Cardinals]
There were no signs of conflict early in the offseason, but things broke down as free agency encroached. Veldheer expressed frustration with the pace of talks in a radio interview on Feb. 3, and they never really picked up.
Veldheer’s camp made an initial offer to stay in Oakland. According to an NFL source, the Raiders responded with a five-year contract worth $30 million with $10 million guaranteed. Veldheer countered, but the Raiders believed the gap was too wide. The NFL source said Raiders didn’t budge. Not then, not ever.
The contract offer would’ve ranked lower than any left tackle signed in the first 24 hours of free agency and less guaranteed money than the Raiders gave left tackle/guard Rodger Saffold or right tackle Austin Howard.
Veldheer was working out in the Bay Area when the Raiders offer was presented. He wanted to stay active and engaged with the Silver and Black. Even when the team wouldn’t push forward, he stayed. But, when the franchise tag deadline passed -- Veldheer didn’t want to sign a franchise tag contract, but the application would've shown a willingness to work towards a long-term deal -- the 27-year old packed up and left. He felt there was little hope of a long-term deal being reached. At that point, emotion leaked into talks and fractured a business relationship.
His camp continued to wait and hope for something in line with market value, even as late as Friday. A last-minute increase never came. When other teams were allowed to contact Veldheer on Saturday, Veldheer felt he had no choice but to move on. At that point, talks had shut down.
Raider Nation was certainly surprised by the development, especially when it became clear Veldheer wasn’t coming back. The fan favorite had been a stalwart on the left side in 2011 and 2012. A partially torn triceps in 2013 training camp kept him out of 11 games and led to some rust for the final five. It might’ve complicated negotiations some, although it’s unclear how much it impacted the Raiders offer.
The Raiders established a value on Veldheer and stuck to it.
The team wouldn’t discuss where negotiations broke down, or whether they simply valued other players higher.
“It is the Raiders’ policy that we do not discuss our evaluation of players or comment on player contract negotiations,” the team said in a statement released to CSN Bay Area. “We thank Jared for his four years of service to the Raiders and wish him the best in the future.”
Unexpected reality has set in for Veldheer, and he knows he must move on when he didn’t expect to. It was initially difficult for him to understand why the Raiders didn’t evaluate him higher or weren’t interested in operating at market value, but he’s shifted focus toward the Cardinals and protecting quarterback Carson Palmer, who helped bring him to Arizona.
On Tuesday, Veldheer expressed thanks in a series of tweets directed at the Raiders organization to close his time with the Silver and Black.
Thank you #raidernation for 4 great years. You guys are awesome. I was blessed that Mr. Davis brought me into your community.— Jared Veldheer (@Veldheer68) March 11, 2014
Also I'd like to thank all of my coaches, trainers, and equipment staff for all they did for me the last 4 years.— Jared Veldheer (@Veldheer68) March 11, 2014
A special thanks to DA and coach Sparano. I appreciate everything you've done and taught me.— Jared Veldheer (@Veldheer68) March 11, 2014
Veldheer didn't speak publicly until his Wednesday press conference in Arizona and didn't spend much time on the Raiders talks.
"The two sides couldn't agree on a contract," Veldheer told reporters. "I'm looking forward now. I'm not looking back."