Seahawks sign TE Miller away from Raiders


Seahawks sign TE Miller away from Raiders

Aug. 2, 2011


Paul Gutierrez

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."

Following the 2010 season, the first-time Pro Bowler was slapped with first- and third-round tenders, rather than the franchise tag, by the Raiders just before the NFL lockout struck.

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.

Raiders fourth-round OL refutes pre-draft rumors: 'I'm not legally blind'


Raiders fourth-round OL refutes pre-draft rumors: 'I'm not legally blind'

ALAMEDA – Florida offensive tackle David Sharpe spent part of his pre-draft process dispelling rumors that he was legally blind in his right eye. The report came out this spring, and Sharpe denied it quickly.

The information reappeared Saturday morning, when NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock mentioned it shortly after the Raiders drafted Sharpe No. 129 overall. The draft analyst said Sharpe might be restricted to the offensive line’s left side.

Sharpe said that isn’t the case. He can play left or right tackle. And his vision is just fine, thank you very much.

“I’m not blind. I’m not legally blind,” Sharpe said. “The information is false, all of it is false. I just had a little cataract removal when I was younger and I’ve been battling that since I was young. But it doesn’t affect my play or vision or anything. I’m not blind.”

Sharpe said his right eye is a little blurrier than the left, but it doesn’t impact his play in any way.

The 6-foot-6, 343-pound blocker was projected to go in the first three rounds, but fell to the fourth. He wasn’t upset about an issue that was a non-issue.

“It doesn’t really make me mad,” Sharpe said. “I just brush it off. It was just false and I addressed it.”

The Raiders had some inside info on Sharpe’s play. Head coach Jack Del Rio’s son Luke is Florida’s quarterback, and vouched for Sharpe’s effectiveness before Oakland made the official selection.

“He actually texted me this morning and said his dad called him and asked about me,” Sharpe said. “There was a little hint there, so that was cool.”

Melifonwu might serve as solution to Raiders' problem covering tight ends

Melifonwu might serve as solution to Raiders' problem covering tight ends

ALAMEDA – The Raiders have struggled mightily covering tight ends. It hasn’t been a one-year thing. They’re notorious for letting that position run rampant over the past four years, allowing talent ranging from Travis Kelce to Gary Barnidge to tally huge totals against the Silver and Black.

The Raiders may have found a solution to that problem Friday in the second round. They selected massive combine freak and Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu, a 6-foot-4 speedster who can match up well with most anyone.

“Look, this is no secret, we’ve struggled for the last couple of years covering the opponents’ tight ends,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “We think this is a guy that can help out with his length, matchup against some of the bigger tight ends, some of the better tight ends. We’ll put him right in the mix.”

Del Rio can get creative with this kid. Melifonwu is a safety by trade, but can play cornerback – he proved that during Senior Bowl practices – and functions well from the slot. He can also play well in the box against the run game or deep in the pattern, providing versatility to the secondary.

The Raiders have incumbent starters at safety, with free safety Reggie Nelson and strong safety Karl Joseph. Nelson is 33 and entering a contract year, so Melifonwu could develop into a long-term partnership with Joseph, last year’s first-round pick.

Expect Melifonwu to help right away, especially against the recently bothersome tight end position.

“I feel like I’m a solid cover guy, especially versus tight ends,” Melifonwu said. “I feel like the majority of tight ends that I go up against I’m going to be faster than and really be able to cover them.”

The London, England native put on a show at the NFL scouting combine. He ran 40 yards in 4.40 seconds there, and did most every drill well.

“I think it did a lot for me,” Melifonwu said. “I think it showed my character, my poise and the ability to perform under pressure. And really the fact that not only am I an explosive player, I’m a player that has great hips and great range for somebody my size.”

Del Rio supported Melifonwu's solid game tape, which improved as his college career progressed. He finished with a career-high 118 tackles and four interceptions. He also had 2.5 tackles for a loss and three passes defensed. He accounts the improvement to improved football knowledge.

“Just having a better sense of the game of football,” Melifonwu said. “My defensive back coach Anthony Poindexter was a great college safety and a great NFL safety. He really did a great job of helping me fine tune things like run fits, formations and really keyed every week to watch and how to watch the game of football, how to study the game of football which in result, helped me have the season I had.”