YSTL: Top priority for Raiders -- Houston or Veldheer?
The Raiders have plenty of cap space for 2014, but it's unclear how much of it they're willing to use to retain Jared Veldheer. (USATSI)
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Raiders left tackle Jared Veldheer still doesn’t have a new contract a short time before he can be courted by other teams.
An exclusive negotiating window closes on Saturday, when outside clubs can contact and make offers to Raiders free agents. Any player can be signed by any team on Tuesday.
With precious little time before the exclusive negotiating window closes – and despite rumors briefly circulating the Internet -- it seems increasingly less likely that Veldheer will be signed before Saturday.
The Raiders have plenty cap space for 2014, certainly enough to keep Veldheer protecting the blind side while adding talent on offense and defense. Finding the right value will be key in negotiations between Veldheer and the team he wants to stay with.
While it’s uncertain what the sides are asking for, recent contracts signed by comparable players can act as a starting point in contracts. As we did Wednesday with defensive end Lamarr Houston, we’ll focus on contracts recently signed by players of similar caliber and age.
Those deals don't factor competition on a 2014 open market with a $133 million salary cap, so numbers should jump up this offseason.
Another factor here is that offensive linemen are difficult to grade. Without many stats to speak of or internal team grading available, we’ll rely on Pro Football Focus to compare.
After combing through NFLPA documents featuring salaries for every offensive tackle under contract at the end of 2013, New York Giants left tackle William Beatty’s four-year contract extension provides a solid baseline for Veldheer. It’s worth $37 million and $19 million guaranteed and was signed in Feb. 2013.
In 2012, the year before Beatty’s extension and Veldheer’s last in full health, the PFF numbers are shockingly similar:
Beatty: +22.3 overall grade, +14.9 pass blocking, +10.9 run blocking, 3 sacks allowed, 0 QB hits, 22 QB hurries
Veldheer: +22.2 overall grade, +17.8 pass blocking, +1.3 run blocking, 5 sacks allowed, 3 QB hits, 25 QB pressures.
Some info on how PFF grades: http://www.profootballfocus.com/about/grading/
Veldheer ranked 12th in pass blocking efficiency in 2012 with 33 total quarterback pressures in 665 pass blocking snaps. Beatty was 10th with 25 pressures in 556 snaps.
Each player has some differences, with Beatty a talented, largely one-year wonder. Veldheer was consistent before 2013, when he missed 11 games recovering from triceps surgery, though he played well in the final five games.
Left tackles are most always paid a premium rate, and with Veldheer rated below only Eugene Monroe in this year’s free agent class by several publications, those numbers could increase with competition. And, with offensive linemen subject to more subjective evaluation, other samples must be examined.
Sam Baker signed a six-year deal to stay with Atlanta in March 2013, and that was worth $41.1 million with $18 million in guarantees despite injury issues. Veldheer has played better than Baker in recent years.
Duane Brown renegotiated a contract extension worth $53.4 million with $22 million guaranteed with Houston in 2012. Brown is a 2011 second-team All-Pro, a 2012 first-team All-Pro and a two-time Pro Bowler. Veldheer isn't in that class, but Brown’s deal could account well for inflation from competition and increased cap space. Or Veldheer could fall somewhere in the middle of all these numbers, depending on real open market value.
Nothing will be official, however, until Veldheer formally agrees to terms.