A variety of factors helped the Raiders finish tied for second in the NFL last season in sacks with 47, just behind the Steelers, who won the AFC, and equal to the Packers, who won the Super Bowl and Chargers, who finished with the league's No. 1 overall defense. Maybe the most important of those factors was the emergence of OLB Kamerion Wimbley, who in his first season in Oakland led the team in quarterback takedowns with nine.
Wimbley showed great burst coming off the edge in 2010 after the team acquired him in a March ’10 trade with the Browns for a 2011 third-round pick, and there is optimism within the organization that he'll continue to improve, as he doesn't turn 28 until Oct. 13. However, no matter what the team thinks, Wimbley is not one of the five best linebackers in the league.
Problem is, the team is paying him as such. Before the lockout began, the Raiders offered Wimbley the franchise tag for 2011, keeping him off the free-agent market. He readily signed the deal, giving him a one-year contract and a salary of the average of the five highest-paid players at the position — a figure that's expected to be around $11.3 million. With the Raiders at or above the expected salary cap already, the large check they're cutting to a good but not great linebacker could be costly.
The salary cap is judged by how much a team is spending at year's end, not in Week One, so there is still time for the Raiders to restructure Wimbley's contract to lower the cap hit. With multiple positions of need that have to be addressed, along with bringing back some of its own free agents, we hear the team would benefit greatly from giving Wimbley the deal he deserves, not one that exceeds it.
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