Cornerback's decision might lead to trade

Updated: February 28, 2005, 3:48 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The Oakland Raiders didn't surprise anyone by placing the franchise tag on cornerback Charles Woodson, but what happened Friday caught them completely off guard.

Charles Woodson
Cornerback
Oakland Raiders
Profile
2004 SEASON STATISTICS
Tot Ast Solo FF Sack Int
74 60 14 2 3 1

Woodson signed his one-year, $10.5 million franchise tender, which creates major cap problems for the Raiders. The Raiders are $15.7 million over the $85.5 million salary cap, not counting the Jerry Porter contract and the future acquisition of wide receiver Randy Moss, who has a $7.25 million salary.

Woodson's agent, Carl Poston, likely made the move because of the Raiders' cap issues and decided to not risk the chance of having the franchise tag pulled before he had a chance to sign it. Poston was in Indianapolis for the scouting combine and walked over to the Raiders' hotel with a signed tender offer.

By signing it, Woodson's $10.5 million is guaranteed. He submitted copies to the league and the NFL Management Council.

Poston said the Raiders were surprised when they saw the signed contract. There was talk of having the franchise tag revoked or the possibility of making a trade.

But in a statement released late Friday night, in which the Raiders reacted to the Woodson move, the team hinted that a trade remains a strong possibility.

"The actions of agent Carl Poston and Charles Woodson tell us that they have have reached a long-term deal with a team and we expect a trade very soon," the statement read.

Translation: The Raiders apparently feel that Woodson will sign an offer sheet with another team which, as a franchise player, he has a right to do. Oakland could match the offer sheet and retain Woodson at the terms specified, or decline to match and receive a pair of first-round draft choices as compensation. Or the two teams could reach agreement on a trade for a package of draft picks and/or players.

The only potential flaw in the Raiders' logic is that, for Woodson to have reached even a tacit agreement with another team, that team would be in violation of NFL anti-tampering rules. Even as a franchise player, Woodson and his agent are not permitted to discuss deals with other teams until the free agency signing period begins Wednesday.

The signing of Porter freed the club to designate the four-time Pro Bowl cornerback as its franchise player again.

Raiders coach Norv Turner, in a statement about the cornerback earlier this week, sounded like a man expecting to see Woodson on his roster.

"We're pleased to retain the services of Charles Woodson," Turner said.

Woodson has said he wants to be the highest paid at his position, a distinction currently held by Denver's Champ Bailey.

Among the Raiders' most talented and popular players, Woodson has battled injuries and clashed with management and coaches in recent years. In addition, he was arrested in downtown Oakland in December for investigation of public intoxication.

Woodson and teammate Marques Anderson were arrested early Dec. 21 after refusing to leave the back seat of a woman's car, and both were jailed briefly.

Police said Woodson and Anderson were uncooperative, had problems maintaining their balance, had bloodshot watery eyes and a strong odor of alcohol. They were acting in a belligerent manner, police said.

Woodson, who signed a one-year tender for $8.782 million last Aug. 31 after missing 33 days of training camp, was sidelined for the final three games last season with an injured knee.

He finished with 74 tackles, 2 sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception.

Woodson also was suspended and sent home by former coach Bill Callahan for the final game of the 2003 season at San Diego for missing curfew.

Woodson was among Callahan's harshest critics, saying the coach was stubborn and lost control of the team. Callahan was fired after the '03 season.

In May 2000, Woodson was cited in warrants charging him with drunken driving and driving with a suspended license in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he won the 1997 Heisman Trophy for Michigan. Police said he registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.24 percent, more than twice Michigan's legal limit.

ESPN.com senior NFL writers John Clayton and Len Pasquarelli contributed to this report. Information from The Associated Press also was used.