At first glance, the Raiders' reported re-signing of Khalif Barnes today to kick off their free-agent season seems to make as much sense as slapping a 1st- and 3rd-round tender on Stanford Routt. That is, not much sense at all.
Remember, Barnes played in just six games last season with two starts, was inactive for nine games and was active but DNP in the season finale against Baltimore after being one of the Raiders' highest profile offseason acquisitions.
He was expected to beat out Mario Henderson at left tackle, where Barnes started 57 of the 60 games he appeared in for Jacksonville from 2005 through 2008, but a broken left ankle in training camp slowed him. And when he did make his Raiders debut, against the Jets in that 38-0 shellacking, it was his first NFL start at right tackle, in place of the injured Cornell Green.
Barnes was bullrushed by Calvin Pace and ended up flat on his back with his feet memorably in an airborne Pace's midsection as Pace strip-sacked JaMarcus Russell inside the Raiders' 5-yard line...ON THE FIRST PLAY OF THE GAME.
And yet...I like this move. I like it a lot.
Come again? The training camp injury severely hindered Barnes' development in the Raiders' zone-blocking scheme. And by the time he was ready to contribute, it was at a position - right tackle - he had not played since at least his college days with the Washington Huskies.
Beyond that, and not to seem harsh, but scouts seem to think he is a better all-around O-lineman than Green, who is seemingly on his way out of town as one of the team's five free agents with six or more accrued seasons subject to the CBA's "Final Eight Plan" rules and can sign with any club, with no compensation due the Raiders.
Improved offensive line play is a must for the Raiders and with a fresh, healthy and re-focused Barnes in the fold, it makes sense. Because even when he was inactive for most of the late season, he never checked out mentally. Who can forget the scene of a shorts and T-shirt-wearing Barnes on the frozen Cleveland sidelines in late December, imploring his teammates? I'm sure he wore the same getup in frigid Denver a few weeks earlier.
Good locker room guy? Indeed.
"Whenever there's adversity, and things aren't going your way and your back's up against the wall, and everybody's out to get you and against you, a coward would turn his head, tuck his tail, and walk off," Barnes told me last season. "You find out what a man is made of when he goes through his hardest hours, when his team goes through its darkest hours.
"Those kind of moments really define a person and lets you know what a person is made of."
Accountability? Barnes had that, too.
"Unacceptable," Barnes said after the Jets' Pace owned him. "I take full responsibility for that. You can't let the quarterback get hit on the first play of the game because that would do something to their psyche...that first touchdown's all on me. That first play is going to haunt me."
Now, it would appear, he has a chance to exorcize that ghost, and more, with a fresh start.
So now that it appears the Raiders have addressed their offensive line, do they, ahem, still draft an O-lineman like Rutgers' Anthony Davis with the No. 8 overall pick?
Howze about USC safety Taylor Mays and his blazing 40 time, and suspect hands, getting tabbed and being converted to an outside linebacker?