The Oakland Raiders once again spent big to lock up one of their key players, signing Kamerion Wimbley to a five-year, $48 million contract that gives the team more room under the salary cap and the linebacker $29 million in guarantees.
"It was in my best interest and the team's best interest to try to work out something long term to try to get some players in here this year to help make us a better team," Wimbley said Monday at training camp in Napa, Calif. "I was with that. I'd just like to thank Al Davis and the Raiders' organization to allow me the opportunity to be here for more years and to give me the chance to prove myself and play for the Raiders."
Now the question remains if the Raiders will be able to use the salary-cap savings to get two more of their free agents into camp: unrestricted tight end Zach Miller and restricted running back Michael Bush.
Miller, who has led the Raiders in receiving the past three years, is being heavily courted by the Seahawks, a source with knowledge of the situation told NFL.com's Steve Wyche on Monday. That has raised questions about if Miller will stay in Oakland.
"Zach was a Raider last year, we want him to be a Raider now," coach Hue Jackson said. "That thing is going to come to a head here soon. It has to. I feel good about where we are and, hopefully, he'll get back to us, we'll get back to him, and we'll try to get something resolved."
The Raiders gave out big deals in the offseason to keep defensive tackle Richard Seymour and cornerback Stanford Routt and placed the franchise tag on Wimbley to keep him for at least another year.
Wimbley had been set to play for the $11.3 million franchise-tag tender before agreeing to the long-term deal that makes him one of the highest-paid linebackers in the NFL. Now he knows he'll have to deal with the pressure that comes with his lofty salary.
"The new contract has to be earned, so I definitely look forward to the opportunity to go out and playing and earning every bit of the contract," he said.
It has been quite a year so far for Wimbley and his contract. The Raiders originally hoped to use a $3.5 million buyback option to keep Wimbley under contract for next season for just over $4.1 million, but the NFL determined in February that the deal violated rules prohibiting base salaries rising more than 30 percent in a year. That led to the Raiders' decision to use the franchise tag.
Then, with the team looking to lower this year's salary-cap hit from the $11.3 million franchise tag, Wimbley received an even bigger deal that spreads out the salary-cap hit.
Wimbley entered the NFL with high expectations after being drafted 13th overall by the Cleveland Browns in 2006. He had 11 sacks as a rookie in a promising start to his career. But he was unable to match that production in his final three seasons in Cleveland, recording 15.5 sacks in that stretch, and he was traded to Oakland by new Browns president Mike Holmgren for a third-round draft pick.
Wimbley quickly thrived in Oakland, playing outside linebacker in the base 4-3 defense, then moving to defensive end in passing situations to take advantage of his pass-rushing skills.
"He is so versatile," Raiders linebacker Quentin Groves said. "He is big and athletic, can stop the run on first and second down, and then rush the passer on third down. He is a great guy in the locker room as well. If somebody has a question, they go to Kam. He is a silent leader. He leads by actions and by example. He doesn't say a whole lot, but every now and then, he tries to joke around a little bit. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy."
Wimbley led Oakland with nine sacks last season and is being counted on for even more this year.
"He's a tremendous player, a tremendous young player," Jackson said. "I know he has nothing but an unbelievable upside ahead of him. Nine sacks a year ago, I expect more than that, more of that, and he'll do that for this organization."
Notes: The Raiders get a day off Tuesday. ... S Mike Mitchell missed practice with what Jackson described as a nick. ... Jackson said the Raiders talked to free-agent LB Lofa Tatupu, recently released by the Seattle Seahawks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.