ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) – Gerard Warren was dealt from Denver because he didn’t fit into the Broncos’ new defensive system. Warren Sapp doesn’t see how the former No. 3 overall pick fits onto the Oakland Raiders’ roster.
“I wouldn’t want to go to a team three weeks after their training camp and try to make their team, with my talent,” Sapp said. “I wouldn’t want to do that.”
Warren was acquired Monday for a conditional fifth-round pick in the first deal between the AFC West rivals since 1993. The Broncos only get the pick if Warren makes the Raiders’ roster.
Sapp said he didn’t see the need to add any defensive linemen, saying he was happy with the group that opened camp with the team and that he had a hard time seeing Warren make the team.
“My eight’s been here since I first walked in the door and I said, ‘There’s my eight.’ That’s what I’ve looked at and said, ‘There’s my eight, I can win with those eight,'” he said. “And he never came into that picture until I walked into the job this morning. I don’t see him cracking that eight. I don’t make personnel decisions around here, but I don’t see him cracking my eight.”
The last trade between the Raiders and Broncos came when Denver dealt running back Gaston Green for a third round pick that turned out to be defensive back Rondell Jones.
Denver coach Mike Shanahan, who had been fired by Raiders owner Al Davis in 1989, became the Broncos coach in 1995 and the teams have not made a trade since. Denver hired former Raiders senior personnel executive Michael Lombardi in July as a personnel assistant, two months after he was fired by Oakland.
Shanahan acknowledged how rare a deal between the two rivals was, but said he had no fear trading a player he could face twice a year.
“No, you’ve got to make a decision based on what you think is best for your organization,” Shanahan said.
Just one year ago, Warren was deemed the Broncos’ best defensive linemen as evidenced by the six-year, $36 million contract he signed before injuries to both big toes led to an unproductive 2006 season.
This year, he didn’t fit in the system put in place by the new defensive boss Jim Bates, which requires large interior linemen who hold the point of attack rather than penetrate. The defense played poorly in the first two exhibition games and lost defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban to a season-ending Achilles’ injury.
“We’re not catching on as fast as we’d like,” Bates said. “There’s a lot of promising things we see on the tape. There’s a lot of good things happening out on the practice field. But in the games we have not played well.”
Sapp and Terdell Sands are Oakland’s starters at tackle, with Tyler Brayton and Anttaj Hawthorne as the backups. Tommy Kelly has played both tackle and end in camp but could move to end fulltime because of the trade. The Raiders struggled with their second defensive unit in Saturday’s exhibition game against San Francisco and wanted more depth.
“It’s a rough business down there,” Pro Bowl defensive end Derrick Burgess said. “Anybody can down any time. You need a guy behind the guy who’s starting, that will just step in there and do what they’re supposed to do.”
Raiders coach Lane Kiffin called it a “low-risk” move that would make the team better if Warren is good enough to make the roster or cost nothing if he wasn’t.
“It was not out of a need that we were disappointed with anybody that was playing for us or anything,” Kiffin said. “This was the ability to add somebody that could bring competition to us if he’s in the right mind-set.”
Warren (6-foot-4, 325 pounds) is a seventh-year pro who spent the past two seasons in Denver after he was acquired in a trade with Cleveland in 2005. The Browns made him the third overall pick in the 2001 draft out of Florida.
Warren had 51 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks last season and never regained his strength and stamina after a toe injury in training camp hobbled him all year.
The Broncos left him behind when they opened the exhibition season at San Francisco and again when they spent a week in Dallas practicing with the Cowboys before their preseason game Saturday night.
“Obviously I’ve been here for training camp so I don’t know how training camp has gone or any of that,” said Raiders offensive lineman Cooper Carlisle, who played with Warren the past two seasons in Denver. “I know when I was there he still had plenty of gas left.”
Washington and Indianapolis were interested in Warren but might have been hoping for his release so they could negotiate their own deal and not compensate the Broncos.
Warren, who cemented his nickname “Big Money” with his contract extension last summer, actually earned about $6.5 million of that $36 million deal. He received $2 million from the Broncos this year in roster and workout bonuses. His salary for the upcoming season is a little less than $600,000.