A two-time Super Bowl champion with the New York Giants, Tollefson signed a two-year contract with the Raiders as an unrestricted free agent, providing flexibility to a defensive front that lost nickel rusher Kamerion Wimbley, who declined to take a salary cut.
Oakland got it done for the bargain price of $2.4 million, with half of that guaranteed. In doing so, the Raiders got a player back that New York signed off its practice squad in 2007.
Former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was a big booster of Tollefson, and the Raiders thought enough of him to allocate him to NFL Europe to get some playing time.
"The Raiders allowed me to continue my career in the NFL by sending me to Europe and putting me on the practice squad," Tollefson said. "There's a debt there that I feel like I never got to repay after leaving. It's funny how life works."
The way the Raiders replaced Wimbley speaks volumes about how general manager Reggie McKenzie is going about his job.
Wimbley was the starting strong-side outside linebacker, but racked up his 16 sacks in the last two years primarily as a nickel pass rusher with his hand on the ground.
Rather than look for one player to fill Wimbley's shoes, McKenzie got two, signing Indianapolis free agent Philip Wheeler the previous week as the strong-side linebacker and then getting Tollefson in the fold as a defensive lineman.
The fact that Wheeler won't be a straight nickel rusher as an end and that Tollefson isn't necessarily penciled in on one side of the line doesn't matter since Oakland will be changing schemes considerably under new coordinator Jason Tarver and coach Dennis Allen.
In the end, the Raiders got two players who take their football very seriously and have good track records at a fraction of a cost that would have taken to retain Wimbley, who nonetheless got $6 million of Oakland's money and was due for another $17.5 million guaranteed had he remained on the roster.
Making things sweeter for Tollefson is he played locally at Ygnacio Valley High and Los Medanos College. He grew up a Raiders fan, his mom has always been a Raiders fan (unless they were playing against her son).
"There's something special about playing for the team that you grew up watching and where you grew up," Tollefson said. "It means a lot to me they believe in me. Gusy are excited to play football, talk football and get ready for the season."
Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.