Had this worked out the way Justin Tuck had hoped, he'd still be wearing Giants blue, not Raiders silver and black. But things don't always work out in the NFL, even for a player who held out hope until the very end that he could finish his career with the team he started with, the team he helped win two Super Bowl championships.
But time marches on in pro football, and you're only as valuable as your last season. The Giants would have liked to have kept Tuck, but not for the two-year, $11-million contract the Raiders were willing to give him. No way they'd go that high, so he was left to take the best deal.
No storybook ending like the one Michael Strahan got to enjoy in his 15 seasons, all with the Giants. No walking away after a Hall of Fame career and with a Super Bowl championship in tow, as Strahan did after the 2007 season.
Instead, Tuck most likely will live out his NFL career in relative obscurity, toiling the next two seasons for an organization that once was synonymous with greatness but now is known more for its years-long dysfunction.
The Raiders have gone 11 straight years without a winning record and are coming off back-to-back 4-12 seasons. Their last Super Bowl title came after the 1983 season -- the year Tuck was born.
Dennis Allen gets one more year as coach, and Reggie McKenzie gets one more try as general manager, but this most likely is a win-or-you're-fired scenario for both men.
Tuck certainly adds credibility to what the Raiders are trying to do, but this team is so many players away from contending in a division that already features a Broncos team so loaded with talent that it's a stretch to see them not winning the division. The Chiefs staged a remarkable turnaround last season, going from 2-14 to the playoffs in Andy Reid's first season as coach. The Chargers made the playoffs in coach Mike McCoy's first year on the job.
Oakland already has had an exodus of strong players in free agency, with the Giants signing running back Rashad Jennings, the Cardinals signing left tackle Jared Veldheer and the Bears signing defensive end Lamarr Houston. Tuck fills Houston's spot, but he doesn't have much of a defense with which to work.
Not only that, but the Raiders still don't have a legitimate quarterback and the offense is a far cry from the halcyon days of Kenny Stabler and Daryle Lamonica. Heck, it's not even close to the Rich Gannon era -- the last time the Raiders were in a Super Bowl.
Tuck will bring a solid pass rush and strong leadership to a locker room that can use plenty of both. But unlike his run with the Giants, when he was surrounded by good players and quality coaches, Tuck will find that the Raiders don't compare to the Giants' operation.
"Last week, I absolutely did not see it coming," Tuck said Thursday. " necessarily on my radar at that point in time, but everything accelerated pretty quickly, and I'm excited. I really am. I like the direction that this team is talking about going in, and I just want to be a part of it. Obviously, everyone knows the history of the Raiders, and I just want to be a part of the group that brings it back."
Good luck with that.
The Raiders are a long, long way from being contenders, and Tuck's presence alone won't make much of a dent in the history of losing. Even now, when the Raiders are flush with salary-cap space, they've found a way to mess things up.
Their first big move of free agency was to give left tackle Rodger Saffold a five-year, $42.5-million contract, only to negate the deal after failing Saffold on his physical because of a shoulder problem.
The Raiders did sign former Jets right tackle Austin Howard, but now they'll likely have to find a left tackle in the draft instead of using a potentially high pick on another position.
Tuck was one of only three remaining Giants -- Eli Manning and Chris Snee are the others -- to start and win both Super Bowls in the Tom Coughlin era. But Tuck is gone, unable to finish his career on his own terms the way he'd always wanted.
Now he wears the silver and black in a place nicknamed "The Black Hole" for its intimidating fan base. Unfortunately for Tuck, the Raiders have been stuck at the bottom of that hole for the last decade, unable to climb out and recapture the winning tradition the Raiders once represented.
Too bad for the Giants, too. They'll miss Tuck more than they might want to admit. The defense now belongs to Antrel Rolle and Jon Beason, but Tuck's presence -- on the field and in the locker room -- won't be easy to replace.