Oakland Raiders: A Position-by-Position Primer to Free Agency
The start of free agency is a mere two months away, and the Oakland Raiders are certain to be active in looking to address their many needs throughout the roster.
Mass spending in free agency isn’t always the best strategy in building a team, but the Raiders need to add talent and do so in bulk.
As a result, with an influx in salary-cap space set to take effect, the Silver and Black should find themselves in the running for many of the top free agents in what is a deep group overall.
With plenty of areas to seek upgrades, here is a position-by-position primer to the Raiders’ 2014 free-agency period.
The Raiders need to address the quarterback position this offseason, and possibly more so than any other spot on the roster.
The issue they will face, in a year where they have so much salary-cap money at their disposal, is that there are just not any franchise-type options in free agency.
Even so, we can expect the Raiders to be linked to many of the veteran signal-callers who make their way to free agency but likely just as short-term options while a younger player develops instead.
Some fits for such a role include players like Michael Vick, Josh Freeman and Josh McCown.
Despite some difficult seasons of late, Freeman may actually make the most sense for the Raiders moving forward. Freeman had his best seasons under current Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson in Tampa Bay and, at 26, he is still a young player.
Whoever it may be, signing a veteran to both compete and contribute while a drafted quarterback develops is the most likely scenario to play out this offseason.
The running back position will be one of the most intriguing to watch on the Raiders’ roster throughout this upcoming offseason.
The team will certainly try to re-sign Rashad Jennings after a breakout season, and anything is possible when Darren McFadden’s market value is eventually determined.
However, with both players as free agents, there is no way to say for sure whether one, both or neither will return in 2014.
If the Raiders look to the free-agent market to add to the position, there will be plenty of options to consider. Backs like Knowshon Moreno, LeGarrette Blount and Ben Tate will garner plenty of interest across the league, and for good reason.
However, the most interesting option for the Raiders may be Jaguars veteran Maurice Jones-Drew.
Jones-Drew is still just 28, has plenty left to offer as either a feature or complementary back and is from the Oakland area. He and Jennings were a productive tandem in their time with Jacksonville, and teaming the two together for a potentially affordable price could be a great idea for the Raiders heading into 2014.
The Raiders have some young talent at the wide receiver position that could turn out to be quite productive for the team moving forward, but they need to find a go-to No. 1 target.
With so many other needs, it is tough to envision Reggie McKenzie using a high draft selection to address which, so this should be something the Raiders look to do in free agency.
In need of an established deep threat to stretch opposing defenses, Maclin may just be the ideal fit for the Raiders. While he is coming off a season-ending knee injury, there is no denying the game-changing ability he can bring.
Not only would his added production be valuable, but so too would the coverage attention he draws. Having opposing defenses constantly focus on Maclin’s ability to get vertical would open up the underneath game for the rest of the young playmakers in the receiver and tight end group.
With the crop of young talent already on the roster, the tight end position seems like one that is very unlikely to be addressed by the Raiders in free agency.
In Mychal Rivera, Nick Kasa and David Ausberry, the Raiders have three players who could turn into productive receiving threats as the passing offense continues to develop.
Names like Jimmy Graham and Dennis Pitta will draw plenty of attention on the open market, but both are unlikely to leave their current teams, and neither would make sense for the Raiders to add with so many needs elsewhere on the roster.
Despite some periods of significant struggle on the offensive line throughout the 2013 season, much of which can be attributed to injury.
In fact, with Stefen Wisniewski at center and Jared Veldheer and Menelik Watson at left and right tackle, respectively, the group is shaping up quite well heading into the future.
If the Raiders can add another interior lineman—or two—to the mix through either free agency or the draft, their offensive front could easily become one of the team’s strengths as soon as next season.
While he is certain to demand quite an expensive contract, the best option for which would undoubtedly be Browns center Alex Mack.
Signing Mack would likely see Wisniewski move back to the left guard spot he played in his rookie season, but it would also make the line much stronger as a whole in the process.
If there ever were an offseason where the Raiders were going to get involved with the most expensive free agents, this would be it. Doing so on the offensive line is a much safer strategy, and targeting a player who is among the league’s best at his position would be money well spent.
The defensive line should be the Raiders’ top priority this offseason, and it would be no surprise to see the team add to it heavily through both free agency and the draft.
Of course, re-signing Lamarr Houston will be the first order of business, but the Raiders will need to add plenty of players around him as well.
With Houston’s size, strength and quickness, we could see him moved inside to the 3-technique spot that just may better suit his pass-rush game, allowing the Raiders to focus on the defensive end spot in the process.
Players like Jared Allen, Michael Johnson, Michael Bennett and Justin Tuck would all upgrade the edge rush substantially, and each would be realistic targets with as much money as the Raiders have to spend.
Allen is easily the best option of the group, as he has been the league’s most consistent pass-rusher over the past decade and has shown no signs of slowing down of late.
In search of ways to address the defensive line, the potential to have Houston inside with Allen and one of the draft’s top pass-rushers on the edge would make for a great offseason for the Raiders.
The Raiders’ linebacker spot was one that saw a complete overhaul last offseason, bringing in new starters Nick Roach, Kevin Burnett and Sio Moore.
Despite a difficult year for the team overall, this unit played well throughout and can be considered one of the stronger and deeper position groups on the roster.
Changes or even many additions here are unlikely as a result, and especially so considering that all three starters remain under contract.
As talent is added around them, and more specifically in front of them on the defensive line, their production should only continue to improve.
The Raiders did well to improve the cornerback position last offseason, signing both Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter, as well as drafting D.J. Hayden.
However, with Jenkins and Porter only having signed one-year deals, both will become free agents, and the questions surrounding the position resurface in a big way.
The Raiders will likely try to re-sign both, but the free-agent market at the cornerback spot is quite deep as well.
Should the team look elsewhere for impact players, likely leaning toward some of the younger options available, Alterraun Verner, Sam Shields and Vontae Davis would make the most sense.
Verner should draw the most interest, and deservedly so given his impressive breakout with the Titans. While he will likely command one of the more expensive contracts of the free-agent cornerback group, his young age and fit in the Raiders’ zone-heavy scheme could prove to be well worth the cost.
The Raiders are set moving forward with Tyvon Branch at strong safety, but the free safety spot will depend on whether or not Charles Woodson will return for another year with the team.
If not, free safety becomes an instant need and something the Raiders would have to address on the free-agent market.
While this offseason has a number of impact players available at the position, the most interesting option could be Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins.
Jenkins never became a corner at the next level, but he turned into a safety with good range from the center field spot and the ability to make plays on the ball.
Dennis Allen would have familiarity with Jenkins, having been his position coach for his first two seasons in the league, making even more sense of the fit should the free safety spot become a need for the Raiders in free agency.