The Raiders are in an interesting spot as the first week of free agency comes to a close. Last year, many people expected the Raiders to make a push at the playoffs with what they had shown in their previous couple of seasons. They had one of the more disappointing seasons last year as they finished with the third worst record in the league. They have some talent in a few positions, but they have a lot of holes as well. They can either choose to rebuild the team or try and sign players at key positions and make a run to try and sneak into the playoffs.
The way the Raiders have approached free agency have not made it clear what their plan is as well. The Raiders have gone after a mix of young lower tier free agents and older more established veteran players. The one thing that is certain is they are looking to add to their defense in a way to build depth. The Raiders are also in a unique position as they have plenty of cap space, which has the potential to skyrocket if they cut Carson Palmer, Tommy Kelly, and Rolando McClain as they are rumored to be leaning towards. They would have plenty of cap room to make a deal for one or two big money players if they wished.
- Phillip Adams, 24 – CB
- Coye Francies, 26 – CB
- Jason Hunter, 29 – DE
- Kaluka Maiava, 25 – LB
- Pat Sims, 27 – DT
- Nick Roach, 27 – LB
The Raiders have made several moves that add young players with potential to make an impact on the Raiders defense. These players are all relatively low risk as they were most likely signed for smaller dollar amounts, so that if these guys turn out to be nothing more than solid depth player then it is money well spent.
The Raiders have also been linked to linebacker Dan Connors, cornerback Terence Newman, and guard Matt Slauson. Reports have been floating around that Terence Newman will sign with the Raiders giving the secondary a veteran presence in the defensive backfield that should be had relatively cheaply. The Raiders are buying trying to find bargains in free agency instead of employing Al Davis’s throw money at the problem strategy of previous seasons.
Players the Raiders should look into bringing in:
Karlos Dansby, 31 – ILB: I believe that Dansby should be the Raiders main priority in the offseason. He is rated as one of the better linebackers in the league by advanced metrics and many consider him to be one of the most underrated players in the league. He is getting older and coming off an injury, but Dansby is the type of player that would be a leader for the defense while providing steady production.
Larry Grant, 28 – ILB: Larry Grant is younger than Dansby and still has some potential to be an above average starter. He has been stuck behind all-pros Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman that last couple season. In 2011, he had a streak of several starts in place of an injured Patrick Willis and showed that he could provide an impact as a starter. He has not found much interest on the open market and the Raiders could get him signed at a bargain price for the production he could provide.
Tracy Porter, 26 – CB: Tracy Porter is coming off a down season last year in which he had to deal with health issues and getting lost in the rotation at corner. He is still young and has plenty of skill. He has put his health issues behind him and has a familiarity with Dennis Allen. Porter could provide a major upgrade to the corner positions and could come at a pretty good price.
Rey Maualuga, 26 – ILB:Maualuga is a polarizing figure at the inside linebacker position. He has been a strong run stopping linebacker with over
100 combined tackles last season. Advanced metrics grade Maualuga as one of the worst starting middle linebackers in the league, but much of that is due to his lack of ability while dropping back into coverage. Interesting note on that is that at the beginning of the season Maualuga played at a heavier weight, while towards the end of the season he said he dropped around 20 pounds and looked much better in coverage. He could come in and provide an impact in the run defense, but would probably have to come off the field on passing downs.
Kerry Rhodes, 30 – FS: When the Arizona Cardinals released Kerry Rhodes it caught many people by surprised. Rhodes had a spectacular season last year, but at 30 years old the Cardinals going into a veteran purge to get younger and cheaper. He would be a little more costly than most of the free agent on this list other than Dansby, but he would provide the most impact. He would help to improve both the Raiders pass and run defenses as he flashes skill in both areas. He would also give the secondary some veteran leadership, especially with how it is currently consisted with a lot of youth.
The Raiders would improve their defense drastically if they would be able to sign deals with Karlos Dansby, Tracy Porter, and Kerry Rhodes. Rhodes and Porter would go a long way towards solidifying a secondary that was victimized often last season. Karlos Dansby would turn a weak linebacker unit from last season into a pretty strong one by adding him to Nick Roach and Miles Burris. There are not many great defensive linemen that would come in and create an instant impact at the right price. It would allow the Raiders to focus on defensive linemen early and maybe take fliers on late round developmental prospects that can sit and learn in a back up role for a season or two.