The Oakland Raiders are in the midst of a rebuild as they head into this season. A major component of this offseason was clearing plenty of cap space going into the future, which general manager Reggie McKenzie was able to clear up nearly $60 million in the 2014 off season.
While the team should continue to build itself through the draft and refrain from falling into the hole of throwing money at free agents, the 2014 free agent class could have some intriguing names that the Raiders should consider.
First and foremost, the Raiders have several key players who will become free agents in the 2014 offseason and these players should be their initial priority to ink long term deals. The biggest names, Lamarr Houston and Jared Veldheer, are the figureheads for each side of the ball.
Houston is the most talented player along a defensive line that is extremely thin in depth, which adds to the importance of his resigning. Veldheer has the potential to become a lock-down tackle to protect the blind side, and he is the key piece to building the Raiders’ offensive line. Successful teams are strong in the trenches and locking up these players would be a step in the right direction.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Raiders will be forced to make a decision regarding their backfield. Running back Darren McFadden and fullback Marcel Reese both become free agents after next season. Reese should be the priority for the Raiders, as he has turned into one of the most dynamic full backs in the NFL. McFadden is a different story, as he has not played more than 13 games in any of his five seasons. McFadden is a great player, but the Raiders are unable to count on him to make it through a full 16-game schedule.
The last major free agent the Raiders need to resign would be their all-time leader in scoring and field goals, Sebastian Janikowski. Janikowski has been the most consistent scoring threat for the Raiders over the last several seasons. He had a rough start to his career as he struggled with his accuracy and off the field issues, but recently he has had ironed out his troubles and become one of the better kickers in the league. He recently stated that he would like to play for seven or eight more seasons and retire as a member of the Oakland Raiders.
Only after taking care of their own free agent should the Raiders jump into free agency to fill holes or replace the pieces that have left. The types of free agents the Raiders should focus on are players that will not break the bank, are still in their prime years, and have proven production over their careers.
These are several players the Raiders should be interested in:
Mike Williams, WR -
Williams would make a lot of sense for the Raiders. He is still young at 27 years old and is on the verge of emerging as top tier receiver. He might come at a reduced price, as the market will be flooded with elite talent at the position.
Williams would provide the Raiders with a legitimate play maker to pair with Denarius Moore and Rod Streater to provide a boost to an uninspiring wide receiver core. His size will provide the Raiders with a threat in the red zone and help them turn field goals drives into touchdown drives.
Scott Chandler, TE -
Chandler has been a player on the rise over the last two seasons with Buffalo. Chandler had one catch over the first four seasons of his career with most of it spent on multiple practice squads. He signed with Buffalo in 2011 and put up 81 receptions, 960 receiving yards, and 12 touchdowns over his two years with the Bills.
He could give the Raiders a solid number one tight end, as the depth chart is filled with players that have limited experience. He has excellent size at 6’7” and 270 pounds, which he uses well in his run blocking, and pairs it well with above-average hands. Chandler would be a great gift for either young quarterback the Raiders choose to go with.
Paul Soliai, DT -
Soliai is a little older than the Raiders should be looking for, but that should bring down his asking price. Soliai is a mountain of a man that would fit right in the middle of the Raiders’ defensive line. He would help solve some of the Raiders’ struggles in stopping the run by providing a plug right in the heart of the line. He was a Pro Bowl selection in 2011.
Donald Butler, LB -
Butler would come with a much higher price tag than the Raiders might be looking for, but it would come with several benefits. Butler is a player that broke out last season as he became the central point of the Chargers defense.
He will be 26 years old in the 2014 season, so he has plenty of years left in front of him and could grow with Miles Burris and Sio Moore at the linebacker position. He would also help to weaken a division rival, as the Chargers plan on having Butler paired with Manti Te’o as the future of their linebacker core.
Jairus Byrd, S -
Byrd would be the biggest name for the Raiders to go after. He is a playmaker in the secondary with 18 interceptions in his first four seasons, including a nine-interception effort during his rookie season. He has been honored as a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro in 2009 and 2012, when he led the AFC in interceptions in those season. He would give the Raiders their first legitimate free safety since Rod Woodson was patrolling center field.
The Raiders are finally out from under the cap crunch that has plagued them for the better part of the last decade. It will allow them to go out and make some noise in free agency to aid the final key pieces to their rebuilding roster. They need to make a concentrated effort to resign their free agents first, especially their young, talented players that they should build around.
Free agency should then be used to the fill the holes left by the draft and losing free agents. They should look to add younger players in their prime that will grow with a rebuilding roster. The Raiders are in a great position to rebuild their roster and move back into being a title contender.