The Oakland Raiders ride into the off-season with the greatest amount of salary cap, currently projected at $64 million, in league history. In 2013, head coach Dennis Allen had to deal with $56.2 million in dead money tthat had piled on from the lousy cap management of the past.
For the first time in their tenure, Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie get cap room, without cutting players, and a full slate of draft picks. Free agency begins March 11 and Raider Nation will eagerly await the day when they can start recruiting legitimate talent to the team.
While free agency and the draft will signal the arrival of new talent, there is the matter of evaluating the current list of free agents. Let’s take a look at some of the players that could make a comeback in silver and black and some that would look for new homes:
Darren McFadden: Unless the former Razorback considers a hefty pay cut, his return is unlikely. Once a player with considerable talent and potential, injuries have slowed Run DMC and brought him down to earth. His chance to become a star has waned with every little bruise he picked up on the gridiron.
Vance Walker: Walker was signed as a free agent from Atlanta and lived up to his billing as a run stuffer, but he struggled to generate pass rush playing the three technique. In Allen’s scheme having a pass rushing tackle is critical, but more significant is drawing double teams from the guard and center. Walker is incapable of either so he’s a back up at best. I would consider him for depth, but with a pay cut from the $2 million he made this season.
Charles Woodson: Definitely needs to be re-signed. The future Hall of Famer brings playmaking ability as well as leadership.
Jared Veldheer: Most league experts rank him in the top 10 at his position. He has to be the top priority and a candidate for the franchise tag if it comes down to it.
Mike Jenkins: Jenkins was signed as a free agent from the Dallas Cowboys and played a significant part in the early season rise of the defense. His aggressive man coverage skills were put to good use. I would definitely like to see him back.
Jacoby Ford: Ford is best remembered for his playmaking ability when he was first drafted, but injuries have slowed him down. Many fans opine that he has been mismanaged, but the fact is that he doesn’t have the same explosiveness anymore.
Tracy Porter: Tracy lined up in the slot most of the season in nickel packages and on the right side in base defense. He played well for the most part and I would welcome him back at a reasonable price.
Lamar Houston: Houston started off strong, but faded down the stretch due to over-use. He has to be brought back. The question will be how much he would value himself at. I see him as a left end. He was mismatched at times going against the best left tackles and his lack of elite speed suits him best against right tackles. He is very good against the run and would be best in the $5 million-8 million range
Usama Young: Young, like Porter, is another of Allen’s former players from the 09 New Orleans Saints Super Bowl winning secondary. He played well in the absence of Tyvon Branch although he is better suited at the free safety position. He filled in well for Woodson as well before he was lost for the season. I would like to see Young in silver and black next season.
Jason Hunter: Definitely not a starter. He is best as a rotational player at the end position. His inconsistency indicates a lack of playmaking ability. Only back as a back up.
Phillip Adams: One of Reggie’s projects from his Green Bay days, Adams is only a roster player necessary for depth. He was burned on routes far too often. A position that could be upgraded through the draft.
Jeron Mastrud: A great blocker, but lacks catching ability. Should be gone with the emergence of Nick Kasa.
Andre Gurode: A wily veteran, but too injury prone at this point in his career. I’ll have to say no.
Khalif Barnes: One of the league leaders in pre-snap penalties, Barnes is very error prone. I would sign him to back up the tackle position at the league minimum.
Chimdi Chekwa: was buried on a talent deficient team all season, but made some plays in the last couple of games. He’s a restricted free agent so he’ll be in camp.
Rashad Jennings: A true professional, Jennings would be welcomed back with open arms by Raider fans. He did well before he was hobbled by injuries.
Tony Pashos: A late camp causality of the Washington Redskins, Pashos kept second-round pick Menelik Watson on the bench. Should be brought back at the right price.
Kaelin Burnett, Jamize Olawale, Brandian Ross, Matt McCants, Lamar Mady, Jeremy Stewart: Should be kept around for depth. Burnett did well on special teams and reserve duty. Olawale showed flashes as a double tthreat at full back, Ross did somewhat of a decent job in Tyvon Branch’s absence, Matt McCants showed enough potential to figure as backup at the tackle positions. Stewart was an asset on special teams and that’s probably his only value.
Tony Hills, Daniel Muir: Hills was buried on the roster and would take a spot from a draft pick in 2014, Muir was too injury prone.
Looking at this roster, it’s amazing that coach Allen squeezed out 4 wins. The only roster that I could honestly say was less talented, would be the Jacksonville Jaguars. A lot of these free agents who come back, will be battling for roster spots against rookies and other free agent pickups next training camp. And some of these guys will be out of the league by next season.