Good news? The Oakland Raiders won’t lose many assets.
Bad news? The Raiders have few assets.
The Raiders list 25 players on the 2013 roster who will be eligible for free agency on March 11. The team has oodles of spending cash, but that doesn’t mean the club should torch its money retaining contributors at any cost. Here are five players who fit into the rebuilding plan and are the Raiders’ priority to keep:
Veldheer proved his value in the first three months of the season when he sat out with a torn left triceps and the offensive line turned to papier mache. The blind-side tackle returned in Week 13 and mostly resembled his dominant self, so the Raiders would be wise to lock him up–26-year-old left tackles with All-Pro talent aren’t a dime a dozen. The franchise tag is also a possibility.
Houston’s price tag is hard to gauge because he isn’t a prototypical pass-rushing end. The 6-foot-3, 300-pounder makes a living stuffing the run and he can play multiple line positions as well. A rival suitor will likely break the bank for a talent and motor like Houston, so the Raiders may be disadvantaged in their chance to re-sign him.
3) Mike Jenkins
Tracy Porter might be more popular with fans and the media, but Jenkins always covered the top opposing receiver and didn’t completely embarrass himself doing so. Pro Football Focus rated the cornerback as the Raiders’ best cover man (while ranking him 66th in the NFL), and the 2008 first round pick remains extremely motivated to improve his game at 28-years-old.
4) Pat Sims
The beefy nose tackle soaked up space and clogged gaps while finishing the season with a career-high 40 tackles (eighth-best on the team) and 10 in Week 16 alone. The Raiders have lacked a true run-stuffer since the days of Ted Washington and Sam Adams so retaining Sims makes economic and football sense.
Jennings lacks the flash of Darren McFadden, but he can play football without suffering a bruise which is a fair tradeoff. The Jacksonville Jaguars castoff surprised many with his hard-nosed, straightforward running style which helped him lead the Raiders in rushing attempts (163), rushing yards (733) and rushing touchdowns (six). Throw in 36 receptions and no fumbles, and Jennings (with an affordable contract) could ease Oakland into its new era.