The Oakland Raiders must resist an impulsive shopping spree like a teen with a credit card. Big-name free agent signings do bring respectability and the Raiders have $70 million in cap space to fool with, but in a cut-throat AFC West the team is at minimum two years from playoff contention. There’s also the fact that Oakland is one of the least desirable locales to currently play, so overpayment is likely required. Still, general manager Reggie McKenzie should make an effort to recruit the following names on March 8 (when clubs are allowed to start negotiations):
David Garrard – QB
The Raiders tried to sign Garrard when Jason Campbell broke his collarbone in Week 6, 2011, before it was revealed the ex-Jaguar would need back surgery, which prompted the club to trade for Carson Palmer. Garrard is available again, but his value now stems as a mentor, as the New York Jets were apparently pleased with his handling of Geno Smith. The Raiders could certainly use a signal caller with 76 career starts and playoff experience to groom the stable, and the soon-to-be 36-year-old is seeking a chance to play, which he’ll have in Oakland.
Alex Mack – C
Mack is on top every team’s wish list as he is arguably the best center in the NFL, so he won’t come cheap. The Cleveland Browns intend to re-sign him or apply the franchise tag, but when’s the last time this organization acted rationally? They’re interviewing Kyle Shananan and Raiders quarterback coach John DeFilippo for a coordinator position for Pete’s sake! The Raiders may have to make Mack the highest paid center in league history, but the 28-year-old Cal alum and California native would pay dividends and allow Stefen Wisniewski to shift back to guard.
Hakeem Nicks – WR
General managers around the NFL share mixed feelings on Nicks who was accused of playing soft in a contract year. When motivated, the 6-foot, 210-pounder can use his balance, strength and leaping ability along with adequate speed to get open on nearly every down. Nicks fits the mold of a number-one receiver the Raiders desperately need, and with his future in the Big Apple at an end, the Nation has to admit the 26-year-old would look sharp in Silver and Black.
Zane Beadles – OG
The only thing sweeter for Raiders fans than seeing the Denver Broncos choke in the Super Bowl would be stealing their Pro Bowl left guard. Beadles has made a nice name for himself as a complete interior lineman after being considered a reach in the 2010 draft, but it’s rare for a team to shell out top dollar for two guards as the Broncos are already doing with Louis Vasquez. Enter the Raiders, who can afford to overpay the 27-year-old.
Anthony Spencer – DE/LB
Spencer was in line for a massive extension with the Dallas Cowboys before damaging his left knee and undergoing microfracture surgery. The procedure isn’t a death sentence as John Sullivan, Marques Colston and Gosder Cherilus can attest, but it will hurt the 30-year-old pass rusher’s value which gives Oakland a chance. The Cowboys are reportedly $21.5 million over the cap(!) and are frantically trying to retain Jason Hatcher which means Spencer is as good as gone. The Raiders can offer a good deal for both sides and potentially pair the 2012 Pro Bowler with Lamarr Houston.