Sep 23, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders tackle Jared Veldheer (68) defends against Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds (93) at the Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Steelers 34-31. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland Raiders: Countdown To New League Year

It is no secret that the NFL has become a year round entertainment business. The kind of interest it draws, is unparalleled in American sports and even American entertainment at large. Even with that realization, most fans don’t often note the official start to the league year. This year, the official start to the 2014 league year commences at 1 p.m. Pacific on March 11.

The start to the league year also kicks off the free agency period, when unsigned players officially have the permission to auction their services league-wide. As of the start of this week, NFL teams as a whole had in access of a combined $600 million in available cap space. That number figures to go up with the recent report that the salary cap will be set at $133 million.

That large increase in salary cap doesn’t help a team like the Oakland Raiders, who have more than $60 million to spend. The large availability of cap room means teams who are willing, will have a better capability of re-signing their own talent.

The Raiders have many issues in all aspects of football operations from ticket sales to low cash reserves to stadium issues. Signing big name free agents requires offering large signing bonuses, and the Raiders frankly don’t have that kind of cash flow. You might remember late owner Al Davis selling shares to finance the signing of Javon Walker and DeAngelo Hall several years ago.

If I were to make a calculated guess, I would say the Raiders will sign at least one big free agent to create hype and interest for next season. The other reason I don’t anticipate the Silver and Black being big players in free agency is the model general manager Reggie McKenzie hails from. The Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson model in Green Bay preaches the significance of drafting well and re-signing your own players when their contracts come due.

Judging from the failure of most big free agency teams, that might be the smart plan of attack. For the Raiders, this is a critical year in getting back to the winning ways of old. The decisions made this year will impact the team for the next four years at least. It is vital that owner Mark Davis allows the football people to make football decisions and not meddle like say a Jerry Jones or Dan Snyder.

The Raiders have a very capable staff in place to start the rebuild and they will need at least two more years and the support from fans. Cries about former coaches are counter productive to the rebuild. It is paramount that the fans get behind this regime for the next two years. If the regime senses that their jobs are in jeopardy, they are bound to take short cuts to gain job security and that will hurt the long term goals of the franchise.

The immediate goal of the coaching staff as well as the personnel folks, is to identify and secure the services of a capable quarterback if they don’t feel Matt McGloin can develop into one. Whether it’s through free agency or the draft, the quarterback position is the most glaring need. I’m of the opinion of bringing in at least four guys into training camp to compete for the job. I would trade (highly unlikely any other team bites) or cut Terrelle Pryor, sign Matt Schaub and/or Josh Freeman, and draft a quarterback as well. I personally like Aaron Murray and Zach Mattenberger who both played very well against quality talent in the Southeastern Conference.

Seattle proved this year that a proper rebuild takes at least four years, but it might be five or even six years with the Raiders given their cap purgatory and lack of draft picks the first year. I would like to see sustained success so being patient is the key.

I believe McKenzie is the right guy for the job and he should get a fair shot at fixing the talent problem now that the cap situation has stabilized. My fear is that Mark Davis, a complete novice when it comes to talent evaluation, will start to make bad decisions at the behest of those who are in his ears. Dennis Allen, in my opinion–I know most fans are split on him, has changed the locker room culture and now the lack of talent is the only problem.

March 3 is another date that should be interesting. It is the deadline for franchise tags. It’ll be interesting to see if Jared Veldheer or Lamarr Houston gets the tag. I would favor giving Veldheer the transition tag and letting Houston walk if he wants more than $8 million per year. The transition tag means Veldheer will have the right to negotiate with any team, but the Raiders reserve the right of first refusal. If both parties still can’t find common ground, the hulk like Left Tackle would make an average of the top ten offensive linemen.

Whatever happens, it figures to be a great off-season for the Oakland Raiders–who for the first time in eons–have enough cap space to execute a top notch plan in free agency. March 11 may be the start of the new league year, but the Raiders should do most of their work after the initial free agency frenzy is over.




Tags: Oakland Raiders

  • netraider

    DEFENSE. When was the last time a team without a strong defense won in the post season?
    The Raiders will not be competitive in the AFC West without major changes to
    the D. Improving the Offense from a 10-20 ppg group to one capable of 20-30 ppg
    with a Defense that gives up 30+ ppg to Manning, Rivers and Smith does nothing
    except deliver misery to Raider Nation in 2014. We need to address the pass
    rush first.

    QB is not as bad as some are making out. McGloin has shown tremendous potential. He is cool
    in the pocket, goes through his reads and is accurate. He is a rookie who has
    never been through a proper camp. As a fourth string walk-on he did not receive
    much attention. His decision making will improve with good coaching. Play
    calling has put him in risky situations, especially deep at our own end. An
    upgraded OL will also help. He is ACCURATE which is essential. Even on deep
    throws he is better than “+ or – 10 yards” Pryor. He has completed more
    third-and-longs than any QB since Gannon. If fact, many of those conversions
    remind me of Stabler to Fast Freddie or Cliff. Exciting. He lead the NFL in
    plays >25 yards. With McGloin you have a reasonable expectation of a first
    down. With Pryor you wonder if we’ll still be in FG range for 4th down. Pryor has
    too many negative plays. Keep in mind that McGloin’s stats are as good if not
    better than Peyton’s his first year. And Peyton was groomed from the draft,
    through camp and the pre-season to be the starter. The kid has earned an
    opportunity to compete after a complete off-season.

    A risky first round pick is not worth it. QBs are risky picks, just look at the draft
    history. The Raiders have drafted more QBs than any team since 1970 with that
    last keeper being Stabler. Take a DE (or pass rushing OLB) instead. A value mid
    or late round QB pick perhaps. Give McGloin another year and use the off season
    to fill all the other needs, or at least as many as possible. To risk the pick
    and money on a QB and not upgrade around him would be a waste and mean another
    nauseating season.

    To be competitive in the AFC West we must be able to pressure the QB and defend down
    the field. Even if we pick up a great QB and WR we might become a 20 to 30 ppg
    offense. Again, this will not help when if we field a 30 to 40 ppg defense. A
    top defense is a must to win in this league.

    What do we do with Pryor? Serviceable backup with game breaking (and trade) potential. But
    he could be more than that. I would love to see him used situationally as a
    tail back and slot receiver (I assume he can catch). I bet he would be
    effective in sweeps and pitch outs. With his agility and eye for moving holes
    he should be able to take full advantage of the fluid line that these plays
    create. The improvements that he made are impressive. Can he be a back-up QB
    with an active role as a situational, impact player? Defenses will have to plan
    for him in a variety of roles. He could throw from anywhere, even if lined up
    as a RB or receiver. He could make the HB pass a threat on every play. If he
    resists this role change then he is trade bait. The QB swap with the Redskins
    (if the rumor is real) may then be in order.

    The DL must be able to pressure QBs without LB and DB help. I love our aggressive defense
    and like the myriad of blitz packages but the DL must not depend on it. With
    the QBs in the AFC West we need to get pressure on every play. At critical
    times we cannot always expose our secondary to get pressure. Our D Coordinator
    needs more options that will come from a DL that can pressure QBs. Add a top FA
    pass rushing DE (Hardy, Bennett or Allen) and a draft first round DE (Aaron
    Donald). Houston is great against the run but not at the same level against the
    pass. If he returns maybe he should move to the other side. Add FA Orakpo at
    OLB to complete the defensive front.

    Corner Back is another position that needs upgrade to reach the next level. We need a
    starter and depth. Hayden is a bust. He looks lost, chases plays and is a
    horrible tackler. None of that is injury related. When he is on the field
    opposing QBs have a 3rd down sure thing against him. He gave up a big play on a
    very high percentage of his targets. I don’t see him making it in the NFL.
    Draft best available CB in the second round and add a FA starter (Verner).

    A FA WR would be welcome but the draft should first focus on serious need. An impact FA
    WR (Maclin) would be nice if not overpriced. Add a best available WR in the 3rd
    round (or second 2nd round pick if we can move back in the 1st round and still
    get Donald).

    LT, C and hopefully LG are looking good for ’14. The right side of the OL needs high
    impact players. A FA pickup and late round depth would be welcome.

    Much of the same can be said for the Safeties. Mid to late round picks and bargain FAs
    should be considered.

    DMC is history. Even at the veteran minimum he is not worth it. Sheets is a great add.
    Bring back Jennings. These RBs will explode with a healthy and upgraded OL. Do
    not sell the farm for a new RB. Late round pick for a potential gem may be
    appropriate but lower priority than DB and OL.


    Trade down and pick up DT Aaron Donald with Pick 1. With two 2nd round picks (one from
    round 1 trade) take best CB with the first and best WR with the second. Round 3
    take QB Aaron Murray. Round 4 best Safety or OG. With remaining 3 picks take
    best available with priority on OL and DB.

    In FA get 1 top pass rushing DE (Hardy, Bennett or Allen), 1 starting CB (Verner?), and if
    not overpriced, OLB Orakpo. Also look for deals for 1 starting OG and 1 Safety.

    With a little bit of help we have a 20+ ppg Offense. With this Defense we will have a
    shot at competing with the QBs in the AFC West and the post-season. Without a
    focus on D (especially pressuring QBs) reaching the playoffs may be out of
    reach. Defense will change everything. (So will an Offense that is not always
    in 3rd and long.)