The Oakland Raiders had themselves a lottery ticket heading into free agency, as they had roughly $60 million to spend in cap space. The Raiders have needs at nearly every position on the field, which gives them the freedom to just add solid players to the roster. They necessarily do not want to build a team through free agency, much like the disaster of the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles’ “Dream Team,” but adding key impact players could speed up the time to being a successful team.
The Raiders have been able to add several players with championship pedigrees and few others with impressive individual honors. Most of the players seem to be starting the down slope of their careers, but they should provide the Raiders were solid production and a veteran presence the team has not had in a while. Which of the Raiders’ recent free agent signings will end up being the most productive?
It comes down to three players, two on offense and one on defense. Offensively, quarterback Matt Schaub and running back Maurice Jones-Drew will have the biggest impact. On the defense, defensive end LaMarr Woodley and defensive back Tarrell Brown should provide the most production.
Schaub is a solid veteran quarterback that should have at least several more productive seasons in front of him, if he stays healthy. Granted, he had a horrible 2013 season, but he is just a year removed from a 4,000 plus yards and 20 plus touchdowns season. When healthy, Schaub has been one of the most consistent and productive quarterbacks in the NFL.
Schaub comes from an offense that favors running the ball first and using play-action to open up the passing game, which is what the Raiders attempt to do in the offensive scheme. He should also help to keep defenses honest on the back-end of the defense, which should open up the running game by not allowing defense to stack a safety in the box.
Speaking of the running game, Jones-Drew gives them another player that is a solid and consistent performer. Jones-Drew appears to be much further down his career slope than Schaub, but Jones-Drew has a skill set that should prolong his career, as he can run with power in between tackles. He has seen his speed sapped by various leg injuries late in his career, as he is no longer the game breaker that he once was.
At the very least, he becomes a high profile insurance policy for the oft-injured Darren McFadden. At best, he challenges McFadden for the starting running back position and is the all-purpose threat that he has shown through out his career.
Defensively, everyone wants to point to Justin Tuck, but Woodley could end up being the best addition to the defensive line. Despite Tuck’s sack numbers, he is better run defender than a pass rusher right now in his career. While, Woodley has been one of the more productive pass rushers. Woodley’s sack numbers have dropped over the last three season, but that is mainly due to him being unable to stay healthy.
Woodley is a pure pass rusher that disrupts the pockets consistently. When he is on his game, he can live in the opposing backfield. Tuck will probably have better sack totals than Woodley, but Woodley will be the more dangerous player that draws the double teams.
If Woodley can become a pass rushing force, then it will help out all the others in the front-seven. If the Raiders coaches want to blitz more aggressively, then Woodley drawing double teams will open up rush lanes. An improved pass rush would have a positive impact on the secondary, as well.
Ultimately, Woodley is the favorite to be the most productive player of the bunch. He possesses the best physical tools and he is young enough to be in the midst of his physical prime. The is all comes with a disclaimer, as the Raiders are heavily tied to free agent wide receiver Desean Jackson. If the Raiders are able to ink the explosive play-maker, then he immediately just to the top of the list of the best free agent signing.