An aggressive approach by the Oakland Raiders in NFL free agency may have put them in the playoff picture. Could they pull an encore in 2015?
Mikel Leshoure – RB
Experimenting with veterans will be the subtitle to what the Raiders are doing in 2014. The large portion of their backfield is made up of Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew, two players with a number of question marks surrounding them either due to health or age concerns. The hope is that together they can form a stable enough running game to keep the team balanced. However, recent history bets against that happening. Mikel Leshoure meanwhile is 24-years old but could be two years younger. Despite being drafted by Detroit in the 2nd round, he hasn’t seen significant playing time since 2012 when he put up over 1,000 total yards and nine touchdowns. He has talent, but is not a good fit with the Lions. Perhaps Oakland would be a different story.
Kyle Rudolph – TE
Tight end is the position that is changing offenses in the league and they are being rewarded accordingly in NFL free agency. Thus far the Oakland Raiders are behind the curve on that trend, having failed to field a legitimate threat at the position for years. The 2015 free agent class may be a perfect time to find one. A good target for them is Kyle Rudolph. The Notre Dame alum has quietly been an underrated pass catcher in Minnesota for three seasons. Most of his limited stats are due to his playing in a run-first offense. Such could be the reason he decides to leave, and the Raiders could be waiting.
Cliff Avril – DE
The Seattle Seahawks got immediate results from their investment in Cliff Avril by winning a champion, much of it thanks to his ability to rush the passer. Oakland seems to have a desire for stockpiling such players as evidenced by their signings of Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley. The problem with those two is they are well into their 30s. Avril will be 29 next April. He would make a much better long-term investment to team with Khalil Mack over Tuck and Woodley who are dangerously nearing a point where they won’t be able to function as starters anymore.
Devin McCourty – FS
The same can be said for Charles Woodson. At age 37 he is still a presence in the secondary for the Oakland Raiders but his time draws near. No one can say for sure if 2014 is his last run but the danger is there. If the team isn’t keen on replacing him with a rookie, then they could make a run at Devin McCourty. The Patriots defensive back was a corner early in his career but really began to find his place when he switched to safety. A superstar he is not, but at age 26 he is stable, dependable and can make plays