Oakland Raiders: The Potential of Defensive Personnel
Bret Armstrong – Feb 11, 2012Fewer things are harder to predict this year than the upcoming moves of new Oakland Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie in his efforts to bring new and existing talent together.
The first player move of the year was to release Stanford Routt one year after signing a 5-year $54.5 million contract. It is a move that Adam Schefter reports will actually cost the Raiders money against their salary cap to the tune of $2.2 million.
Whilst McKenzie is willing to make bold moves such as this, you have to figure he will go out on a limb to try to save the club some money as well. Thus the inconclusive reports that some other big names in Raiders uniforms are in trouble of being axed.
Pending a potential move to a 3-4 defense in 2011, the two interior lineman come to mind as movable pieces for this franchise. Head Coach Dennis Allen has been cited to say it doesn't matter what type of front they run, the biggest key is to put players in the right places to have success.
Then they went and hired a primarily 3-4 defensive coordinator and a linebackers coach that has had considerable success with coaching up linebackers such as former AP Defensive Rookies of the Year, DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing.
It's also worth noting that GM Reggie McKenzie played in the 3-4 during his time as a Raiders linebacker.
And the personnel is certainly more capable than some clubs that have made the switch in the past. Lamarr Houston and Matt Shaughnessy could both seemingly transition into 3-4 defensive ends quite readily given their size and athleticism.
Houston also has the potential to move inside in a four-man front such as nickel or dime packages. Keeping free agent Desmond Bryant would give the Raiders a decent back-up for interior and exterior play as well.
Rolando McClain found more than enough success as a 3-4 interior linebacker during his college days at Alabama and recently acquired linebacker Aaron Curry may be a suitable co-quarterback on the interior with McClain.
In addition, Trevor Scott and Kamerion Wimbley are both suitable characters to play that rush linebacker position popularized by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison.
What the Raiders will need is a nose tackle. And a really good one is about to hit the open market this year. He goes by the name of Paul Soliai. Soliai formerly anchored the middle of the Dolphins defensive front, but that unit has already declared they will switch to a 4-3 this season.
Not only is Soliai a perfect fit for the nose tackle in Oakland, but the fact that the Fish are making a conversion might make them the perfect landing spot in a trade for one of the best 4-3 interior packages in football, Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly.
Odds are that in a trade individually, the two would not garner that much consideration, but to get them as a package deal rather cheap for a team converting their defense might be too good to pass up.
Albeit most likely the Raiders would not get a high-end draft pick, but I could see this move netting a few decent choices, perhaps a third, fourth, and fifth or perhaps even a second rounder in there somewhere.
Another potential landing spot for the two is in Buffalo, where the Bills have also announced a conversion to the 4-3 from the 3-4. In addition, the Bills currently have two fourth round draft choices to work with.
Both teams will also have some 3-4 scheme players that will be on the block.
Alas, all of this depends on what direction the Raiders want to move in. But being able to sign a stud nose tackle in addition to trading for more draft choices all while getting rid of some cap space with Seymour and Kelly seems to make a whole world of sense on the surface.
Another move the Raiders are rumored to be counting on is the retention of unrestricted free agent strong safety TyvonÂ Branch. Rumor has is the Raiders will do everything in their power to keep the fifth year player that has averaged 112 tackles in three seasons as their starter.
While the Raiders are maneuvering to re-sign Branch long-term, they have not ruled out the possibility of handing him the franchise tag that would cost them just north of $6 million this season.
Branch will likely be a featured player in Allen's new scheme and should be considered an upgrade for Allen over the Denver Broncos wile veteran Brian Dawkins given his age and potential.
Also be on the lookout for New Orleans Saints unrestricted free agent cornerback Tracy Porter. Porter is a legit starting NFL corner that could come cheaper than some others and he is just 26-years old. Allen coached Porter during his time as the secondary coach in New Orleans when the Saints won the Super Bowl.
Additionally, the Saints are going to be too tied up with other free agents such as quarterback Drew Brees, wide receiver Marques Colston, and guard Carl Nicks to concern themselves with Porter right away.
Another guy the Raiders will look at is Kansas City cornerback Brandon Carr. Carr will come at a higher price, but the Raiders would have to solid cornerbacks with the additions of Carr and Porter, both of whom are ranked higher (2 &Â 7) than Stanford Routt (9) on the Walterfootball.com CB listings.
That said, the Chiefs are reported to be one of the teams showing interest in Routt. The rumor mill suggests that the cause for the Routt observation is to drive down the asking price of Carr once he starts negotiating a new deal. This has all the makings of a backfire in the face of the Chiefs and a potential gain for the Raiders.
If the Raiders can deal Seymour and Kelly, while re-signing Branch and bringing in Porter, Carr, and Soliai, all that they have left to do is grab a back-up nose tackle like Casey Hampton and get themselves a decent outside coverage linebacker either thru the draft or free agency.
All told this unit has all the makings of a convertible and multiple defense.
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