Oakland Raiders: What to Expect In Free Agency
Bret Armstrong – Mar 9, 2012After a brief period of almost no news in February, the Oakland Raiders have made a big splash to start off March. First they franchised their starting strong safety, Tyvon Branch. Next they re-worked the contracts of veterans FS/CB Michael Huff, DT/DE Richard Seymour, and QB Carson Palmer.
Back in February the Raiders released a Stanford Routt contract that would've cost them about $49 million over the next four seasons. Friday, they released another CB, Chris Johnson, from a deal that would've cost them $3.5 million. They also parted ways with another Al Davis scolarship in the form of back-up free safety Hiram Eugene. That move saves them another $2.25 million.
Both of those two are prime candidates to become future Patriots or Bengals, as those teams are often the most likely landing spots for axed Raiders.
Presumably the next moves will be to release OLB/DE Kamerion Wimbley and re-sign OLB Aaron Curry to a longer-term deal that lowers his cap number this year. Also in the works could be restructures for DT Tommy Kelly and the potential release/restructure of back-up DT John Henderson.
Two other expected moves will be applying the restricted free agency tags to fullback Marcel Reece and defensive tackle Desmond Bryant.
The Raiders will also be considering working with Branch's agent on a long-term cap friendly deal. I also would not be the least bit surprised to hear that Darren McFadden reworks his contract, although I won't be surprised if he doesn't either.
Regardless of what happens I do know one thing: The Reggie McKenzie era has begun. And with it I'd expect a lot of other things to change as well. Not the least of which is becoming a winning football team.
Following a report that the Raiders top 51 players would cost them $142 million against the cap this season the Raiders wasted no time in getting three of their most impactful players to redo their current contracts and releasing players they deem to be unnecessary for future success. The report was they were about $22 million over the cap.
The deals for Michael Huff and Richard Seymour saved the Raiders $11.82 million. The deal for Carson Palmer added another $9.34 million. The release of Johnson and Eugene bring the Raiders a grand total of $26.918 million.
Now, what confused me about the report was the fact that it said the "top 51 players under contract for the Raiders." The trouble is that they don't have that many players under contract, what with some 20 free agents and the release of three others. There simply aren't 51 players under contract.
So the bottom line here is that the Raiders will have money to spend on free agency when it starts Tuesday at 4PM eastern standard time. And being that they only have maybe 5 late-round picks in April's draft I'd expect them to be very active in attempting to fill the holes in this roster. Because football in the NFL requires that you have a 53-man roster and at this point the Raiders aren't even close.
Obviously, the biggest position of need on this team is cornerback. ESPN reported that the Raiders don't have a single starting caliber cornerback currently on the roster. That was before they released Chris Johnson.
I beg to differ, however, because I think Michael Huff could develop into that role nicely for them. Then again, after Huff, it is totally a toss-up. Will some youngster develop and become a number one or number two guy over the summer? Possibly, but I wouldn't hang my hat on it.
Also worth noting is that you probably aren't going to get a starting corner in the third round (or later) of a rookie draft.
So sometime next week I expect the Raiders to announce the signing of a big-name cornerback. The most obvious choice is New Orleans Saints CB Tracy Porter. The wildcard is Tennessee Titans CB Cortland Finnegan, whom I think is a true Raiders style CB at heart and would fit really well in Dennis Allen's defense.
He's a little small and not the fastest guy but you are going to get a 100 percent in the effort department from Finnegan. Odds are the market won't be particularly high for him considering that he is on the back-end of his career and the Titans acted like they wanted nothing to do with him.
If the Raiders somehow manage to land both Finnegan and Porter, they can afford to leave Michael Huff as the signal caller in the secondary at free safety -- a position he was becoming very comfortable a couple of seasons ago before need forced him into the nickel corner spot and an injury riddled season cost him a ton of playing time.
Imagine a secondary with Huff, Branch, Porter, and Finnegan. ESPN wouldn't have much to badmouth about that. Granted, they would surely find something wrong with it.
Another position of need that is going to become evident at some point in the near future is WLB. With the imminent release of Kamerion Wimbley in the coming weeks I fully expect Aaron Curry to move from WILL to SAM, a spot that is a more natural fit for his skill set.
That means the Raiders are going to need a solid and versatile outside linebacker.
Minnesota Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson is a fantastic option, but he will likely command the highest price at his position if he is made available on the open market. At only 26-years old he has a very bright future.
Another name being floated is Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Manny Lawson. I think that's a side effect of the fact people are familiar with him from his days with the San Francisco 49ers.
The Raiders don't have to make that kind of splash to be successful in this position in 2012.
Denver Broncos back-up weakside linebacker Wesley Woodyard can be a starting OLB for the right team and nobody knows that better than Dennis Allen. The only reason he wasn't starting in Denver is because he was sitting behind the stoutly D.J. Williams.
Under Allen in 2011, he racked up 97 tackles in spite of only starting 7 games.
Not only is Woodyard starting caliber, but he'll come with a low asking price, rave reviews from Allen, and plenty of upside.I don't see him drawing much interest from other teams because he does not have a household name or an impressive NFL rÃ©sumÃ©. Plus, there are more impressive names for free agent linebackers in front of him.
The 26-year old Woodyard earned the nickname "The Lumberjack" because of his blue-collar work ethic. In his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons at Kentucky he racked up a total of 361 tackles as a 229 lb. inside linebacker.
I think making these kind of moves will shore up the defensive side of the ball for the team. It adds to a solid foundation already in place and makes them a playoff caliber defense instantly.
Offensively I'd expect the Raiders to make a move for a back-up quarterback and that is about all. Chad Henne, Derek Anderson, and Kellen Clemens could each potentially fill this type of role while the uncertainty of Terrell Pryor is sorted out.
JUST DON'T BRING BACK KYLE BOLLER!
Making these four moves in free agency will allow the Raiders to scoop up another under-the-radar starting quality talent for their offensive line with their round three compensatory pick. It will also give them leeway to make one of those potentially five draft choices a late-round overlooked running back if it turns out they need to replace Michael Bush.
So this is my ideal free agency agenda for the Raiders. I think combined with what is already in place it gives them solid starting units on both sides of the ball and allows them to use the back nine of the draft for what it is intended for, role players and depth.
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