2012 NFL Free Agents: 5 Players Oakland Raiders Must Target
With the secondary and the offensive line as the main priorities, let's examine a few affordable offseason targets that the Raiders should have their eye on when free agency hits...
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In a previous article, I highlighted reasons as to why offensive guard was a pressing offseason issue the Raiders needed to resolve. The days of current right guard Cooper Carlisle are numbered and upgrading at this position is imperative to Oakland's success moving forward.
Evan Mathis, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles, is an ideal fit to fill this need. Mathis has bounced around between a few different clubs and will be looking for a long-term home in the offseason.
He played left guard for the Eagles for much of 2011, but has the versatility to slide over and play on the right side as well.
Mathis prides himself on his run-blocking ability, which is good news for the run-oriented Raiders. Last year Mathis helped LeSean McCoy have a breakout year and it is expected he could do the same for Darren McFadden and Michael Bush in Oakland.
The price tag on Mathis shouldn't be too staggering and the Raiders would certainly love the possibility of adding experience and proven skills to their offensive line at a relatively inexpensive price.
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The Raiders are rumored to be switching to a 3-4 scheme and the need to add a pass-rushing outside linebacker becomes imminent.
Look no further than Mario Williams.
If the Raiders is going to make a successful transition to a new defensive system, it's important that they are properly equipped with the right personnel. Adding Williams would make the adjustment much easier.
Unfortunately for Oakland, Williams is set to be one of the most sought-after free agents of the 2012 class and he likely wouldn't come at a cheap price.
However, the Raiders are in need of a pass-rush specialist and landing Williams would do wonders for Oakland in 2012 and beyond.
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Last season the Raiders came close to having Gaither in the silver and black, but instead erred on the side of caution due to his injuries and signed Khalif Barnes instead.
Barnes had a respectable showing in 2011, but is now an unrestricted free agent and his future in Oakland is in question.
Gaither performed well in his limited time with San Diego last year, starting only five games for the Chargers. Now that his health issues have been cleared up and Gaither proved he can play, the Raiders should be interested in the big tackle yet again.
Gaither is only 25 years old and seemingly still has his best years ahead of him assuming he continues to develop into his big frame.
Due to his injury history, teams may be scared off by the thought of pursuing Gaither, which means his price tag will likely stay low.
If Barnes leaves, the Raiders will need to bring in a big body to replace him. Jared Gaither could be their man.
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Cornerback is arguably the Raiders' biggest position of need heading into the 2012 offseason. As reported by ESPN's Bill Williamson, Oakland may have interest in signing the New Orleans Saints' Tracy Porter.
Porter could be a solid option for Oakland seeing as there is a tie between him and new head coach Dennis Allen. Allen was the defensive backs coach in New Orleans from 2008-2010 and coached Porter to the best years of his career up until this point.
The cornerback class this year is fairly deep, with names like Ben Grimes, Carlos Rogers, and Cortland Finnegan atop the charts, which means Porter will likely fly somewhat under the radar and could come relatively cheap.
Another intriguing option is New York Giants free-agent cornerback Terrell Thomas who is currently rehabbing from an ACL tear. But recent developments have him returning to New York and the Raiders may be hesitant to take a player fresh off an injury at such a crucial position.
The familiarity Porter has with Allen should go a long way in the Raiders pursuit of Porter. If all goes well, Oakland will have a proven cornerback to help shore up the secondary.
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The only member of this list that played for the Raiders last season, Branch enters the offseason as an unrestricted free agent. Re-signing him should be a top priority for Oakland.
Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times mentioned the Raiders have significant interest in bringing back Branch for another year and for good reason.
A alternate for the Pro Bowl in 2011, Branch led the team in tackles with 109 and was a lone bright spot on a secondary that struggled for much of the year.
Re-signing Branch would allow for some continuity on the defensive side of the ball. Branch has proved his worth with his run defense and tackling abilities and although his coverage skills can be shaky at times, he has shown enough in that department to warrant another contract.
The defensive-minded Allen will be looking to shore up that side of the ball as much as possible, and bringing back Branch could be an inexpensive yet effective signing.