Oakland Raiders Rumors: Top Needs Team Must Address During Free Agency
Now they have decided to go in an entirely new direction with Reggie McKenzie as the man running the front office.
Unfortunately for him, Oakland doesn't have a selection in the first four rounds of the 2012 NFL draft and are in a vicarious salary cap situation.
He is going to have to get creative right off the bat in order for the Raiders to improve from an eight-win 2011 season and become the favorites to capture the AFC West Championship next season.
This article is going to focus on what McKenzie and the Raiders must do in free agency in order to improve during the the offseason.
Continue to Trim the Fat from Their Roster
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Kamerion Wimbley is set to count $11 million against the cap in 2012, but this is completely out of whack with his production over the course of the last two seasons. There are reports that the Oakland Raiders have presented the linebacker with an opportunity to either restructure his contract or get released.
This makes perfect sense as they are not going to pay him an annual salary that equates to well over $ million per sack. Releasing Wimbley would save the Raiders about $4.5 million against the cap in 2012.
Carson Palmer has already agreed to restructure his contract, saving the Raiders another $9 million against the cap.
These type of deals need to continue in order for Oakland to get under the cap and be able to make some noise in the free agent market.
Replace Michael Bush with a Cheaper Alternative at Running Back
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As much as the Oakland Raiders would like to retain the services of Michael Bush, who performed great in replacement of Darren McFadden for the majority of the 2011 season, it just doesn't make sense.
After all, he is going to probably demand top-five running back money.
Taiwan Jones has potential as a scat-back, but isn't someone you can rely on consistently. Darren McFadden's injury concerns make it a necessity for Oakland to get a player that can come in and carry the load if need be.
The good news is that there are a few different cheaper options out there in the free agent market.
Ryan Grant has probably played his final game with the Green Bay Packers. While he has regressed as a running back over the course of the last two seasons, Grant would be an ideal fit behind McFadden in Oakland.
Brandon Jacobs was set free by the New York Giants on Friday, giving teams that need another running back more options on the free agent market. He would be the inside runner that fits well as a complementary guy in Oakland.
Other options include Cedric Benson, Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams. With that said, the best fit would seem to be Grant or Jacobs.
Get a Right Tackle
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Jared Veldheer had a breakout season for the Oakland Raiders in 2011, solidifying their left tackle position for years to come.
The same cannot be said for the right side of the line. While Khalif Barnes has been serviceable, he is by no means the long-term answer. Barnes is also set to become a free agent next week.
This means that they need to find a stop-gap at the very least. Oakland isn't in position to pay top dollar in free agency at this position, so they need to get creative.
Kareem McKenzie has been a solid right tackle for the last decade or so with the New York Giants, but he appears to be on his way out of town.
This would solidify the right tackle position for the next year or two, at which point the Raiders will have their full load of draft picks.
Solidfy the Interior of the Offensive Line
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Stefen Wisniewski had a rather good rookie season for the Oakland Raiders despite being inconsistent at times. Now, they have to decide what to do with the talented player.
Oakland could move the former second-round pick to center in order to upgrade from Samson Satele, who is set to become a free agent.
If the Raiders decide to do this, they would have to find another guard in free agency. If not, they would have to either retain Satele or find another center.
The good news is that there are a lot of options here.
I personally believe that Wisniewski can be the long-term solution at guard, which leaves me to believe they should look to the center position.
Scott Wells (Green Bay Packers) and Todd McClure (Atlanta Falcons) would both be upgrades over Satele at center.
If Oakland decided to move Wisniewski inside, a player like Evan Mathis would seem to be a great fit.
Get a True No. 1 Corner
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This is where being creative doesn't necessarily work. You either have the money to spend on a top-of-the-line corner, or you don't.
The Raiders are going to make this a priority in the offseason and in free agency. In short, they need to get that true No. 1 corner.
While players like Chris Johnson and Chimdi Chekwa project to be really good complementary corners, they are not the answer to the Raiders' needs here.
Instead, Oakland needs to dole out the cash and get a shutdown man to take away the outside.
The ideal scenario would be to pluck Brandon Carr from the rival Kansas City Chiefs. It is going to take an investment of five or six seasons at between $11 million to $12 million per, but would be well worth it for Oakland.