The countdown to the opening of the free-agent market has become so highly anticipated in the last couple weeks, it almost deems that epic music be blared over the sports world airwaves the second the market opens at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday.
An actual epic song—not The Final Countdown. That song’s obnoxious.
It would have to be a super fast and aggressive tune, probably a speed metal track. It would be a song that symbolizes the insane vibe fueled by media frenzy and the unanswered questions of which players will stay and which are off to new teams.
And the Oakland Raiders, with all the offseason changes that have already occurred, are certainly no strangers to that crazy vibe.
With new managerial and coaching staff, the insane burden of the salary cap, the last-minute release of players and the reconfiguration of contracts, it might seem like anything could happen to the Silver and Black and all its players in the months that to come.
Here’s a look at some potential signings, rumors and storylines that could become reality after the opening of the free-agent market:
4/12: ProFootballTalk is reporting that the Raiders have signed former College Basketball player Andre Hardy as a possible TE.
4/7: Adam Schefter of ESPN is reporting the Raiders have signed DE Dave Tollefson.
Update: Evan Silva of ProFootballTalk.com reports that the Raiders have released guard Cooper Carlisle and defensive tackle John Henderson. This move reportedly clears $7 million of salary.
The NFL has set the 2012 salary cap at $120.6 millions. A figure that all 32 teams need to be under by the opening of the free-agent market.
The heads of the Raider franchise have been working vigorously to “trim back the fat” in an effort to make cap room when the free-agency market opens up Tuesday afternoon. And according to CSNBayArea.com’s Paul Gutierrez, the Raiders were still $1,196,234 million over the cap,” as reported Monday morning.
Oakland has already made changes to a handful of players’ contracts in order to come closer to “cap compliance.” Quarterback Carson Palmer and defensive linemen Richard Seymour, Michael Huff and Aaron Curry all restructured their contracts last week in efforts to get the team under the cap. ESPN’s Adam Shefter reports that Palmer’s contract alone will save the Raids around $9 million against next season's cap.
NFL.com and Yahoo! Sports confirm that Oakland also released cornerback Chris Johnson and safety Hiram Eugene on Friday as part of the attempt to cut costs and stay under 2012 cap. Letting Johnson and Eugene go will reportedly “save Oakland $6 million against the cap.”
And while the release of Johnson and Eugene was somewhat expected, Oakland’s Monday release of tight end Kevin Boss was not. Boss’s release trims about $2.5 million off the Raiders’ cap.
3/20: Adam Caplan is reporting that the Titans have signed Kamerion Wimbley a 5-year, $35 million dollar deal.
3/16: ProFootballTalk is reporting that the Raiders will release Kamerion Wimbley today.
It was announced Monday night by NFL Network's Jason LaConfora that the Raiders are expected to release Kamerion Wimbley today, just in time for him to hit the free-agent market.
There had previously been talk of a potential restructure of Kamerion Wimbley’s contract, and Wimbley himself said that he was open to negotiations so he could stay in Oakland.
But in efforts to get even further under the cap, the Raiders would expect him to not just restructure his contract, but take a significant pay cut. Wimbley’s agent Joe Linta told InsideBayArea.com Sunday that talks between Wimbley and the Raiders have ceased.
As part of Wimbley’s current contract, he would have been due $17.5 million guaranteed on March 17th.
Releasing Wimbley won’t only free up cap space—although not much—but also create more holes-to-be-filled in the Raiders defense.
3/21: Jason La Canfora of NFL.com is reporting that the Raiders have signed DB Patrick Lee to a 1 year contract.
3/19: Adam Schefter of ESPN is reporting the Raiders have signed CB Shawntae Spencer.
With Stanford Routt gone off to the Kansas City Chiefs, and Johnson newly released, official—and unofficial—Raider blogs are buzzing with ideas of potential new corners who could be scooped up from the free-agent market.
A couple free agents who could end up wearing a Raider jersey:
- Tracy Porter: The 26-year-old New Orleans Saint is a heavy favorite to be picked up by the Silver and Black in the free-agent market. He already has experience playing under Raiders HC Dennis Allen, who SFGate.com Raider guru Vittorio Tafur points out “Allen is big on familiarity.”
- Jonathan Wilhite: Another acquaintance of Coach Allen’s, the 28-year-old product of the Denver Broncos had 28 total tackles and one interception last season. And—as SilverAndBlackPride.com points out, that interception was against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, GM Reggie McKenzie’s former team.
The exits of Routt and Johnson leave the Raiders with a defensive line that needs to be filled up. They might be set at defensive tackle with Seymour having just reconstructed his contract, but Oakland is still in need of a linebacker or two.
As much as Raider fan polls are showing how excited they would be if Mario Williams landed in Oakland, it isn’t too likely that the former Houston Texan will be sporting a Raider jersey.
Here's a look at some potential defenders who could end up in Oakland this season:
- Joe Mays: Another player out of Denver who worked with Coach Allen, Mays had 75 tackles in the 2011 season alone.
- Jameel McClain: On a stacked Ravens defense consisting of Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, the four-year inside linebacker had 84 total sacks last season with the Baltimore Ravens, as well as 50 unassisted tackles.
- Wesley Woodyard: Yet another Denver Bronco product. Woodyard might have only started 15 starts in four seasons but has 97 tackles and three forced fumbles for 2011 alone.
It’s sad to think, after such a solid season with the Silver and Black, that Michael Bush might be on his way to another team.
And it’s nice to think that—had Oakland had the dough—they might have slapped him with the franchise tag.
But Oakland put the money into franchising safety Tyvon Branch, and free-agent running back Bush will certainly be offered more money from teams that aren’t so strapped by their salary caps.
Hopefully, the Raiders will still try to make Bush an offer, but the closer we get to the opening of the market, the more inevitable his departure becomes.
Here’s a look at a couple potential running backs that the Raiders could pick up:
- Mike Tolbert: The loss of Tolbert for the San Diego Chargers could be a gain for Oakland should they pick him up. Tolbert is described as “close to Bush’s skill set,” making him a positive addition to the Raiders offense.
- Brandon Jacobs: Pending his release from the New York Giants last week, it was reported that Jacobs was only seeking $2 million a year. The 29-year-old back is not only a talented prospect—he had 571 rushing yards and seven touchdowns last season—but he would be an economical pick-up at that. And although Jacobs has hinted that he would go to the New York Jets so he “wouldn’t have to relocate,” his skill set might not be much of a complement to the unstable team.
The departure of tight end Kevin Boss is just another reminder of Oakland’s growing wish list of offensive players.
Here are a couple offensive free agents who could potentially benefit the Silver and Black:
- Scott Wells, center: A familiar face for Reggie McKenzie, Wells was drafted to the Green Bay Packers in 2004. He started the past six seasons in Green Bay, including Superbowl XLV and a Pro Bowl appearance 2011 season.
- Anthony Collins, offensive tackle: Should Oakland choose that last year’s fourth-round draft pick Joseph Barksdale isn’t quite ready to be a starter, Collins would be a good fit at right tackle opposite left tackle Jared Veldheer. Collins didn’t get much playing time in Cincinnati, but “allowed only three pressures” in “four complete games,” as noted by ProFootballFocus.com.