Oakland Raiders Free Agency: Pros and Cons of Every Signing
The Raiders continued their progress while remaining under the radar on Friday when they signed wide receiver Duke Calhoun. Calhoun is a great prospect that can really help the Raiders if he plays well, but won't hurt too bad if he doesn't pan out.
Like Calhoun, many of the Raiders' free agents that they've signed this offseason have that same effect. If they do well, Reggie McKenzie will look like a genius. If they don't, McKenzie won't take that much heat as many of the signings are on one-year deals.
OG Mike Brisiel
McKenzie first brought in Mike Brisiel for a visit, and a few days later, they signed him to a five-year deal worth $20 million. This was truly a great signing, as Brisiel has experience with both offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and offensive line coach Frank Pollack.
Brisiel is a zone-blocking scheme guard and fits perfectly with Knapp's offense. He will come in and be plugged in at right guard right away.
He also is a proven veteran. He played with the Houston offensive line for five years and for the latter part of his career in Houston, the line has been praised as one of the better lines in all of football. The line launched Arian Foster into the top tier of running backs.
Over the past two years, the Texans have had a rushing total of 4490 yards, which is good for near the top of the league. The Texans were 13th-best in sacks allowed in 2011 and 12th-best in 2010.
Brisiel is a good player who has experience playing on a dominant line. He will come in and provide the leadership that has been lacking. He can also become a mentor to the younger players such as Stefen Wisniewski and Jared Veldheer.
There aren't that many negatives in Brisiel's game. He is reliable and consistent. If I had to nitpick, I would say his leg injury is something to keep in mind, but other than that, Brisiel is a great addition.
CB Ron Bartell
Let me tell you all, the signing of Ron Bartell is one of my favorite signings. Ron Bartell is an underrated cornerback who can be really good when needed. Coming off a neck injury, Bartell was released by the Rams. Reggie McKenzie brought him in for a visit and soon gave him a one-year deal for $3 million.
Bartell was the featured cornerback for the Rams for seven years. He has played in 89 games, so he has a lot of experience. That experience will help out this youthful group big time.
He has great measureables as a cornerback, even if he is now 30 years old. He stands at a tall 6'1" and can run with the fastest receivers.
He is a physical corner who can get in a receiver's face and play press coverage if needed. The Raiders' old regime had a history of this type of defense, but with Dennis Allen, it remains to be seen what kind of defense is going to be run. Bartell is versatile enough to play zone, press man-coverage and off man-coverage.
Bartell generally plays very tight to the receiver. He is going to be a great fit with the Raiders.
Neck injuries are always something to be concerned about. However, he has been cleared and good to go. Plus, would Reggie McKenzie really give a contract to a guy who isn't ready to go?
Another thing about Bartell is that he isn't necessarily a ball-hawk. He has only had eight career interceptions and zero in the past three seasons, two excluding his injury season. He is great at defending the ball, however, with 54 career deflections.
CB Shawntae Spencer
Shawntae Spencer is very similar to Bartell. They are both big players who were drafted in the second round. After being cut by the 49ers, defensive coordinator Jason Tarver called out to Spencer and had him brought in for a visit. The Raiders brought him in and gave him an incredibly cheap contract worth under $1 million. For what he's capable of, this deal is a steal!
As mentioned, Spencer has a relationship with the defensive coordinator Jason Tarver. That means Tarver knows what Spencer is good at and what he isn't and play him to his strengths. He won't ask Spencer to do too many things that he struggles with and will really make him shine.
Spencer is a great zone player, but is also a solid man coverage player. That helps Tarver and Allen create schemes where they can disguise defenses and terrorize quarterbacks all day.
Like Bartell, Spencer has a lot of experience and can also be a leader to DeMarcus Van Dyke and Chimdi Chekwa. He has started 72 career games and played in 98.
There are not many cons that I can see with Spencer's game. I tend to watch a lot of 49ers games because their games are always playing in the Bay Area. I've always been a fan of Spencer and I'm glad he's a Raider now.
That being said, Spencer isn't as physical as Bartell. He isn't an "in-your-face" type of cornerback and gives a lot of cushion. However, he doesn't allow all that many deep passes with this style of play and that could be looked at as a positive.
Spencer isn't a big factor in the run game either. He isn't the attacking type, but more of the "sit-back-and-wait" kind of player.
CB Patrick Lee
The signing of Patrick Lee surprised me at first. The Raiders had already signed Spencer and Bartell to help the development of Van Dyke and Chekwa. Like Bartell and Spencer, Lee is a big player who is versatile in what defensive schemes he can play.
Lee was brought into Oakland by McKenzie, the man who drafted him in 2008. McKenzie and Lee must have a similar relationship to that of Spencer and Tarver. McKenzie knows what Lee can do as he's seen it first hand and has likely told the coaching staff everything he knows about Lee's game.
Lee has a lot of potential. He has good size at 6'0" and weighs just under 200 lbs. He is a physical cornerback, but has not been given the opportunity to play as much in Green Bay.
On special teams, Lee has the ability to make an impact. He has a past of returning kickoffs in college, but is also a good defender. He recorded 12 tackles on special teams last season, which is important after the Raiders lost Rock Cartwright and Hiram Eugene.
Because Lee hardly got on the field, no one really knows how well he can cover. With a very small sample size, Lee has only 18 tackles and one pass deflection in the games he's played.
Expect Lee to battle it out with the two young cornerbacks.
LB Philip Wheeler
With the release of Kamerion Wimbley, the Raiders had yet another hole they were forced to fill. Reggie McKenzie went out and looked for a veteran player who can come in and play immediately, much like the other players he signed. He found his man in Philip Wheeler, formerly of the Colts.
Wheeler is a better overall linebacker than Wimbley. He is better pass defense, better in run defense and a better tackler.
Wheeler's best game is his run defense. He is good at finding the ball carrier and moves quickly. Pro Football Focus graded him as the fifth-best free agent outside linebacker.
As a pass defender, Wheeler isn't great, but he can get the job done. Usually, Wheeler will come off the field on passing downs.
Wheeler's contract can be considered as a pro as well. Reggie McKenzie signed Wheeler to a one-year deal for $700,000, which is remarkably low for a starting outside linebacker.
Wheeler was considered a pass-rushing specialist in college, but he has been nearly invisible as a pass rusher in the NFL. After getting 18.5 sacks in college, Wheeler had just two sacks with the Colts.
Also, he is on the smaller side as a linebacker. He only weighs 240 lbs, which is not bad, but he has trouble going up against the bigger linemen and can be ineffective at times.
DE Dave Tollefson
With every starting spot essentially filled, the Raiders went out and signed Tollefson to provide depth. A Bay Area native, Reggie fulfilled Tollefson's wishes and brought him home for a two-year deal worth $2.5 million.
The first thing I think of when it comes to Tollefson is that he is incredibly hard working. You always hear of those stories of players who struggled to find their way onto the roster and eventually, make some sort of impact. Tollefson has that kind of story.
A seventh-round pick of the Packers, Tollefson went from the practice squad to NFL Europa to two-time Super Bowl-winner with the Giants.
That hard work is admirable, but it shows that he is determined. He finally got things together in 2011 and showed off his determination by getting to the quarterback five times as a rotational pass rusher.
The big negative in Tollefson's game is his run defense. He is mediocre at best, and downright bad at other times. The Raiders were ridiculed this entire season because of their run defense and signing a defensive end who can't defend the run isn't helping.
TE Andre Hardy
Andre Hardy was signed as a developmental basketball-player-turned-tight-end. Obviously, there are many things we can't predict with him.
Hardy has good size for an NFL tight end. He is 6'5" and weights 250 lbs. Like Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham, Hardy played as a power forward. That means he has the ability to get up and use those strong hands to pluck the ball out of traffic.
Hardy also has football in the genes. His father played in the NFL for three seasons as a running back. That means he has been around the game. His father can also become a part in his development from basketball to football.
Obviously, Hardy has little to no experience in football. However, he was not signed to a significant contract and if he fails, it won't hurt too bad.
WR Duke Calhoun
This is a signing that I also really like. He is a tall receiver who has good hands. He has a good shot of making the team as the team's fifth receiver behind Denarius Moore, Darius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford and Louis Murphy.
Calhoun has good size. He's listed at 6'4" on some sources, and 6'2" on others. Either way, Calhoun is a big receiver.
He is a hard-working player who got on the Giants as an undrafted free agent. If it wasn't for a hamstring injury, it's likely that Calhoun would have remained on the team.
In college, Calhoun had 2981 career receiving yards and 19 touchdowns. He is capable of the big plays, as seen in this preseason game against the Patriots. At his pro day, Calhoun ran a 4.49 40-yard dash.
There is not that much game tape on Calhoun, so it's hard to get a clear idea on what he can do. He is fast, however, as you can see in that video posted above.
At 6'2", he is not as physical as I had hoped, but he has the potential to become the player Chaz Schilens wasn't.
He also did not play the entire 2011 season, so he may be a little rusty.
The Raiders have a lot of work to do, but they have gotten off to a good start. Under the new regime, the Raiders have had signed a lot of quality players to great deals that helps them in the future.
Tell me what you think, Raider Nation. How has Reggie McKenzie done so far? Which signing is your favorite?