When it comes to free agency in the NFL, this time of the year is highly anticipated and almost as big as the draft itself.
A lot of us football fans can’t wait to hear that our team has brought in a big--name free agent. We can’t wait to see the picture of him signing his new contract, rocking a new lid adorned with your teams logo on it.
We can’t wait to hear the new team member’s press conference with him answering questions from reporters and telling how he will change the team’s outlook this season.
It must be said that this is also the time that almost every team will grossly overspend on players for various reasons, good or bad.
The best thing to do is to sign your own free agents and then go after free agents that will fill huge needs for your team. Needs that will be difficult to accomplish with a drafted player because will take time for a rookie to develop or due to it being a weak year in terms of prospects for your teams position of need.
So far, the Oakland Raiders have been successful accomplishing that task this offseason.
The Raiders did have some bright spots in the 2007 season that did not translate into winning games. The Raiders are re-building and re-building is as painful as a root-canal and takes time.
It took more than one season to be in this position and will take more than a season to get out of it. The building process starts with several baby steps and small accomplishments that will add up and help build the team for the short and long-term path to success.
Going into Free Agency and the Draft the Raiders’ needs are DT, OT, WR, DE, and RB.
Franchising CB Nnamdi Asomugha was a good move and hopefully the Raiders can sign him to a long-term deal that will keep him in silver and black for the rest of his career. Re-signing RB Justin Fargas was another good move that brings back an integral part of the offense and solidifies the RB position. Fargas, Michael Bush, Adimchinobe Echemandu, and Rashard Lee make up a decent group.
RB Lamont Jordan and Dominique Rhodes are currently still on the roster, but are likely to be traded or released, which will free up at least $9 million in cap space.
Even though the Raiders grossly overpaid DT Tommy Kelly, signing him was a high priority. H is a versatile player that can play DT and DE, and is currently the team’s best DT.
Though Oakland is still thin at the position because they haven’t addressed in a while, it did sign Terdell Sands to a large contract last year after he was being pursed by Kansas City and overspent of him as well.
I feel that Tommy Kelly, who came to the Raiders as an undrafted free agent and sticking, will work his butt off to prove worthy of the deal and hopefully urge Sands to do the same.
They also snagged the best free-agent safety available, as Gibril Wilson is a huge upgrade. He will solidify the defensive secondary for the Raiders; he’s active, aggressive, a hitter, solid tackler, and playmaker near the line of scrimmage versus the run, blitzing, or in coverage.
The Raiders did lose DE Chris Clemons, who registered eight sacks while starting only two games. Clemons parlayed that performance into a five-year deal with the Eagles.
Oakland also, as expected, lost WR Jerry Porter to the Jaguars. So, the Raiders still have a need at WR. The good news is that they didn’t overspend on Bernard Berrian, Donte Stallworth, or Devery Henderson.
Berrian was a free-agent target for the Raiders and other teams, but he was after far more money than the Raiders could afford. Having Berrian would’ve been nice but the free agent wide receivers of 2008 is really nothing special.
There are still a few free agents that are still available that could have a major impact this season and provide a tremendous return on their investment if the Raiders are able to sign them. They are as follows:
1) OLB Calvin Pace — 6-foot-4, 272-pound former first-round pick of the Cardinals in 2003.
Pace made a successful conversion from defensive end to save his career and posted career highs in tackles and sacks. A solid under-the-radar free agent that brings great versatility to a team and would provide the Raiders the ability to consistently rush the passer.
2) WR Bryant Johnson — 6-foot-3, 216-pounder, who was also a former first-round pick of the Cardinals in 2003. A speedster who grew into the No. 3 WR position and made catches for big yards.
3) DE Bobby McCray — 6-foot-6, 261-pound former seventh-round pick of the Jaguars in 2004.
After Reggie Hayward was injured, McCray got the opportunity to play regularly and took full advantage as Jacksonville’s starting left defensive end. He registered 10 sacks in 2006 in a breakout third year in the league.
He is a long, lean defensive end with an athletic build, great height and long arms. McCray is a fine edge pass rusher who is peaking in all areas of his game and should only be getting better.
He has become quite reliable and has worked hard for his success. He is athletic with a fine motor and competes well and has very good straight-line speed and closes well with a burst.
When McCray arrives, he is a powerful jolting tackler. He is an attacking player can chase running plays down from behind. He is a fine pass rusher who shows good power on impact, but really excels at getting low, dipping his shoulder and bending the edge on an offensive tackle's outside shoulder.
4) WR Drew Carter – 6-foot-3, 200-pound former fifth-round pick of the Panthers in 2004.
Carter is a downfield threat and was the No. 2 receiver for the Panthers that 2007’s second-round pick, Dwayne Jarrett, was drafted to replace.