Pros and Cons of Raiders' Possible Free-Agent Targets
The Oakland Raiders are staying quiet about their interest in potential free agents, but that hasn't kept a few players from expressing a desire to play for them.
Given the Raiders' salary cap situation, the first order of business will be signing franchise player Tyvon Branch to a long-term deal.
There have been no shortage of rumored targets—mostly veterans looking for a team that gives them the most opportunity. The Raiders are an attractive option to those veterans because the new regime in Oakland will be evaluating every position, and few jobs are safe.
At this stage of free agency, just about every player left on the market comes with his own set of pros and cons. The Raiders have to weigh the pros and cons to determine if a player is worth bringing in and at what cost.
The challenge for any organization is seeing if a player's cons can be disguised by scheme, addressed with a life coach or corrected entirely with teaching. It's all part of putting the player in the best position to make a play and is something we will examine for every rumored free-agent target.
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He's not technically a free agent, but Mike Jenkins reportedly wants out of Dallas and will skip organized team activities, according to ESPNDallas.com. He wants a trade, but the Cowboys are reluctant to move him without getting something substantial in return.
The sports world was fooled on Tuesday when a Twitter parody of ESPN's Adam Schefter along with a fake Jenkins Twitter account announced he had been traded to the Raiders, via NFL.com.
Although the report was totally false, it did bring up the issue. Are the Raiders deep enough at the cornerback position?
Sophomore cornerbacks Chimdi Chekwa and DeMarcus Van Dyke are currently third and fourth on the depth chart, respectively, and are unproven at the NFL level. Projected starters Shawntae Spencer and Ronald Bartell are coming off of injuries and were signed to one-year contracts.
Do the Raiders look to add one more veteran cornerback?
The Cowboys drafted Morris Claiborne and signed Brandon Carr to a big contract, pushing Jenkins down the depth chart, and that's probably why he wants out.
The Raiders would have to push either Spencer or Bartell to the third cornerback spot, something both will probably be reluctant to do.
Pros: Flexibility, and at the cornerback position.
Cons: Cost to acquire. Contract is up at the end of 2012.
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Although he keeps himself in great physical condition, the 38-year-old Terrell Owens can't find a home after missing all of the 2011 season.
Owens worked out with Carson Palmer and the Raiders' receivers in the offseason and believes he still has something left in the tank. Owens said in a recent interview on 95.7 The Game that he wants to play for the 49ers or Raiders.
There is little precedent for a 38-year-old receiver to produce at at a high level. Cris Carter's final year was at age 37. Tim Brown's final season was at age 38, but he only caught 24 passes. Jerry Rice is practically the only example of a player producing past this age, adding nearly 4,500 yards to his totals after the age of 38.
Owens probably can contribute at his age, but there will be questions about whether he is any better than the lot of receivers the Raiders already have.
Pros: Great example for the younger receivers, might still have something left in the tank., familiarity with Carson Palmer and Greg Knapp.
Cons: Would take away snaps from developing receivers. Antics of the past can never be totally erased.
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The Raiders aren't in need of a wide receiver, but it's never a bad idea to have one in mind should injuries start to deplete a talent-rich position.
Given the Raiders' lack of need, Plaxico Burress is simply not a good option. A more logical choice as an injury replacement would be Terrell Owens because of his familiarity with Palmer and Knapp.
Owens would also probably cost less than Burress.
The only real advantage that Burress has over Owens is that he isn't as old. Burress will be 35 when the season starts.
Pros: More left in tank than Owens and a full year of football activities since getting out of jail.
Cons: Not as familiar with the Raiders as other possible options, and signing would take away snaps from younger receivers.
As an injury replacement option, Burress should be second choice.
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ESPN's John Clayton reported on NFL Live that Cedric Benson was hoping to catch on with the Raiders and be the replacement for Michael Bush (h/t NFL Trade Rumors).
Unfortunately for Benson, the Raiders have already addressed the backup running back situation by trading offensive tackle Bruce Campbell for running back Mike Goodson.
Benson isn't likely to end up back in Cincinnati and will probably look to catch on with a team that suffers an injury to its lead back before the season begins.
Pros: Some miles left on the tires, but not a lot of miles, as Benson turns 30 this year.
Cons: Character is a major question, and the Raiders are looking for high-character players. The Raiders already have the three running backs they need.
Unless the Raiders suffer a major injury during the preseason, don't expect them to call Benson.
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If the Raiders find themselves in need of that injury replacement, the best option available is probably Ryan Grant.
Like Benson, Grant will turn 30 during the season, but Grant has fewer miles on his tires, having only started for a full season three times in his career.
Grant is familiar with both Reggie McKenzie and the blocking scheme. There are also no character concerns with Grant, and he might actually be cheaper to sign than Benson.
The Raiders are hoping they don't have to shop for an injury replacement at running back, but Darren McFadden and Taiwan Jones have histories of injury going back to college.
Pros: Good character and fewer miles than Benson. Familiar with blocking scheme and McKenzie.
Cons: Recent injury and a lack of recent production.
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The Raiders are going to find out what they have at tight end in David Ausberry, Brandon Myers and Richard Gordon.
Ausberry is certainly worth a long look, and Myers got most of the playing time behind Kevin Boss last season. Gordon is a blocking tight end that shouldn't be expected to do much more.
At some point, the Raiders will have to decide if they have a tight end on the roster they are willing to trust all season, or if they want to go with a committee of tight ends, each with his own specific role.
If the Raiders decide that a committee is not the best option, there are a couple of free agents that could help at the position.
Visanthe Shiancoe is a proven tight end and consistent receiver. Since arriving in Minnesota, Shiancoe has averaged 42 receptions for 485 yards and five touchdowns.
Pros: Proven receiver at tight end.
Cons: Not much of a blocker and will be 32 for all of the 2012 season.
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Another option at tight end is the much maligned Jeremy Shockey.
Shockey has never played a full 16-game season, but he's put up impressive numbers throughout his career.
Despite declining numbers, largely due to the number of games played, Shockey is still good for at least 40 receptions, 400 yards and four touchdowns with the potential for more if he can stay healthy for a full season.
Pros: Most talented receiving option available in free agency at the tight end position. Also a good blocker, but it's not something he loves to do.
Cons: Has a reputation for being difficult to deal with, although that reputation has cooled somewhat in recent years. Injury history is a concern. Will be 32 in 2012.