Missing Pieces the Oakland Raiders Could Still Get
The new regime in Oakland has done a great job plugging holes and finding value in the free-agent market, but there is still work to be done.
Reggie McKenzie added depth at linebacker this offseason, but still lack the quality depth that would provide a safety net should a key player not be available for a stretch of games.
If there was much in the way of cornerback help available, the Raiders might be interested, but there isn't much that is going to be significantly better than Chimdi Chekwa and DeMarcus Van Dyke on the market.
The leadership is hoping the conversion of David Ausberry from wide receiver to tight end pays dividends, but McKenzie should have his eye on a few free agents that could help the Raiders at the tight end position.
If Ausberry isn't capable or just isn't ready to be handed the starting job, the Raiders shouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger on one of the quality veteran free agents available.
Pass rush is always a premium and McKenzie will be looking for cheap players that can help the Raiders create pressure, even if that means taking a chance on an older player or unproven free agent.
The Raiders will allow the youth to develop and will probably wait until just before training camp before bringing in veteran competition, but there are a few missing pieces the Raiders could still get.
In the quest for depth and as a potential short-term replacement for Rolando McClain in case of injury, incarceration or ineffectiveness, the Raiders should give a hard look at veteran linebacker E.J. Henderson.
Henderson isn't special, but he's a solid player that can produce for short periods of time.
McClain had 109 total tackles in 2012, including 77 solo. By comparison, Henderson started the same number of games and had 109 total tackles, with 80 solo.
At worst, Henderson is a quality backup and he's at least good enough to push McClain for the starting job.
While Henderson makes a lot of sense to bring in, a lot will depend on the development of Travis Goethel and Nathan Stupar during the offseason program.
Goethel could always be shifted back to outside linebacker, leaving only the rookie Stupar to back up McClain.
If the Raiders can workout the money aspect, adding a veteran linebacker like Henderson makes a lot of of sense.
At one time, Joey Porter was a pass-rushing force. The last two seasons in Arizona haven't been kind to the 35-year-old linebacker.
Porter registered six sacks in 20 games as a Cardinal. In the three seasons prior with the Miami Dolphins, Porter registered 32 sacks in 45 career games.
Considering the Raiders were forced to release Kamerion Wimbley due to salary cap issues and lost a considerable amount of pass rush from him, it's at least worth kicking the tires on a veteran like Porter.
In Oakland, Porter wouldn't have to be a starter. As a key specialist, Porter could do what he does best, rush the passer.
There might not be much left in the tank, but with a fresh start the Raiders might be able to squeeze a few more miles out Porter.
The Raiders have three tight ends that project to the final roster, but each tight end brings something a little different to the table.
David Ausberry is a former wide receiver and has gained 20 pounds of muscle since being drafted, according to Paul Gutierrez of Comcast Sports Net Bay Area. Brandon Myers comes into his fourth season as an adequate blocker, but is a limited receiver and only has 32 career receptions.The third option is Richard Gordon, a blocker who was even used as a lead-blocking fullback in 2011 when Manase Tonga was injured.
None of the tight ends on the roster have the resume of Jeremy Shockey. In fact, Shockey had almost double the amount of receptions in 2011 as the Raiders' trio combined. Shockey had his worst season as a pro in 2011 and had a career low in receptions, but he still managed to bring in more receptions than Kevin Boss, the Raiders' starter last season.
Shockey is also a decent run-blocker for a tight end.
If the Raiders can make the money work, signing a player like Shockey makes too much sense to ignore. Until then, the Raiders are putting a lot on David Ausberry and hoping he's the guy.
Like Shockey, Visanthe Shiancoe has produced in the NFL and had more catches in 2011 than Ausberry, Myers and Gordon combined.
Both Shockey and Shiancoe are 31, but that should mean they both have something left in the tank.
Unlike Shockey, Shiancoe isn't a very good blocker. If the Raiders are going to yield blocking for receiving, they might as well stick with Ausberry.
The question remains if Ausberry is ready to take the next step as a receiver and blocker. If Ausberry is ready, there is no need to sign a guy like Shiancoe,
The Raiders should have Shaincoe's number ready in case they start to question Ausberry's receiving ability.
Last among the tight ends the Raiders could sign is Bo Scaife. Scaife missed all of 2011 with a shoulder injury.
Scaife is such a versatile tight end that can both catch the ball and block equally effectively. Scaife was the Tennessee Titans' franchise player in 2009.
Scaife might come cheaply and be the well-rounded tight end the Raiders want in lieu of a franchise-type player.
Scaife has averaged four receptions and 38 yards per start of his career and would be well worth a minimum-type contract should the Raiders decide they need additional help at the position.
The Raiders will rely on defensive tackle Tommy Kelly to play nose tackle when their varied-front defense shifts into a 3-4 alignment, according to Dennis Allen via an interview with Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News.
That's of concern, because the Raiders haven't been able to stop the run over the past several seasons and Kelly is no exception. He may be a liability as a nose tackle in the three-man front.
The team released defensive tackle John Henderson and he was the team's best defensive lineman against the run in 2011. The solution now must already be on the roster or come by way of a free agent like Howard Green.
According the Rich Cimini of ESPN New York, Green's weight was part of the reason Green was released by the Jets in 2010. After being claimed by the Packers, Green helped the Packers on the way to winning the Super Bowl.
Green's addition to the Green Bay roster had the fingerprints of former Packers' front office executive and current Raiders general manger Reggie McKenzie.
Green weighed upwards of 350 pounds and provides the type of immovable object that is ideal for a nose tackle in the 3-4 defense. Unless the young Travis Ivey, already on the Raiders roster, is ready to get significant playing time, Green seems like a logical choice to fill the void.
Another option at the nose tackle position is veteran defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin.
Franklin isn't quite the size of Howard Green, but he's had plenty of success as a nose tackle with the San Francisco 49ers, making him familiar with both the position and Northern California.
Franklin was expected to be a sought-after free agent last season but ended up signing a one-year deal with the New Orleans Saints.
Franklin is a free agent again and is drawing interest as early down run defender, which is exactly what the Raiders need.
The Raiders could do a lot worse than adding Franklin to the mix and may just be waiting to clear up cap space and to see what they have in Travis Ivey before making a move.
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