The fastest way to make a team more competitive is to improve the defense. The Raider defense that John Marshall will coordinate has several holes to fill but the most work needs to be done with the front seven.
The Raiders have been terrible at stopping the run and the draft and free agency provides the team with two opportunities for improvement.
The Raiders went against the norm for them, and spent a lot of money in free agency last year and failed miserably and arguable have the same number of holes to fill or more this year.
Spending money in free agency is a good thing when the money is spent on the right players. That wasn’t the case in regards to Oakland.
The team doesn’t have as much room under the salary cap to work with this year so first things first; the team needs to release players to receive some cap space.
It would be wise for the Raiders to cut ties with Kwame Harris, Cornell Green, Terdell Sands, William Joseph, John Wade, Kalimba Edwards, Sam Williams, Andrew Walter, Ronald Curry and Drew Carter. Gerard Warren has been hit and miss—one game he is unblockable—in others, non-existent.
The team needs to keep him in the defensive tackle rotation next to Tommy Kelly until Warren can be replaced. Kelly will return and due to the contract he signed he has be a standout player which is a tough standard to measure up to. He needs some help from the draft, free agency and from undrafted free agents to improve the positions.
The team needs to find out the trade value of Michael Huff and Stanford Routt.
Huff is still only 25-years-old and could still develop, the team could keep him for one more year or regret trading him early but it is a fact that he hasn't lived up to expectations. As everyone knows it took Nnamdi Asomugha four years before he lived up to expectations and the same could be true for Huff.
The unquestioned team MVP Asomugha himself expects to be franchise tagged, again.
In my opinion tagging him would provide him with a raise to $11.7 million for 2009 but it would be a mistake and strikes me as eerily similar to what happened to Charles Woodson a few years ago.
The Raiders won’t have a lot of money to spend in free agency but will need to sign a few; here is a list of attainable impact free agents targets: DT Kedric Golston, OG Jahri Evans and C Jeff Saturday.
Moving on to the draft, the Raiders need to make a definitive statement that stopping the run is a high priority. This team needs a better defensive tackle rotation, a group of four players that will stop the run and put pressure on the passer from the interior of the defense.
The Raiders need to come out of this draft with a strong side linebacker or middle linebacker and two defensive tackles. The group of defensive tackles that the team should be targeting: B.J. Raji, Ron Brace, Evander Hood, Fili Moala, Terrance Taylor, Sammie Lee Hill, Dorral Scott.
The linebackers the team should target: Rey Maualuga, Aaron Curry, Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews, Clint Sintim, Jasper Brinkley, Kaluka Maiava and Zack Follett.
I don’t feel that the Raiders need to draft a defensive end but if need be I would take a close look at Robert Ayers, Chris Baker, and Paul Kruger. The majority of the guys mentioned will be at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis this week; all of the one’s that were invited to the senior bowl and declined have something to prove.
These are moves that would solidify the front seven of the defense, slow the opposing teams running game, put pressure on the passer and provide more of an impact of Sundays. The Raiders ranked 31st against the run last year and sticking to the plan listed above would go a long way toward correcting that statistic.