What Should the Oakland Raiders Do with Their 2012 Cap Space?
Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie already has done more work with the team's salary cap than he would have liked to in 2012.
McKenzie has had to cut ties to players like Stanford Routt, Kamerion Wimbley and Kevin Boss not only to just make the numbers work, but just to make the numbers close. He has also been busy with restructuring the contracts of Carson Palmer, Richard Seymour, Michael Huff and Aaron Curry.
The work he has done thus far should put him into consideration for NFL Executive of the Year.
According to spotrac.com, the Raiders have about $13 million in cap space left for 2012. The problem the Raiders face is that figure does not include the contracts of rookies, undrafted free agents and some other free agents where terms of the deal were not disclosed. McKenzie and the Raiders still have work to do.
This roster still has some issues McKenzie would like to address. With so little cap space to work with, what should they do?
Here are some potential moves McKenzie can still pull off to make the Raiders better heading into the 2012 season.
Acquire a Veteran Backup Running Back
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A move to bring in a veteran backup for Darren McFadden is not a major priority but more of a reassurance, given McFadden's injury history. Benson's power would seemingly be a perfect complement to McFadden's speed.
Benson has rushed for more than 1,000 yards the past three seasons for the Cincinnati Bengals and is the biggest name left on the free-agent market.
Another option the Raiders could look to is Ryan Grant.
He has ties with McKenzie going back to Green Bay, and he seemingly would be a better fit for the Raiders backup job.
Grant has experience running in the zone-blocking scheme from his days with the Packers. He, also 29, undoubtedly has fresher legs than Benson as injuries have derailed a couple of seasons for Grant, but he showed last season that he can still be productive with 559 rushing yards on 134 carries in 2011.
Either way, look for the Raiders to address this situation right around the time training camp starts.
Acquire a Veteran Tight End
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As fellow B/R writer Christopher Hansen wrote in a piece last month, the Raiders are going into the 2012 season without a lot of experience at the tight end position.
David Ausberry seems to be the leading candidate heading into training camp for the starting gig. The other tight ends competing for the spot are Brandon Myers, Richard Gordon, and newly acquired Tory Humphrey.
Those are hardly names Raider fans get excited about without using a cautioned approach.
Ausberry has shown vast improvement this offseason and is looking good in his transition from wide receiver to tight end, but that workload is a lot for a guy who still has to show he can block.
The Raiders may very well go to a position-by-committee situation with the tight end spot, but there are options available in the free-agent market that make sense.
Visanthe Shiancoe is a name that comes to mind. He has shown the past couple of seasons to be a very viable receiving threat at the position. Given that Greg Knapp's West Coast style offense utilizes the tight end, Shiancoe makes complete sense.
Scaife is a steady veteran who does everything well, but not great. He could bring stability to the position if the Raiders feel uncomfortable about who they have once camp opens.
Acquire a Veteran Safety
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By no means is this an area of concern for the Raiders. It would be more a move of bringing in more competition to try to get the best out of who they already have.
Oakland already has an emerging star in Tyvon Branch, and Michael Huff has been showing signs of improvement the past couple of seasons when he has been healthy.
After that, they have Matt Giordano and Mike Mitchell. Giordano is a nice, serviceable backup type player that brings leadership to this team. Mitchell has struggled and been disappointing to say the least.
Some added competition could do this unit some good to see if Giordano can do it again after five interceptions last season and if Mitchell is a guy they should continue to invest their time in.
There are still some quality safeties out in the market that the Raiders could pursue.
Former New York Jets safety Jim Leonhard is a name that is still out there. If he recovers from his torn patella tendon in time to start the season, he'll be hotly sought after. He is a warrior on the field, and his leadership qualities are second to none. He would be a valuable member to any organization.
Other names out there that could be possibilities are Gerald Sensabaugh, Kareem Moore, Chris Hope and Deon Grant.
Again, I do not necessarily think the Raiders are in the market for another safety, but added competition could do wonders for some of the players already on the roster.
Acquire a Veteran Linebacker
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Linebacker is another position for the Raiders that is not a major concern but an area where some added competition could be a benefit to the players already on the roster.
Kamerion Wimbley's pass rushing skills will be missed and difficult to replace. Oakland brought in Philip Wheeler and drafted Miles Burris to try to fill that void at the strong side.
Starters Rolando McClain and Aaron Curry still have loads of potential, but an added push could really get them jump-started.
Brady Poppinga is a guy who has ties to McKenzie going back to Green Bay and at the very least brings versatility to any linebacker unit as he can play both inside and outside spots. He does not wow anyone with his skills, but he is a consistent worker and leader that could help mentor guys like McClain and Curry.
Ernie Sims is another linebacker available on the market. The former first-round pick has not lived up to expectations in his NFL career and is clearly not someone that can be counted on as an every-down player. But, given an opportunity to be put into pass-rush situations, he could still bring something to a team.
It is doubtful the Raiders will address anything pertaining to their linebacker unit, but there are options out there they could turn to if they see fit.
Stand Pat and Do Nothing
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It is not inconceivable that the Raiders do nothing else this offseason and just go with the players they have.
There are a lot of new elements going on with this team, so maybe Reggie McKenzie just sits back a little and see how everything plays out heading into training camp. The enthusiasm heading into the season is high, and the chemistry seems to be working out pretty well.
We will see what McKenzie does once training camp opens. He has already done a tremendous job with the 2012 salary cap, so the focus could maybe shift to next year and beyond as the challenges are only beginning with the organization's finances.
Whatever happens between now and the start of the season, McKenzie should be commended for the work he has already done. Anything else is icing on the cake.