With four weeks to go in the season, NFL teams are looking in one of two directions: towards the playoffs or towards the offseason.
Unfortunately in Oakland, as has been the case for the past decade, all eyes are on the offseason as thoughts about the future dominate the minds of fans and staff alike.
With that being said, we've set out to identify some of the top free agents who could find a home in Oakland in 2013. As you will notice, almost all of them are on the defensive side of the ball—a stark reflection of just how bad the Raiders' defense has been this season.
On the top of the Oakland wish list is going to be the position of cornerback, as the Raiders are in the midst of one of the worst defensive seasons in league history.
Of chief concern is their inability to cover anyone on the outside, let alone stay healthy.
The Raiders took a chance last season with Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer as their key defensive signings, but neither has really panned out—succumbing to injuries and inconsistencies throughout the season.
Smith, however, would provide some more depth and talent to a unit that badly needs it.
In 12 games this season, the fourth-year man out of Utah has recorded 49 tackles, forced two fumbles and nabbed three interceptions for the Dolphins while also defending 11 passes.
While not an elite corner in this league, Oakland could use a number of solid corners to bolster their ranks as opposed to continuing to pillage the practice squads across the league.
Obviously a bit of a dream scenario, Avril would make the type of splash that many Raider fans are looking for.
While general manager Reggie McKenzie has been frugal thus far, this offseason will be his first chance to really shed some of the awful contracts Oakland is holding on to, potentially freeing up some cap space.
As for why Avril, the New York Giants have shown that a fearsome pass rush might be the biggest key to an effective defense, and Avril would be a big step in the right direction in that regard.
Another reason to target Avril is his age, because at just 26, Oakland could build around him for the next few years without rotating in a number of veterans over the years.
The second defensive lineman on a list might be a bit more puzzling to some—why sign a high-profile tackle with Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour still on the books?
In my mind, let's hope neither of those two guys (or their ridiculous contracts) are back next season.
Starks is much younger and has been much more effective than either Seymour or Kelly, logging 4.5 sacks so far this season—essentially providing a major upgrade immediately.
The Raiders are pretty talented along the defensive front, even if Seymour and Kelly were to be sent packing, but a player like Starks would provide a major threat on the inside.
As the only offensive player on the list, Rashad Butler's name may come as a surprise to many.
For starters, Butler is out for the 2012 season with an injury. Secondly, he's a backup.
For both of those reasons, however, I think Butler would be a great fit in Oakland.
The Raiders' offensive line has struggled at times this season, and no position more so than right tackle. Part of the struggles have been attributed to the new zone blocking scheme instituted—a scheme that Butler ran under Greg Knapp last season in Houston.
With most of their money designated for the defensive side of the ball, I don't expect any big offensive splashes this summer, but players like Butler might make their way to Oakland with smaller deals.
The second corner on the list, Jacksonville's Derek Cox would be a great fit in Oakland next season.
Cox is in just his fourth season out of William & Mary, but in eight games this season he has logged 43 tackles, three interceptions and a safety.
The good news for Oakland is that Cox, like Smith, isn't seen as an elite corner and could be had at a reasonable price. I think this would be a perfect signing for Reggie McKenzie and Co.