Philip Wheeler (right) is one of the players the Raiders would like to bring back in 2013.
The Oakland Raiders are not in a great salary-cap situation until next year, and they have 24 free agents in 2013—17 unrestricted and free to sign with any team.
At a minimum, general manager Reggie McKenzie has to re-sign or replace over a third of the roster with limited resources.
If you were wondering why the Raiders couldn’t attract a top offensive coordinator, look no further than a depleted roster with limited resources to replenish it.
The Raiders are rebuilding and that takes time. The team mortgaged the future for years just trying to win a few extra games, and that era is now over.
The new era has had a rocky start, and unfortunately the Raiders will have to be extremely selective about what free agents they bring back in 2012. In some cases the Raiders may not be able to bring back a quality free agent even if that's what they want to do.
Which of Oakland’s 24 free agents will return in 2013? That’s up to McKenzie, but that won’t stop us from trying to figure it out on our own.
Brandian Ross (left) has potential, but the Raiders will have to develop it further during training camp.
Alex Parsons, Jeremy Stewart, Brandian Ross, Zach Hurd and Duke Calhoun are exclusive rights free agents according to spotrac.com.
If the Raiders extend a three-year veteran-minimum salary to these players, then they aren’t free at all.
It’s usually safe to say a team will sign these players. At worst, they are camp bodies who can be cut without salary-cap consequences at a later date. They are not free to sign with anyone else and they are cheap.
While not the best of players, McKenzie needs as many decent players for depth as possible, and many of these guys have a chance to earn a roster spot.
Matt Giordano (right) is a restricted free agent in 2013.
Matt Giordano is not a great player, but he’s a good locker-room presence, and the Raiders don’t have a lot of depth in the secondary. Giordano should be tendered a contract as a restricted free agent.
There are three levels of one-year “tenders” that can be offered to a restricted free agent. If another team signed Giordano, the Raiders would be get a draft pick corresponding to the tender given.
In Giordano’s case, the Raiders will likely offer him the lowest and cheapest tender which corresponds to the player’s original draft round.
Since Giordano was drafted in the fourth round, the Raiders would be entitled to a pick in that round, should another team sign him. That’s not going to happen.
Giordano falls under the category of players McKenzie does not mind keeping around, because they are cheap and hardworking players who can help fill a roster.
Richard Seymour’s contract will be void when the new season starts, making him a free agent who the Raiders can’t afford to re-sign. His production, age and health last season were simply not worth the cost.
Desmond Bryant has developed steadily, and he came on strong while starting the final eight games for Seymour. Bryant isn’t a household name, but there will be interest for his services around the league.
Losing Bryant and Seymour would leave a huge gap on Oakland’s defensive line. Bryant would start for the Raiders, something he would not be assured of doing for other teams. Expect a deal to get done to keep Bryant in Oakland for the foreseeable future.
The Raiders took a chance and extended a one-year deal to linebacker Philip Wheeler last offseason. The Raiders had to part ways with Kamerion Wimbley and desperately needed an outside linebacker. Wheeler proved to be quite open to signing, but the Raiders only inflated his value and now will need to re-sign him.
At times, Wheeler was the Raiders' best defender. He’s not a perfect linebacker, and the Raiders asked him to do a lot of things which may have hurt his production, but Oakland’s situation at linebacker hasn’t improved. The Raiders need him.
Hanging on to the few quality starters they have is going to be important for the Raiders. Wheeler shouldn’t be overly expensive, and McKenzie should be able to comfortably fit him within his budget.
The oft-injured Phillip Adams played well in limited action for the Raiders in 2012.
The Raiders will enter the offseason without starting cornerbacks on either side. Adams will come cheaply and should compete for the starting job in training camp.
Adams is an unrestricted free agent, free to sign anywhere, but he’s unlikely to demand enough on the open market to prohibit the Raiders from bringing him back.
Adams will be one of the few players that the Raiders will place a priority on re-signing.
Nickel cornerbacks are on the field a lot these days. The nickel cornerback should basically be considered a starter, since they play about half the defensive snaps.
Hanson is a veteran, and the Raiders could do much worse than to keep him around.
Hanson should be inexpensive, just like he was when the Raiders signed him before the season.
Considering how few quality defensive backs the Raiders have under contract, Hanson is probably one of the best bets to be with the Raiders in 2013.
Here’s the problem with Matt Shaughnessy: Basically, he provides no pass-rushing ability.
Shaughnessy is still a great run-defender at defensive end, but the Raiders desperately need to focus on the pass rush. A two-down defensive end is just not that valuable for a 4-3 team.
If the Raiders decided to switch to the 3-4, Shaughnessy would be an excellent player to re-sign.
The Raiders are unlikely to make the switch, so they will have to question how much they need him in a 4-3. Shaughnessy may find a better fit in a place where he can play left defensive end; where he can attack right tackles or play with a 3-4 team.
Shaughnessy is a good player, but it seems like the Raiders will draft a pass-rusher in the first round of the draft who can play on every down. One possibility is that the Raiders could move Houston inside, put Shaughnessy at left defensive end and continue to use Bryant as a rotational player.
There’s also a chance the Raiders re-sign Bryant and move Houston inside, in order to release Kelly. It will all come down to cost ,and it hurts Shaughnessy's chances of re-signing more than those of their other free agents.
The Raiders wouldn’t mind having Shaughnessy back, but his role on the team and cost considerations will dictate if he returns in 2013.
Probably one of the greatest punters of all time had a down year in 2012.
It also happened to be Lechler’s contract year. Speculation has run wild that the unusual move of leaving a punter like Marquette King on injured reserve all season signifies that the Raiders will move on without Lechler in 2013.
While it’s possible King was kept as a Lechler replacement, it’s just as likely he was kept around to leverage Lechler into accepting less money than the Raiders paid him previously.
Punters aren’t exactly highly coveted commodities in the NFL (unless you're Gene Smith), and Lechler’s down year could drive down his value.
The Raiders will make a play to keep Lechler, and it will come down to his willingness to accept the market rate for his services.
Barnes (right) is better than some fans want to believe.
The Raiders could use another tackle to pair with Jared Veldheer, because Khalif Barnes is a free agent. Barnes was re-signed as a short-term solution at the position until McKenzie could find someone better.
Luke Joeckel is widely considered the best prospect in the draft and could kick Veldheer to the right side if the Raiders elected to draft him in April. If that were to happen, Barnes would be the odd man out.
Barnes certainly played better than any of the guys the Raiders brought in off the street to play while he was injured. The right tackle is often a very easy target for criticism, and Barnes does get penalized a lot, but the Raiders could certainly do worse.
The Raiders have bigger issues on the roster and could bring Barnes back in 2013 to give themselves one more year to address the position.
Brandon Myers became quite the receiving threat in 2013, but the numbers are a bit deceiving.
Knapp’s offenses have always produced productive tight ends, and in a different offense there is no guarantee Myers will be targeted nearly as frequently as he was in 2013.
Myers was one of only four tight ends targeted over 100 times in 2012, and he had the fewest receptions and yards of the four. Myers proved to be sure-handed, but he was also very one-dimensional.
There’s dirty secret about Myers: He was a terrible blocker in 2013. According to ProFootballFocus, Myers was the worst run-blocking tight end in the NFL last season. As a pass-blocker, Myers ranked 13th out of 21 qualifying tight ends in ProFootballFocus’ pass-blocking efficiency statistic.
Myers fits into the mold of Owen Daniels and Heath Miller—except that he’s an even bigger liability as a blocker. The Raiders should have taken Myers off the field on running downs, but as a receiving threat, the Raiders wouldn’t mind having him back.
The only question is how much teams will value him on the open market. Don't expect the Raiders to break the bank to keep Myers around.
The Raiders needed pass rush during the season, and they went out and found a veteran pass-rusher in Andre Carter, who was coming off an injury.
Even if the Raiders draft a pass-rusher or two in the draft, having a veteran like Carter is never a bad thing.
The Raiders might shop for other options, and Carter isn’t going to garner a lot of interest at his age.
The Raiders can afford to wait to sign Carter and see what else they can find in free agency, but he's experienced and will not break the bank, which makes him another attractive candidate to return in 2013.
The Raiders fired Greg Knapp and Frank Pollack, which pretty much signified the end of the zone-blocking scheme in Oakland.
Mike Goodson is an excellent running back in the zone scheme, and his fate might be tied to the new offensive coordinator.
It’s not unheard of for an offensive coordinator to use a diverse running scheme, which means that Goodson could still have a role in Oakland. Until we know who the next offensive coordinator will be, it’s virtually impossible to know if the Raiders will bring Goodson back.
The good thing is that running backs don’t command much money on the open market, and Goodson has been a backup for his whole career.
It would seem like the Raiders could bring him back for minimal cost, but don’t be surprised if he gets a chance to go elsewhere.
Oakland’s offensive line did a decent job protecting the quarterback in 2012, but they struggled to run-block, a reality which pretty much mirrored Cooper Carlisle’s production.
Carlisle was cut last season, only to be re-signed to play left guard. Carlisle had zone-blocking experience and, considering the lack of other options, keeping him around didn’t seem like a bad idea at the time.
The Raiders committed to Mike Brisiel at right guard, and Tony Bergstrom should push for playing time in 2013 at the guard position. Carlisle seems like a guy the Raiders would only keep around for competition and more than likely will let walk in 2013.
Carlisle could return simply because he is cheap depth, but considering his age, the Raiders can probably find someone young to fill that role.
If the Raiders want to bring back Carlisle late in the offseason, he’ll likely still be available.
Mitchell isn’t going to be worth much on the open market, and the Raiders need as much depth in the secondary as possible.
Mitchell is also good on special teams, which means he’ll have a chance to win one of the final few roster spots each year.
Mitchell never developed into a starting safety, and when pressed into action he seems to make a lot of mistakes. Perhaps Mitchell’s mistakes are so apparent because he openly shows his frustration after these plays.
One thing that could keep Mitchell around is his love for football, which is unquestioned.
If the Raiders wanted to part ways with a cheap player like Mitchell, they could have done it already. Expect Mitchell to be brought back to compete for a job in training camp.
Omar Gaither (right) looks the part.
Omar Gaither took over for Rolando McClain at middle linebacker late in the season and did a solid job.
He’s obviously limited and shouldn’t be considered a starter, but he’ll come cheaply and can be a backup.
If the Raiders decide to move on without Gaither, it wouldn’t be a huge loss, since the Raiders basically pulled him off the scrap heap late in the year.
The Raiders liked him enough to let him start and he didn’t look horrible, which is probably enough to say he’ll be back.
The Raiders need a veteran receiver like Derek Hagan to complement a young receiving core of Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford, Juron Criner and Rod Streater in 2013.
It doesn’t have to be Hagan, but the Raiders could do worse.
Since Hagan didn’t see a lot of action in 2012, he won’t be a priority. He’ll also likely be available later in the offseason, and inexpensive, as well.
If the Raiders want him back, he’ll be back in 2013.
Shawntae Spencer spent most of the year on injured reserve with a sprained foot.
Spencer has a history of injury, and a sprained foot is a tough injury to fully recover from at the age of 30— especially at a position where your feet are your greatest asset.
It seems unlikely the Raiders would bring Spencer back, but the possibility remains strictly because of the lack of depth on the roster.
It seems more likely that the Raiders will see what they have in their young cornerbacks, while trying to infuse the position with talent in other ways.