This Raiders regime is committed to building the team the right way. That way is largely based upon doing so through the draft, which free agency is a big part of as well.
There are certainly positives that can come from a free-agency period if done the right way, but we have all too often seen teams that put themselves in difficult situations after making the wrong moves.
That is something that this Raiders team will do their best to avoid as they try to keep the franchise moving in the right direction.
Here are five moves the Oakland Raiders must avoid in free agency this offseason.
Philip Wheeler and Desmond Bryant are easily the Raiders’ two biggest priorities to re-sign this offseason, and for good reason.
Wheeler showed that he is a much better fit for a scheme like the one the Raiders run, which allows him to be more of a downhill linebacker than he could in the Colts’ Cover 2 system.
Bryant, on the other hand, since coming in as an undrafted free agent in 2009, has progressively gotten better with every season. Now, he has grown into a productive player who should be a starting defensive tackle in 2013.
Having said that, if the Raiders were to allow the negotiation process with either of these players to extend into the free-agency period, other teams would quickly become a significant factor.
With the way Wheeler and Bryant, whom are still just 28 and 27 respectively, showed they can contribute on the defensive side of the ball, teams with much more salary cap flexibility than the Raiders would have little problem out bidding them.
The Raiders need to re-sign Philip Wheeler and Desmond Bryant, but also need to do so before they become unrestricted free agents.
Brandon Myers had a breakout year of sorts in 2012, establishing himself as a legitimate receiving threat in the middle of the field.
At the same time, if that breakout season pushes his financial demands too high, the Raiders would be wise to let him walk.
Myers did put up big numbers, but much most of them came in what we can consider “garbage time” of losing efforts. As such, it remains difficult to forecast just how productive he can be in the future when opposing defenses aren’t constantly backing off in coverage.
Not to be overlooked, his ability in the run game as a contributing blocker leaves much to be desired. With the Raiders looking to get back to a power running game, and a dominant one at that, blocking on the edge needs to be improved.
Overall, Myers’ numbers in the passing game will get him some attention on the open market. If that attention proves to drive his price up too high, then the Raiders and their tight salary cap situation should remove themselves from the bidding.
In the free-agency period of every offseason, all fans picture how well the top free agents would fit with their team.
Money aside, players on the open market like LT Jake Long, DE Osi Umenyiora, DE Dwight Freeney, LB Paul Kruger and CB Brent Grimes, among many others, are some top-tier free agents who would instantly help the Raiders at some positions of glaring need.
However, the salary cap remains a significant obstacle. This year, as has been the case for what seems like quite some time now for the Raiders, they are in no position to afford those top-end free agents.
If every other offseason is any indication, the open market does nothing but inflate the price tag of its players. It couldn’t hurt for the Raiders to keep tabs on the bidding process and see how it plays out, but their attention should for the most part be focused on the mid-level free agents that they will be able to afford.
Limiting the spending now will also ensure that the Raiders’ salary cap situation will continue its improvement for future years of rebuilding this franchise.
Greg Knapp’s zone-blocking system is shouldering much of the blame for last year’s struggles on the offensive line, especially in the running game.
That certainly plays a big part, but there is no denying that the Raiders could upgrade several positions up front as well.
In April, we can expect them to do some upgrading through the draft. However, should the Raiders go with a pass-rusher or QB in the first round like many are predicting, that would leave addressing the offensive line until at least the third round as their picks now stand.
Adding some veteran free agent offensive linemen will help the turnover period when adding a crop of young players at the position and is not something that the Raiders can afford to miss out on doing.
Some affordable free agents on the offensive line could include Lions OT Gosder Cherilus, Eagles OT King Dunlap and Vikings OG Geoff Schwartz.
Much like the offensive line, cornerback is a position that the Raiders need to upgrade, and the team could benefit by doing so through free agency.
Adding a cornerback through the draft would be a good idea—and will more than likely happen—but planning on coming out of the draft with several new day-one starters at one of the most difficult positions in the NFL is unlikely.
Adding some proven veteran cornerbacks will allow the younger players already on the team, as well as those who are drafted, to progress at a natural pace and not be forced into starting action until they are ready to do so.
This strategy, like that of the offensive line, would allow the Raiders the opportunity to be more competitive immediately while still building for the future.
Some affordable free agent cornerbacks could include Cowboys CB Mike Jenkins, Jaguars CB Rashean Mathis and Broncos CB Tracy Porter.