The Raiders are taking a risk and letting defensive tackle Desmond Bryant test the market.
There are few teams in the NFL that have more to accomplish than the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders have fewer than 50 players on the roster and don't have a lot of cap space to be active in free agency—which kicked off at 4 p.m. EDT.
There isn’t a position on the team where the Raiders couldn’t use a player or two. The Raiders need bodies at cornerback, defensive tackle, defensive end and linebacker at the very least. There’s also a need for a left guard and right tackle on offense.
Since the Raiders don’t have much cap space, don’t expect them to be busy early in free agency. It’s also not Reggie McKenzie’s style to spend a lot of money in free agency, so don’t expect fireworks out of the gate.
Perhaps the biggest priority for the Raiders is to re-sign a couple of their own players in Desmond Bryant and Philip Wheeler.
What the Raiders do in free agency won't likely provide much clarity on what the team will do with their No. 3 pick in the draft because the team just has too many needs to fill.
Keep this article bookmarked, as it will be updated throughout free agency with all the latest rumors and signings with analysis and grades for each move.
The Raiders could use a veteran like Cullen Jenkins to anchor the middle of the defense.
March 20: The Raiders announced the re-signing of right tackle Khalif Barnes.
March 19: Kevin Burnett signed a two-year contract worth $5.25 million with a $1.285 signing bonus, $250,000 incentive, $125,000 workout bonus according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. Burnett has base salaries of $840,000 and $2.875 million, with cap numbers of $1.857 million and $3.642 million per Wilson.
March 19: Vance Walker's one-year contract is worth $2 million with $500,000 signing bonus, $200,000 workout bonus and $250,000 in incentives according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun.
March 18: Terence Newman hopes to make a decision by the end of the week according to his Twitter. Newman cites the need for his agent to talk with Raiders' general manager Reggie McKenzie and Bengals' Executive Vice President Katie Blackburn.
March 18: The Raiders announced the signing of defensive tackle Vance Walker.
March 18: The Raiders have expressed interest in signing tight end Kellen Winslow according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com
March 18: Kaluka Maiava's contract includes $2.035 bonus according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun.
March 18: Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports that Nick Roach's contract is for four years and is worth $13 million. The deal includes $3.185 signing bonus and $5 million total guaranteed. Roach's cap number is $1.63 million in 2013 according to Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times.
March 17: The Raiders announced the signing of linebacker Kevin Burnett.
March 15: The Raiders signed linebacker Nick Roach to be their starting middle linebacker according to Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times.
March 14: Artrell Hawkins of Fox Sports Radio Cincinnati reports that Terence Newman will sign with the Raiders.
March 14: Veteran cornerback Terence Newman will visit with the Raiders according to Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area.
March 13: Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that linebacker Kaluka Maiava received a three-year deal worth $6 million.
March 13: The Raiders announced the signings of linebacker Kaluka Maiava, defensive tackle Pat Sims and defensive end Jason Hunter.
March 13: Defensive back Coye Francies' contract is for one year and worth $630,000 according to Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group.
March 13: Defensive tackle Pat Sims is visiting the Raiders according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
March 13: Linebacker Nick Roach will visit the Raiders according to Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago.
March 13: The Raiders are having preliminary talks with quarterback Vince Young according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via ProFootballTalk).
March 13: Defensive back Coye Francies has been re-signed according to Adam Caplan of SiriusXM Radio.
March 12: The Raiders announced the release of safety Michael Huff and wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. The move clears cap space so the Raiders can sign free agents.
March 12: The Raiders didn't tender restricted free agent cornerback Phillip Adams, but they did agree to a one-year contract with him worth $630,000 according to Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group. The Raiders saved money because Adams will make less than half of the lowest tender for restricted free agents.
March 12: Offensive guard Matt Slauson is drawing interest from the Raiders according to Brian Costello of the New York Post.
March 12: Linebacker Kaluka Maiava is one his way to visit the Raiders according to Albert Breer of NFL.com
The Raiders need to re-sign linebacker Philip Wheeler, but he's going to have other offers.
OT Khalif Barnes re-signed. Terms not yet disclosed.
DT Vance Walker signed a one-year contract worth $2 million with $500,000 signing bonus, $200,000 workout bonus and $250,000 in incentives
LB Kevin Burnett signed a two-year contract worth $5.25 million with a $1.285 signing bonus, $250,000 incentive, $125,000 workout bonus. Burnett has base salaries of $840,000 and $2.875 million, with cap numbers of $1.857 million and $3.642 million
LB Nick Roach signed a four-year contract worth $13 million with a $3.185 million bonus and $5 million in guarantees.
DE Jason Hunter signed. Terms not yet disclosed.
DT Pat Sims signed. Terms not yet disclosed.
LB Kaluka Maiava signed a three-year contract worth $6 million with a $2.035 million bonus.
DB Coye Francies re-signed to a one-year contract worth $630,000.
CB Phillip Adams re-signed to a one-year contact worth $630,000.
It would be surprising if the Raiders brought back veteran cornerback Shawntae Spencer.
Just about a year ago Reggie McKenzie signed linebacker Philip Wheeler to a one-year contract. Wheeler parlayed his first year as a full-time starter into a big contract with the Miami Dolphins.
Wheeler always performed pretty well when given the opportunity, but his first chance to start was the year before the Raiders signed him. Wheeler became arguably the Raiders' best defensive player in 2012, but the team didn't have the financial capital to retain his services.
McKenzie went shopping for a replacement, this time landing on linebacker Kaluka Maiava and signing him to a three-year deal. Perhaps McKenzie learned his lesson on Wheeler and decided he wanted the option for more years if Maiava performs or he just decided Maiava was a better player.
Maiava comes to Oakland a lot like Wheeler did last season. Maiava's most extensive starting experience was last season, just as Wheeler's most extensive starting experience was in 2011. Maiava is undersized like Wheeler, but that's not necessarily a bad thing as the league becomes more focused on the pass.
Just like Wheeler, Maiava was highly graded by ProFootballFocus. In fact, Maiava didn't grade negatively in any game in run defense or pass coverage while playing on both weak-side and strong-side linebacker —one of only four 4-3 outside linebackers that graded positively in all areas.
The only thing with Maiava that is cause for reservation is that he played only about 42 percent of the time. The Raiders were apparently comfortable with the sample size.
After losing Desmond Bryant to the Cleveland Browns, the Raiders had to bring in a defensive tackle. Pat Sims is not without his concerns, but he probably didn't break the bank either. Sims is a big defensive tackle, the biggest the Raiders have had since John Henderson, but he's much shorter.
The signing of Sims has started speculation that the Raiders would switch to a 3-4 defense. Sims has never played nose tackle in the NFL, but it's reasonable to assume the Raiders might experiment with 3-4 looks in 2013.
While Sims has had a somewhat rocky career, he put together the best nine-game stretch of his career to finish the season. Sims returned ti action in Week 10 after starting the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list. The Bengals went 7-2 over that period and Sims saved his best performance for the playoffs.
Like Maiava, Sims didn't play that many snaps in 2012. According to ProFootballFocus, Sims played just 33 percent of the snaps from Week 10 through the wild-card round. Sims doesn't provide much pass-rush ability and the Raiders will likely take him off the field on third down.
Before defensive end Jason Hunter tore his triceps during training camp last year, he was the Denver Broncos' starting defensive end. Hunter was running in front of Robert Ayers and Derek Wolfe at the time, but missed the entire 2012 season because of his injury.
In 2011, Hunter played under Dennis Allen when he was the defensive coordinator in Denver. Allen moved Hunter from 3-4 outside linebacker back to 4-3 defensive end. Hunter was a part-time player for Allen's defense, playing behind Ayers.
In Oakland, Hunter could be a replacement for Matt Shaughnessy or simply push Lamarr Houston inside to defensive tackle on passing downs. Hunter gives the Raiders a versatile body, who played significant snaps prior to his 2012 injury.
Hunter is a passionate football player, which surely appealed to the Raiders.
"...his spirited, almost maniacal play early in camp caused defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio to move Hunter ahead of Robert Ayers in the team's 4-3 base defense...Hunter often was involved in altercations with members of the Broncos' offensive line during 11-on-11 drills." (via Mike Klis, the Denver Post).
It would be surprising if Hunter got a big contract, which makes him a very low-risk signing that will see significant snaps on defense as a starter or backup in 2013. The Raiders might not be signing big-name free agents, but additions like Hunter make the football teams better.
When the Chicago Bears lost Brian Urlacher to injury in 2012, they turned to Nick Roach to be their middle linebacker. Roach was played strong-side linebacker for the Bears for the last several years, but was overshadowed by Urlacher and Lance Briggs.
Roach is still just 27-years-old with several years of starting experience for a good defense. Roach knows what it takes to play in the NFL and will replace Rolando McClain in the base defense. Roach has started just four games at middle linebacker despite a a good track record as a strong-side linebacker, so the Raiders are taking a slight risk that he can make the transition on a full-time basis.
Linebackers make the transition for the outside to the inside in a 4-3 defense frequently without issue and there weren't a lot of options available. The Raiders are taking a very slight risk, while adding a solid player at a position of need. Roach also brings the kind of leadership and mentality the Raiders are trying to build on defense.
Considering the lack of options in the draft at middle linebacker, the available options in free agency and the severity of the need, this is a home run signing for McKenzie even if Roach proves to be only an average middle linebacker. At time Roach was the Bears' best linebacker in 2012.
The Raiders added their second defensive tackle of the offseason in defensive tackle Vance Walker. The Raiders lost two defensive tackles in Richard Seymour and Desmond Bryant, so they needed to find solid replacements.
Walker spent his first four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, but was never an every-down player. In keeping with the theme of the offseason, Reggie McKenzie took a calculated risk on Walker being better with more playing time.
According to ProFootballFocus (subscription required), Walker was the 17th-best defensive tackle in 2012. Walker was just a few spots behind Seymour and was significantly better than Tommy Kelly based mostly upon his ability to avoid penalties. Walker wasn't penalized in 2012 compared to Kelly who was penalized 10 times, Seymour three times and Bryant four times. Penalties have been a problem for the Raiders in recent years, so adding a disciplined player is big plus.
Outside of Bryant and Seymour, there weren't many defensive tackles on the market better than Walker. Considering the cost and the need, McKenzie made another underrated signing that will help the defense in 2013. If McKenzie can continue to make solid moves, the Raiders have a chance to be much better than they were last season.