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Analysis of the Oakland Raiders' First Day of Free Agency

D.J. O'ConnorSenior Analyst IIIMarch 12, 2013

Analysis of the Oakland Raiders' First Day of Free Agency

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    On the first day of free agency in 2013, the Raiders got busy creating more salary cap room by ridding the organization of two highly paid players.

    A pair of former seventh overall draft picks were let go in Michael Huff (2006) and Darrius Heyward-Bey (2009).  The Raiders also released a free-agent acquisition from last year in Dave Tollefson.  

    It hasn't been all subtraction for the Raiders, though, as they did hold on to their lone restricted free agent in Phillip Adams.  

    With these transactions to begin the 2013 league year in Oakland, here is a further look at each individual transaction.

Darrius Heyward-Bey

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    Letting go of Heyward-Bey and his $10.6 million 2013 cap hit was a wise move by Reggie McKenzie in terms of the salary cap, but maybe not so much on the field.

    With the Raiders returning to the power-blocking and deep ball offensive philosophy of new coordinator Greg Olson, DHB could have returned to the level he was playing at when the Raiders last ran that offensive system in 2010-11 under Hue Jackson.

    Heyward-Bey ripped off the bust label in those two seasons despite never reaching the 1,000-yard milestone in a single season.  His ability to stretch the field is an asset in the offensive scheme that the Raiders used in 2010-11 and will be using in 2013.

    Regardless of the scheme, DHB never seemed to develop as a receiver that you would expect to get with the seventh overall pick in the NFL draft.  He used his body to catch the ball rather than rely on his hands to make the catch.  He also dropped too many passes to have that $10.6 million cap number.

    Without DHB, the Raiders' best remaining receivers  are Jacoby Ford, Denarius Moore and Rod Streater.  None of those players is worthy of the top of the depth chart based on how they played in 2012.

    Streater has shown potential, but he is not ready to be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL.  Ford is best as a slot receiver and special teams return man.  Moore has been inconsistent in his first two NFL seasons and was benched at one point in 2012.

    The Raiders need to take advantage of a deep free-agent class to fill this need, or it will be another long year for the Raiders quarterbacks with Brandon Myers now an unrestricted free agent.

Michael Huff

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    Huff was slated to be the Raiders' third-highest paid player in 2013 behind Richard Seymour and Carson Palmer with a cap number of almost $11.3 million.

    While Huff may not have been worth that much, he was still a hot commodity for the Raiders, who need help in the defensive backfield.  

    In 2012, Huff played free safety and then switched to cornerback when Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer were injured early in the season.  With that kind of versatility, Huff was almost invaluable to the Raiders considering their positions of need in the defensive backfield.

    The key word there is almost.

    Huff was overpaid despite being a solid starter on this defense, but the defense as a unit in Oakland has been horrible the last few years and nobody on that side of the ball is worth that much money.

    Like the Heyward-Bey release, this makes sense for the Raiders in terms of the salary cap, but it only worsens an already weak position group on the team.

Phillip Adams

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    A smart move here by Reggie McKenzie to keep Adams, who was a restricted free agent.

    The Raiders have massive needs in the defensive backfield, and keeping Adams around is a good insurance policy in case the Raiders can't find anyone better to start in 2013.

    Adams had his share of injury problems last year, but he made one of the best defensive plays of the year for the Raiders in 2012—of course, that is not saying much—when he intercepted Peyton Manning in the end zone on Thursday Night Football.  

    Since he was a restricted free agent, he won't be making all that much money in 2013.  The Raiders haven't announced terms of his tender at the time of this writing.  

Dave Tollefson

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    Tollefson was a Raider for just a year and made little, if any, impact.

    He could have had more playing time in 2013 with the departure of Richard Seymour and possible departures of Matt Shaughnessy, Andre Carter and Desmond Bryant.  There is also a chance that Tommy Kelly could be released. 

    If the Raiders do not go out and get a couple of defensive linemen in free agency, they will have to test their luck in the draft, and with all the needs they already have, this is becoming too much.

    Tollefson is in the same category as Heyward-Bey and Huff.  His release only weakens an already weak position group and releasing Tollefson won't be all that much in savings against the cap.

Players Who Weren't Released

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    As the Raiders let go of three players today, they did not let go of several others who were thought to be goners by now.

    That group includes, but is not limited to, Rolando McClain, Tommy Kelly and Carson Palmer.

    McClain has not seen the light of day since his two-game suspension in 2012. Kelly has a massive cap number, as does Palmer, who is competing for the starting quarterback job with the much cheaper Terrelle Pryor.

    It is still early in free agency, and for all we know, McKenzie is about to pull the trigger on one of the aforementioned players as we speak.  But for now, that wraps up the Raiders first day of free agency.

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