Raider Nation remains divided on what should be done come draft day. With still some needs to be met, only one pick in the first three rounds and small space left in the salary cap, Oakland must handle this draft with utmost priority. Essential strides were made in free agency in order to fix such problems but still some holes remain to be clogged.
In this article, these holes, the solutions made through free agency and the possible further reconstruction through the draft are all explained.
The Raiders finished their 07 campaign with one of the worst run defenses allowing a league-worst of 5.3 yards per carry and a third worst at allowing 148.9 yards per game. Tom Cable brought much success to the O-line last year, which gave up less than half the sacks it did in 2006 and helped Fargas reach a thousand yard peak last season. Even with that said, the O-line still requires a makeover and provide a better pass protection. Al "The Outlaw" Davis jumped into free agency aiming to solve such problems and made a bigger splash than Bill Parcell's whose Dolphins finished 1-15 last year.
In Free agency, the Raiders aquired DE Kalimba Edwards, DT William Joseph and resigned DT/DE Tommy Kelly, who will likely take the place of the great QB killa, Warren Sapp. Edward's career has been inconsistent with one day he looks to lead the league in sacks and the other, he is on the bench injured. Joseph, however, has never lived up to the hype of being the first rounder drafted by the Giants but if there is one thing you can believe about Al Davis, its that he is turned around many believed-to-be busts or under achievers into football monsters and I just hope that is the same with Joseph. Both Joseph and Edwards will probably fight for a starting job but even with their presence, by the looks of it the Raiders will still require a run halting menace at the D-line. An intimidating force is also desired opposite of Burgess and Edwards & Jay Richardson will likely fight for the position.
Now on to the O-line. As stated earlier, the O-line finally came to a stable standing after years of disarray. Under Tom Cable's zone blocking scheme, Robert Gallery found a consistent position at left guard after seasons of changing O-line ideologies and O-line coaches. I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the pro bowl in a year or two. From free agency, the Raiders inked C John Wade, T Kwame Harris, T Cornell Green. Harris, a former first round pick by the 49ers, never attained the expectations set upon him. This is thought to be case as it is presumed that Harris never meshed well into San Fran's O-line mechanisms. It is believed that Cable's mentoring will help Harris live up to the first round potential he showed in college. C Wade started 88 games and only missed 8 for the past 6 years. With the departure of the aging but nonetheless true Raider Barry Simms, the Raiders need to mend the guard spot. Even with all these moves, the Raiders must further enhance their O-line in order for it to be in a elite condition giving Russell a pocket to move around and time for him to throw the ball efficiently.
The draft is right around the corner and it will help determine the standing of Oakland next season even better. The Raiders could draft DE Vernon Gholston or if possible, DE Chris Long both of whom will undoubtedly bring a great pass rush to the D-line. DT Sedrick Ellis and DT Glenn Dorsey, if either one chosen, will attack the run ferociously. OT Jake Long's availability at no. 4 grows as both the Rams and Falcons express concern over a DT. The Raiders could draft him if he is available, but the question remains whether the D-line or O-line will be built first through the draft.
Trade down possibilities remain the only option through which many needs can be eliminated at once. The only down side to this is that you wont find the same talent that is seen in the first 10 picks down lower in the draft.
The most popular trade down seems to be the one with Dallas. Jerry Jones seems to be eyeing Darren Mcfadden and has been increasingly concerned with his team's CB position. Oakland could give its fourth overall with Fabian Wahington & maybe Stanford Routt for the Cowboy's 22nd and 28th overall along with their 2nd round pick. With the 22nd and 28th overall picks, Oakland could pick up DE Philip Merling, OT Gosder Cherilus, OG Branden Albert or DE Quentin Groves. With the 2nd round pick, Oakland could also get OLB Cliff Avril.
New England also showed some interest in Gholston, who is believed to be needed in the Patriot's veteran linbacking corps. After free ageny, New England is also desperately in need of some CBs with the leavings of Randall Gay and Asante Samuel. The Raiders could offer their fourth overall and Washington for the Patriot's 8th overall, 2nd round and 3rd round picks. If the Raiders are lucky they could land DT Sedrick Ellis at 8th overall and still have 2nd & 3rd round picks.
As draft day approaches, these needs must be met for the next season to be as productive as possible.