While they may not be ready for playoff contention just yet, several key moves have the Raiders headed in the right direction.
The Raiders have been able to add some very underrated players at positions of significant need, all the while doing so at more than affordable prices.
It remains to be seen how each of these moves will work out, but as Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen have looked to ensure all along, the roster competition has been increased from top to bottom.
Here are the grades for each of the Raiders’ major offseason moves to date.
This acquisition would instantly become a point of great debate, and understandably so.
In his limited action in Green Bay, albeit with an extremely talented roster around him, Flynn showed that he was more than capable of producing at the NFL level. As such, it was time that he get his shot as the leader of his own team.
While that did not exactly work out last season in Seattle, that can be attributed to Russell Wilson winning the starting job more so than Flynn losing it outright.
Barring some impressive training camp and preseason performances from the Raiders’ young quarterbacks, Flynn should finally get his well-deserved opportunity in Oakland.
It remains to be seen what he is able to do with it, but the Raiders gave up very little by means of draft compensation and contract commitments for a quarterback that is more than capable of leading this young offense.
After acquiring Matt Flynn, it was a virtual certainty that Carson Palmer would not be with the Raiders in 2013. The only question, however, was what kind of return the Raiders would be able to get for him, if any.
Shortly after trading for Flynn, the Raiders sent Palmer and a seventh-round selection in the 2013 draft to Arizona in exchange for a sixth-round selection in 2013, as well as a conditional choice in 2014.
After trading the acquired sixth-round choice to the Texans during the draft, the Raiders would later use the sixth and seventh round selections received in return to select TE Mychal Rivera and DE David Bass respectively.
Rivera and Bass certainly both have an opportunity to turn into productive players for the Raiders, but one of the most important parts of this trades is getting Palmer’s contract off the books this year, continuing to set the team up for a significant jump in salary cap flexibility next offseason.
Although losing Palmer’s talent is certainly a hit for this team to take, given both his age and contract numbers, the Raiders did well to get what they did in return and help the team’s financial future in a big way.
Heading into the 2013 season, the linebackers may represent the most improved and deepest position group on the entire Raiders roster, and it’s not really close.
Kevin Burnett, Nick Roach and Kaluka Maiava are all veteran players that over the past few seasons, have been both productive yet quite underrated at the same time.
Each player is a sound tackler and has the balance in their game that allows them to contribute both against the run and in coverage.
Roach is the early projected starter at middle linebacker, and the outside spots will likely go to any two of Burnett, Maiava and third-round selection Sio Moore.
Given that competition for the starting roles, as well as having some quality depth players in Miles Burris and Keenan Clayton behind them, what was an overall weak position group in 2012 becomes a strength in 2013.
Losing Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly and Desmond Bryant all in one offseason made defensive tackle one of the prime positions for the Raiders to address moving forward.
To do so, they moved to sign veteran free agents Pat Sims and Vance Walker, who are expected to take on starting roles from day one.
Sims is known exclusively as a run-stuffer and will see the majority of his work in such situations on early downs. Walker, on the other hand, has the skill set to stay on the field for all three downs, having long flashed the ability to contribute both against the run and as an interior pass-rusher.
While Sims and Walker have yet to establish themselves as consistently productive players in the NFL, their signings with the Raiders represent the first opportunity for each to earn and maintain significant playing time.
With the depth quite thin behind them, doing so will be essential to the success of the Raiders’ defensive unit as a whole.
Throughout the 2012 season, it became more and more apparent just how weak and thin the Raiders were at the cornerback position.
Throughout this offseason, it was going to be an absolute necessity to address which, and prior to selecting CB D.J. Hayden in the first round of the draft, the Raiders also looked to do by signing veteran free agents Tracy Porter and Mike Jenkins.
Porter and Jenkins are both talented players, but have experienced some struggles in recent seasons. Given their hopes of re-establishing themselves as quality starters, and the Raiders’ need for significant competition at cornerback, the fits make sense for all parties.
While it remains to be seen if Porter and Jenkins can both get back to the level of play they are capable of, both are still relatively young, and represent low-risk signings for the Raiders.
At the very least, these signings allow for increased competition in the defensive backfield, thus increasing the quality of depth as well.
Either way, heading into 2013, the Raiders’ cornerback group is in a much better position than it was just one year ago.
The signing of Charles Woodson was the most newsworthy item of the offseason for the Raiders, and for very good reason.
At 37 years old, Woodson is still very capable of playing at a high level and should flourish in a roaming free safety role that allows him to best utilize his instincts and ball skills on the back end.
Of course, in addition to his added ability as a playmaker comes the all-important presence as a locker room leader as well. On such a young and inexperienced team going through a rebuilding phase, having a leader like Charles Woodson will be extremely valuable in more ways than one.
In 2013, we can expect the Raiders’ secondary to take a big step forward, and much of that will be due to the play and presence of Charles Woodson at safety.
Dan Wilkins is an Oakland Raiders Featured Columnist. You can follow him on Twitter here.