5 Big Moves the Oakland Raiders Could Make in 2014 NFL Free Agency
The Oakland Raiders have plenty of work to do this offseason, but the significant amount of salary cap space at their disposal will give them an opportunity to do much of it through free agency.
Of course, signing a big group of free agents is not the ideal way to build a team, but talent needs to be added to this roster, and done so in bulk.
Whether it's in accordance with the rebuild plan, pressure from ownership for quick improvement or a little bit of both, any big-contract signings will need to be done with care, as it was wrongful spending that got the franchise in the mess it was in.
Either way, the Raiders will look to make some big moves this offseason, and here are five we could see in the upcoming free-agency period.
Sign WR Hakeem Nicks
Although Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks has had some injury troubles as of late, there is no doubt surrounding his ability to still be a No. 1 receiver, especially on a team with a need at the position.
He may not have the breakaway speed the franchise long coveted, but Nicks is more of the physical target with the ability to gain yards after the catch that this new Raiders regime favors.
His consistent production in both the regular season and in the playoffs would make for an extremely valuable addition to an otherwise inexperienced receiving corps.
Of course, much of the Raiders' passing game success in 2014 will be based upon who it is they are able to bring in at quarterback, but adding a player like Nicks on the outside would help both him and the rest of the offense overall.
Sign DE Jared Allen
Upgrading the pass rush will be one of the Raiders’ top priorities this offseason, and they will finally have the money to do so.
He may not be the youngest option available at 31 years old, but Vikings defensive end Jared Allen has plenty left in the tank and should be at or near the top of the Raiders’ list.
In Allen, the Raiders would be getting one of the league’s most consistently dominant pass-rushers over the past decade, and one who is just as good against the run as well.
What’s more, adding an every-down player like Allen—and even another defensive end in free agency or the draft—could allow the Raiders to move Lamarr Houston inside to tackle, where he could maximize his potential as a pass-rusher.
The Raiders would be getting both an elite pass-rusher on the edge and added flexibility on the defensive line to better the unit overall.
Sign DT Paul Soliai
As well as free-agent additions Vance Walker and Pat Sims played in spurts, it became clear just how much the defensive tackle position lacked depth in the stretch run of the 2013 season. A defense that was dominant against the run early on seemed to wear down in a hurry, and opposing teams moved the ball at will.
As much as the Raiders will look to upgrade the edge rush this offseason, it will be just as important to avoid a similar trend in 2014, thus continuing to add to the interior defensive line and improve against the run.
Paul Soliai, the anchor for one of the league's most consistent run defenses over the past few seasons, is now a free agent and is someone the Raiders should be very interested in to do the same for them.
Soliai would play the nose in both 4-3 and 3-4 looks, just as he has done for the Dolphins over the past few seasons, also allowing the Raiders a much more fluid rotation on the interior defensive line.
Sign CB Brent Grimes
Although the Raiders did well to make some improvements in the secondary prior to the 2013 season, the cornerback spot remains something they will need to address once again moving forward.
With several players of their own at the position with expiring contracts and plenty of salary cap to work with, why not compete for the best free-agent cornerback of the year?
Brent Grimes, coming off of a one-year “prove it” deal with the Dolphins, has done just that. Not only did he prove he was deserving of a long-term deal, but also that he is to be considered among the league’s top cover corners.
Of course, signing Grimes after such an impressive season won’t come cheap, but elite-level corners never do. If the Raiders have the opportunity to pair him with D.J. Hayden for the next few seasons, it might be well worth the cost.
Re-Signing DE Lamarr Houston and LT Jared Veldheer
While it may come well before free agency officially begins, the two biggest moves the Raiders can make this offseason will be re-signing their own premier talent in defensive end Lamarr Houston and left tackle Jared Veldheer.
Houston indeed had some difficult games down the stretch in 2013, but much of that can and should be attributed to the sheer lack of depth and rotation on the Raiders' defensive line. Without a doubt, he is still their best player on the defensive side of the ball and will only get better when more talent is added around him.
Veldheer's value was shown with his growth over the past few seasons and was only highlighted more in his absence for the better part of this year due to injury. The upcoming offseason should allow him to get back to full strength and continue his growth into one of the league's top left tackles.
No matter how many players the Raiders go out and sign with their abundance of salary-cap flexibility, their priority must be using it to sign both Houston and Veldheer to long-term deals beforehand.