Oakland Raiders Free Agency: Keep, Walk or Tag Options for Every Free Agent
Even though a wealth of salary-cap space will have the Oakland Raiders quite active on the free-agent market, that money will first be used to re-sign their own players with expiring contracts—several of which represent the Raiders’ best and most talented players.
Getting them signed before the new league year will be key to the team’s short- and long-term success.
As is the case with any offseason, there will be some players that need to be let go, but possibly not as many as most would assume at first.
When a team needs to add as much talent as the Raiders do in a short period of time, it should lean toward bringing back more players than it lets go—if for nothing else than to build quality depth behind any possible starters that are later brought in.
Here is a breakdown of the Raiders’ options for their own 2014 free agents.
Jared Veldheer: Keep
Although Jared Veldheer missed most of the 2013 season, his value to the Raiders may have become even more apparent in the process.
In his absence, the offensive line struggled in a big way. When he returned, not only was the left tackle position once again solidified, but Khalif Barnes moving to left guard would mean upgrades in two of the five spots up front.
The Raiders need to do their best to lock Veldheer up to a long-term deal well before the free-agency period begins. If he hits the open market, especially considering the number of offensive lines in flux across the league, it would be no surprise if another team made him an offer he could not refuse.
Having said that, Veldheer informed Fox Sports 1's Alex Marvez of his desire to stay with the Raiders, so this should be a deal both sides can get done with plenty of time to spare.
Darren McFadden: Walk
While many will deem it time for the Raiders to move on from Darren McFadden, it shouldn’t be that easy of a decision.
Despite his troubles with injuries, McFadden’s playmaking ability and toughness as a runner are qualities that any team would covet.
His rough injury history could very well be a case of bad luck playing a position where you are constantly taking hits, but the expectation remains that the Raiders will indeed let him get to free agency.
Even so, McFadden is still a young player at just 26 and should draw plenty of interest on the open market. If his price tag stays reasonable, the Raiders should make sure to be one of those teams, as it could turn out to be well worth the risk.
Lamarr Houston: Keep
Lamarr Houston is easily the Raiders’ best defensive player and, along with Jared Veldheer, should be their top priority to re-sign before free agency gets underway.
Houston is an extremely versatile player, having shown the capability to produce both against the pass and the run at any position on the defensive line.
If the Raiders can add a few edge-rushers this offseason, it would be no surprise to see them move Houston to the 3-technique defensive tackle, where his pass rush may be best-suited.
Either way, Houston is another player that will get a number of offers should he hit the open market, so the Raiders need to make sure to get him signed to a long-term deal well beforehand.
Jacoby Ford: Walk
Coming out of college, Jacoby Ford had the look of a player that the Raiders were going to use in a variety of ways, and effectively so.
Since Hue Jackson’s departure, the Raiders have not been able to get the same production out of Ford on offense and he seems to have lost his role as the primary kick return man as well.
Like McFadden, Ford has had some injury problems, but he is still both young and very talented.
He, too, should draw some interest on the free-agent market, but with the emergence of some other Raiders receivers and return men, it would be tough to envision the team bringing Ford back in 2014.
Charles Woodson: Keep
After being released by the Green Bay Packers following the 2012 campaign, many questioned whether Charles Woodson had much left in the tank.
A move to free safety with the Raiders showed that he was still more than capable of playing at a high level—and could quite possibly be for a few seasons to come.
Having only signed a one-year deal, Woodson will be a free agent in March and is someone the Raiders should look to re-sign.
His veteran presence both for the defense and the team as a whole will continue to be valuable. He should have more opportunities to make plays as he gets more comfortable at the position and the Raiders add more talent around him.
Rashad Jennings: Keep
Originally signed to back up Darren McFadden at running back, Rashad Jennings proved capable of much more in his first season with the Raiders.
In McFadden’s absence, Jennings took over the starting role and the running game improved significantly.
He would go on to finish the year with an average of 4.5 yards per carry, with a highlight performance coming against a stout Houston Texans defense, when he had 22 carries for 150 yards.
If the team lets McFadden walk in free agency, as many expect it will, Jennings’ play in 2013 should have the Raiders more than comfortable moving forward with him as their feature back. He is another player they should look to get signed before March.
Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter: Keep
Looking to upgrade the cornerback position last offseason, the Raiders signed both Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter to one-year deals.
Both players were effective in spurts and would likely have been even more so had the pass rush not struggled as much as it did up front.
Whether or not the Raiders will attempt to add one of several star cornerbacks in free agency, they should still look to re-sign Jenkins and Porter.
The two are capable starters in the NFL, and even if the Raiders upgraded with players slotted ahead of them on the depth chart, they would provide some much-needed quality depth as a result.
Vance Walker: Keep
Vance Walker was one of several free-agent signings from the 2013 offseason that paid off for the Raiders.
His versatility was put to use throughout the season, as he started both at defensive tackle and defensive end as needed.
While the Raiders will certainly look to upgrade a number of positions on the defensive line this offseason, re-signing Walker will be key whether it’s as a starting or rotational player.
Like many others on the defensive side of the ball, his production will only increase as the Raiders stockpile talent around him up front.
Other Unrestricted Free Agents
Khalif Barnes: Keep
Jason Hunter: Walk
Usama Young: Keep
Phillip Adams: Walk
Tony Pashos: Keep
Jeron Mastrud: Walk
Andre Gurode: Walk