With enough salary-cap space to make some significant and much-needed changes, this year’s free-agency period will be quite busy for general manager Reggie McKenzie and the Oakland Raiders.
No, adding just through free agency is not the ideal way to build a franchise, but with the patience of ownership constantly in question, this regime needs to stockpile talent in short order.
For the Raiders, this influx in salary-cap space comes at the perfect time, as the free-agent market is set to be relatively deep at a number of positions at which they need an upgrade.
While the Raiders couldn’t necessarily be in the market for each of these free agents at the same time, here are five big splashes the team could realistically make this offseason.
At just 27 years old and coming off his second career double-digit sack season, Brian Orakpo could become one of the most highly sought-after free-agent players in a deep group of pass-rushers.
With plenty of money to spend and a glaring need for just that type of edge-rusher, the Raiders could very well be one of the teams that end up in the running for Orakpo’s services.
Should the Raiders defensive scheme stay the same, Orakpo ideally would take over as the stand-up edge-rusher on the right side, allowing the team to move Lamarr Houston to a defensive tackle position that might better suit his overall skill set.
In fact, both Orakpo and Houston were teammates at the University of Texas. Pairing the two, possibly on the same side of the defensive line, could pose problems for opposing offenses.
Then, considering the Raiders might try to add another free-agent pass-rusher to man the opposite defensive end spot—or even fill that spot in this year's draft—their defensive line could easily go from a weakness to strength in just one offseason.
Another well-established pass-rusher that will garner plenty of attention on the open market is Vikings veteran defensive end Jared Allen.
While the 31-year-old veteran is already 10 years into his career, Allen has shown no signs of slowing down, posting double-digit sacks in seven straight seasons, with his career high of 22 coming in 2011.
Not only has he been consistently dominant in getting to the quarterback, but Allen is an every-down player that plays the run on the edge just as well.
If Allen’s age in comparison to the other available pass rushers at all drives his price down, the Raiders should jump at the chance to bring in a veteran of his caliber.
An ideal offseason for the Raiders would see them add two edge-rushers to the defensive line, which would enable them to move Lamarr Houston inside next to Pat Sims and Vance Walker.
While it’s unlikely that the Raiders would opt to spend big money on two defensive ends in free agency, they do have the need and salary-cap flexibility to do so.
Whether it would be done through free agency, the draft or a combination of the two, adding a productive edge-rush tandem would completely change the shape of this Raiders defense.
While the Raiders have some young talent at wide receiver in Denarius Moore, Rod Streater and Andre Holmes, there is no doubt that they will need to add to the position this offseason.
One of several receivers the Raiders overlooked when drafting Darrius Heyward-Bey seventh overall in 2009, Maclin has had a productive five-year career thus far.
His best season came back in 2010, where he fell just shy of the 1,000-yard plateau but put up a 10-touchdown mark that no Raiders receiver has reached since Tim Brown’s 11 scores back in 2000.
Maclin would give the Raiders the kind of deep threat that could potentially open up the field for the rest of the passing game.
Whether or not Maclin’s price tag is brought down as result of his injury, he still should be a player the Raiders express interest in signing long term.
Although the Raiders’ offensive line is in better shape than what its play during the 2013 season might indicate, upgrading the interior of this unit could make it a team strength heading into next season.
Of course, the Raiders already have a young, established center in Stefen Wisniewski that has established himself, so signing Mack would fall under the “best player available" category.
Bringing Mack aboard could likely mean moving Wisniewski back to the left guard spot he played in his rookie season, thus making the line as a whole that much stronger.
While it remains to be seen just how big of a contract Mack will demand on the open market, solidifying the offensive line to this degree would do wonders for both the running game and a young quarterback likely to be selected in the draft.
It’s not too often that an established 25-year-old cornerback like Alterraun Verner reaches free agency. As such, if the Titans aren’t able to re-sign him and opt against using the franchise tag, he should become a target of the Raiders.
Verner has 11 interceptions in his first four years in the league, including five picks in 2013, and seems to be getting better with each passing season.
His ability to play in zone coverages makes him a good fit for the Raiders’ defensive scheme, and the opportunity to pair him at cornerback with second-year player D.J. Hayden would certainly be appealing to the front office and coaching staff.
Of course, CB Mike Jenkins played at a high level as a Raider starter in 2013; re-signing him this offseason and adding Verner would make for a solid group.
Verner’s age and level of play should make him a hot commodity on the free-agent market, but the Raiders have more than enough salary-cap space to compete if they are looking to solidify their defensive backfield.