What We've Learned About Oakland Raiders After the Start of Free Agency
The start of the Oakland Raiders’ 2014 free-agency period has been interesting to say the least, and it is still quite early yet.
With so much money against the salary cap available for spending, expectations were that the Raiders could be heavily involved with some of the biggest names on the market starting on Tuesday afternoon.
While that wasn’t exactly the case in the first two days of the new league year, there is plenty to be gathered about the team’s strategy moving forward based on whom they’ve signed, almost signed and visited with thus far.
Here are the four things we’ve learned about the Raiders after the start of free agency.
Focus on Offensive Line
With the big-money signings of Rodger Saffold and Austin Howard, the Raiders made sure to address the offensive line as quickly as possible in free agency this offseason.
Although the Saffold deal has since been voided due to a failed physical, the focus placed on the unit up front is evident nonetheless.
With Saffold no longer in the Raiders’ plans, expect the team to look to sign at least one more offensive lineman on the open market, and quite possibly more.
Getting this unit taken care of is the ideal course of action when a rookie quarterback could be taking over the reins in the near future.
The voiding of the big Saffold deal has the Raiders taking a giant step back in that regard, but there is still plenty of time remaining in free agency to readdress the position.
Focus on Defensive Line and Pass Rush
While no signings have been made on the defensive side of the ball so far, day two of free agency saw reports surface of the Raiders hosting both Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley, among others, for visits.
It remains to be seen whether or not the team is indeed looking to add both players to the roster, but doing so would provide quite the upgrade for the pass rush.
Both are proven, veteran players, and despite being allowed to look elsewhere by their former teams, they still have plenty left to offer in the years ahead.
Either way, whether the Raiders are able to sign both, one, or neither, it has become clear that they are ready to spend in upgrading what has been one of the most problematic areas of the roster over the past few seasons.
Again, with money to spend, the Raiders' front four could become a strength of the team overall if they come away from free agency with a few D-line additions of Woodley and Tuck’s caliber, while possibly adding yet another pass-rusher with an early selection in the draft.
That kind of quick turnaround up front would change the look of the defense heading into next season entirely, benefiting both the linebackers and the secondary in the process.
Willingness to Spend
With the Austin Howard signing, and even the Rodger Saffold contract that was later voided, the Raiders showed they were not afraid to spend money in free agency early on.
Hosting visits for players like LaMarr Woodley and Justin Tuck—certain to command fairly sizable contracts themselves—only furthers that notion.
Of course, this is new territory for a Raiders regime that only now has any sort of salary cap space at its disposal. But with so few contracts currently on the books, the team has to spend a fair bit to ensure it will reach the 4-year minimum, 89 percent cap usage.
With that in mind, it would be hard to criticize the Raiders in spending whatever amount they deem necessary to attract the free agents they desire.
This roster needs to add a lot of talent in a short period of time, and the team cannot afford to miss out on any players they see as difference-makers within their schemes.
All along, it was going to make the most sense for the Raiders to do their most heavy spending in the second tier of free agency, after the first-day signings had come off the market.
That time is now, and we can expect the Raiders to remain very busy in the coming days.
With that focus on the second wave of free agency, we again see the patience this Raiders regime has in getting the right players for the team moving forward.
Having so much money to spend, and pressure to improve the team quickly, it would be easy to throw money at the biggest names of this year’s free-agent class, hoping for a quick fix.
However, this Raiders management team has and will remain intent on preventing any financial situation similar to the one it just worked two full seasons to get out of—they will avoid that quick-fix mentality at all costs.
Money will be spent throughout this offseason, no doubt, but it will be done in a way that can address as many areas of the roster as possible.
As such, the Raiders could add a significant amount of players as free agency goes on, and they should remain in the market for any players who should become free agents up to and throughout the preseason.
More than any other, this should be the offseason that sees the most roster turnover since Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen joined the team, and doing it the right way, it could allow for a quicker rebuild process overall.