Ranking the 2014 Impact of the Oakland Raiders' Free Agent Signings so Far
Finally out of a difficult salary cap situation, general manager Reggie McKenzie and the Oakland Raiders were extremely busy when free agency got under way this month.
Spending on free agents alone is no way to build a team, but the Raiders needed to add quality talent in short order.
The signings already made have the potential to make the team that much more competitive in the short term, while younger players continue to be added through the draft and developed in the years to follow.
Ranked by 2014 impact, here is a look at the Raiders’ eight free-agent signings so far.
8. Kevin Boothe
Returning to the silver and black, Kevin Boothe is a solid upgrade on the interior offensive line.
The Raiders have valued versatility on both sides of center, and that is exactly what Boothe brings to the offensive front with his experience at both guard and center.
His fit for the Raiders’ power scheme will benefit the running game, and this move should do a lot to address the interior pass-protection issues the offense struggled with throughout 2013.
Like many of the team’s other signings so far this offseason, Boothe is an experienced veteran that has been a contributor to winning teams. As the Raiders rebuild, having those kind of players on the roster is important.
7. Austin Howard
The Raiders’ first signing of free agency, Austin Howard is a young and talented player who should start at right tackle.
A number of different players started at this spot throughout the 2013 season, so getting the position solidified became a priority for the Raiders moving forward.
Of course, 2013 second-round selection Menelik Watson is still on the roster as well, but the six-year, $30 million deal for Howard could mean that Watson’s best chance to crack the starting lineup will come at guard.
Like Boothe, Howard’s size and strength make him a good fit for the Raiders blocking scheme, and he is a significant upgrade for the group up front.
6. Donald Penn
After the Raiders let Jared Veldheer leave in free agency, and then missed out on the signing of Rodger Saffold, an immediate need at the left tackle spot emerged.
In Donald Penn, the Raiders get yet another established veteran, and another fit for the power running game around which they will look to build the offense.
With this signing, the Raiders’ starting offensive line appears to be set, and despite some top talent available at the position in the draft, they can likely now look elsewhere with their first-round selection.
Turning 31 before the season starts, Penn should still have several good years ahead of him, and his experience in the league could be important for other young players on the line as they develop.
5. James Jones
Addressing the wide receiver position was certain to be a goal for the Raiders heading into this offseason, and they did just that with another veteran in James Jones.
Of course, Reggie McKenzie knows Jones well from his tenure in Green Bay, and his abilities make him a good fit for the West Coast passing attack the Raiders now run.
What’s more, as has been the case with so many of the Raiders’ signings thus far, is the impact an experienced player like Jones can have on an otherwise young position group.
Jones’ production is undoubtedly a welcomed addition to the passing game, but the potential for his presence to help the development of players like Rod Streater, Denarius Moore and Brice Butler makes the signing all the more valuable.
4. Tarell Brown
Although the lack of pass rush played a big part in the Raiders’ defensive struggles in 2013, it was clear that additions needed to be made to the secondary as well.
With Tarell Brown, the Raiders make a significant upgrade at cornerback, giving them an established player to pair with second-year corner D.J. Hayden.
Brown performed at a high level over the course of his seven seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, playing a key role in what has been an elite defense of late.
Only signed for a one-year deal, Brown will be looking to prove his worth for a long-term contract in the years to follow, be that with the Raiders or another team. Either way, getting a player of his caliber is the kind of upgrade they needed in the defensive backfield.
3. Antonio Smith
One of several signings to address the defensive front, Antonio Smith should have quite an impact on the Raiders’ pass rush in 2014.
Transitioning to a 4-3 front with the Raiders, Smith will likely see the majority of his snaps as the 3-technique defensive tackle, providing a big upgrade in pass-rush ability from the interior line.
Although he is now 32, Smith was a consistent contributor in his time with the Texas, totaling five sacks last season and a career high seven in 2012.
With this signing, the Raiders address the often-underrated interior aspect of a pass rush, giving them a solid veteran unit across the line.
2. LaMarr Woodley
The Raiders’ choice to let Lamarr Houston hit the open market was somewhat of a surprise, but they were quick to address the position shortly after.
With the signing of LaMarr Woodley to take over that right end or "Leo" spot, the Raiders' edge rush should improve in a big way.
In seven years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Woodley totaled 57 sacks. Although he will turn 30 prior to the 2014 season, he still has plenty left to offer and should benefit from a scheme that will use him exclusively as a pass-rusher.
Again, now with several established veterans across the defensive line, the Raiders’ defense should improve significantly next season. The better Woodley can consistently get after the quarterback off the weak side, the better they’ll be overall.
1. Justin Tuck
The Raiders’ biggest impact free-agent signing of the 2014 offseason as it right now stands is Justin Tuck.
A two-time Super Bowl champion with the New York Giants, Tuck brings plenty of experience and production to Oakland's defensive line and is one more player who should help the pass rush in a big way.
In nine seasons with the Giants, Tuck put up most of his 60.5 sacks from the left end spot and was just as productive setting the edge against the run.
In nickel situations with the Raiders, Tuck will more than likely slide inside to defensive tackle, allowing Sio Moore to join the front four on the edge. On passing downs, a front of Woodley, Smith, Tuck and Moore could make for a solid group getting after the quarterback.
As has been the case with so many signings the Raiders have made thus far, the veteran presence Tuck provides for a rebuilding team is a significant bonus.