Top Signings: Justin Tuck DE, Lamarr Woodley OLB, Maurice Jones-Drew RB, James Jones WR, Donald Penn T, Matt Schaub QB (via trade)
Top Needs:...pretty much everything
The expectations weren't high for the Raiders going into the 2013 season. Their roster was considered one of the weakest in the NFL, and they were in a tough division that ended up featuring three playoff teams. After finishing with a 4-12 record, general manager Reggie McKenzie knew more changes had to be made.
The free-agent period started off rough for McKenzie as he allowed promising left tackle Jared Veldheer to walk and sign with the Cardinals. His backup plan was to sign St. Louis Rams guard/tackle Roger Saffold, but the deal fell through when Saffold failed his physical and subsequently re-signed with the Rams.
After this fiasco, McKenzie went out and essentially signed a 2011 all-star team. There were major upgrades made to both the offense and the defense, so let's start with the offense first.
To soften the blow of losing out on both Veldheer and Saffold, Oakland signed former Tampa Bay Buccaneers tackle Donald Penn to a two-year, $9.6 million deal.
Terrelle Pryor started the season as the starting quarterback, beating out Matt Flynn for the job. He struggled as a starter and eventually was benched in favor of undrafted rookie Matt McGloin. McGloin did a serviceable job, but neither QB hardly seems like the future of the franchise.
The Raiders orchestrated a trade for long-time Texans starter Matt Schaub, who had a down year and most likely would be replaced by a rookie had he remained in Houston. Schaub is not a guaranteed starter for Oakland, who still looks to be in play for a rookie quarterback, but he definitely gives them a good veteran backup or short-term answer while the rookie is brought up to speed. Despite the rough year in Houston, Schaub still remains a solid quarterback who can help the Raiders win games.
Last year in free agency, Oakland brought in former Jaguars running back Rashad Jennings to pair up with Darren McFadden. This year they lost Jennings to the New York Giants but replaced him with yet another Jaguars running back in Maurice Jones-Drew.
MJD had a very successful career in Jacksonville, but injuries slowed him towards the end and ultimately the team decided to move on. In Oakland, he will bring some much needed power to their run game. He will team up with McFadden to form a potentially dangerous tandem. If both players can avoid injury, the Raiders could be one of the best rushing offenses in the league.
The receiver corps also got a boost when the Raiders were able to sign former Green Bay Packers wideout James Jones to a three-year, $11.3 million deal. Despite what was talked about in the video, Jones is a great fit for Oakland. Yes McKenzie knows Jones' weaknesses, but he also knows his strengths and how to best use him.
The veteran wide receiver brings some much needed experience to a young group of receivers. He will slide into the number one spot across from Denarius Moore. Jones is a big improvement for receiver platoon that was pretty ineffective last season. To put it one way, Jones scored 14 touchdowns in 2012; the Raiders as a team scored 17 last season.
The defense incurred just as much of an overhaul as the offense did. To counter the loss of lineman Lamarr Houston, the Raiders signed Justin Tuck to a two-year, $11 million deal. Tuck started off last season slow but caught fire towards the end, registering 11.5 sacks. He was also one of the key reasons the Giants had such a good run defense.
The Raiders also signed former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Lamarr Woodley to upgrade their defensive line. Oakland plans on converting Woodley back to his natural 4-3 defensive end position, which he played in college. This stems from the Raiders' belief that his injuries were due his smaller frame not being durable enough.
If both Woodley and Tuck are able to avoid the injuries that have bugged them in the past, they could give offensive lines plenty of fits.
The secondary was also beefed up with the additions of former San Francisco corners Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown. Both figure to hit the starting line up as well as provide good mentors to last year's first-round pick D.J. Hayden. This revamped secondary will give Oakland a fighting chance in a division that features Peyton Manning, Alex Smith and Philip Rivers.
The Raiders finish atop this list mainly by virtue of how terrible their roster was last season. But not to be lost in this is just how good this team can be. Granted, barring some miracle, this team is still not ready to compete in the playoffs. However, one of the most important aspects of these moves is that most of these players come from winning teams. As such, these players will bring a winning attitude that this organization has lacked over the last 10 years.