5 Moves the Oakland Raiders Should Have Made This Offseason
The Oakland Raiders have had a successful offseason in 2014, but it hasn't been flawless.
The team entered the free-agency period with more than $60 million to spend, and the demand from the fans was high. They expected the team to make a push for any available big names.
However, this was never really a possibility.
The Raiders simply had too many holes to fill, and using up too much of that cap space on just one or two signings was not going to do them any good moving forward. The team needed to be careful when deciding which players to go after and how much to spend.
For the most part, the team made smart signings for the right money, but there were still a few head-scratching decisions. In other cases, the Raiders just didn't do enough to sign a player who would have addressed a major need.
Oakland should have made these signings because not only would they have improved the team overall, but also they fit within the signing model under general manager Reggie McKenzie: good talent at a reasonable price.
Here are five offseason moves the Raiders should have made but didn't.
Given the Raiders' cap space, they had the option of going after pretty much any player they wanted. Oakland wasn't able to add or keep all of the players it wanted, but some of these misses turned out to be blessings in disguise. The team will not feel these absences moving forward.
As far back as December, Houston was hinting that he wouldn't return to Oakland, so it could be argued that the Raiders never really had a chance to re-sign him.
Still, Houston was the Raiders' most consistent performer on defense for years, and it would have been a good sign to see the team make more of a push to keep him. He would have provided production, but more importantly, he would have provided leadership, something this unit will be looking to find with so many new faces.
However, Raiders have done a lot to address the defensive line this offseason with the additions of Justin Tuck, Antonio Smith and Khalil Mack, so the loss of Houston won't affect the unit's performance.
This one made more sense before the Raiders traded for Matt Schaub back in March. Prior to this trade, the team only had Matt McGloin and Trent Edwards at quarterback on the roster—a depth chart that wasn't impressive, to say the least.
Freeman seemed like a logical fit given his previous success under offensive coordinator Greg Olsen when they were together with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He also could have been acquired relatively cheap, which would have fit right into the Raiders' model of signing high potential at low cost.
Since then, Schaub and Derek Carr have joined the roster, so the quarterback position has been addressed.
Verner would have been a great signing for the Raiders, who were in desperate need of talent and consistency at the cornerback position.
Unfortunately, the Raiders had to take the money they had and spread it around because they had an entire roster to rebuild. Verner ended up signing with Tampa Bay for $26.5 million over four years. Oakland still could have signed him, but this one addition wasn't going to fix all of Oakland's defensive problems.
Ultimately, it was best for the team to look elsewhere for help in the secondary.
We'll start with the easy one.
As the Raiders headed into free agency, they had two free agents who were expected to draw league-wide interest: Lamarr Houston and Jared Veldheer. Of these two, Veldheer was always considered the more likely to stay, and everyone assumed that Oakland would make a push to keep him.
Ultimately, Veldheer signed with the Arizona Cardinals, but the shock wasn't that he left Oakland. The shock came from the fact that the Raiders seemed to do so little to keep him.
Cardinals general manager Steve Keim admitted that he was "shocked" that Veldheer was even available, much less a real possibility, according to Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk.
After Veldheer's departure, Reggie McKenzie claimed that the player "didn't want to play for the Raiders anymore," according to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle. But whether he did or not, the fact remains that Oakland's efforts to keep him left a lot to be desired.
The real issue for the Raiders is that Veldheer was one of only a handful of players they could build around. Despite the triceps tear that forced him to miss most of last season, he was still considered an anchor on the offensive line and a foundational player moving forward.
For a team so short on talent, the Raiders should have done more to keep Veldheer around for the long term. They couldn't afford to let him walk out the door, but that's just what they did.
Ben Tate is the type of running back the Raiders were hoping to pick up this offseason.
Given what Tate signed for and how much cap space Oakland had, it is shocking that this option never seemed to be seriously considered, especially given the Raiders-like contract he signed with the Cleveland Browns.
At two years and a maximum of $7 million, this contract would have fit perfectly within Oakland's modus operandi under McKenzie.
The Raiders eventually re-signed injury-prone Darren McFadden and picked up 29-year-old Maurice Jones-Drew, but these signings are temporary solutions. At only 25 years old and with a relatively cheap deal, Tate would have had the opportunity to show that he could carry the load for Oakland for the next five to seven years.
Instead, the Raiders are going to be in the same position next offseason as they were in this one: looking for a dependable option at running back.
Signing Flowers would have improved the Raiders secondary while simultaneously weakening the defense of AFC West rivals the Kansas City Chiefs. His subsequent signing with the San Diego Chargers improves another divisional rival. Meanwhile, the Raiders secondary remains as suspect as ever.
While Oakland has improved all over the field, the weakest unit on the team remains the secondary, specifically at cornerback. Flowers would have made a huge difference.
The Raiders are aware of this weakness and tried to address it by signing Tarell Brown and 33-year-old Carlos Rodgers. Brown, Rodgers and the still-struggling (and once again injured) D.J. Hayden make up the top of the depth chart heading into training camp. This list doesn't inspire much confidence.
The Raiders desperately needed to find some semblance of reliability at cornerback this offseason. Despite all of the options available, they will enter yet another season with a giant question mark at the position.
The Raiders offense showed real signs of life at times last season. As the season progressed, it seemed as if a quarterback who could consistently make all the throws was the only thing missing.
But as much as the team needed a consistent quarterback, it also needed a reliable, proven option at wide receiver.
Nicks was coming off his most disappointing season as a pro, but the truth is that the entire New York Giants offense was a disaster. Even in this scenario, he still caught 56 passes for 896 yards.
The Raiders have an intriguing group of receivers including Rod Streater and Denarius Moore, but neither has proven that he can be a go-to receiver. Even the recently signed James Jones will need to prove that he can be a top receiver without Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball.
The 6'1" Nicks has shown that he can make big plays in big games, and he could have stepped in and immediately taken over as the No. 1 receiver. This would have allowed every other wideout on the roster to play a secondary role that they're better suited for, thereby improving the entire unit.
Instead of securing the position, the Raiders will now begin training camp hoping that someone elevates his game.
Most Raiders fans will admit two things about Charles Woodson: They love him, and he is old.
He had a very good 2013 season, but at 37, it's a big risk to think he can continue that level of performance. The Raiders needed to find his long-term replacement this offseason.
Louis Delmas could have filled the role.
Oakland didn't necessarily have to go out and pick up a Pro Bowler. Sure, the team had the money for someone like Jairus Byrd or T.J. Ward, but these players were too expensive given the number of other needs the team had all over the roster. This didn't mean the Raiders couldn't find someone who could be depended on for more than one season.
More importantly, he is only 27 years old, a full decade younger than Woodson. Alongside fellow 27-year-old Tyvon Branch, Delmas would have helped secure the top of the Raiders secondary for the foreseeable future.
The Raiders could have acquired more than a stopgap at the position with Delmas, but they will instead settle for just that with Woodson.