Oakland Raiders: Latest Free-Agency News and Rumors
Two important dates are quickly approaching. March 2 is the deadline for teams intending on using their franchise tags, and March 10 free agency officially begins.
Currently, the Oakland Raiders are on the radar of a few impact players if they aren’t designated with the franchise tag or re-signed by their respective teams. Oakland also has a major decision to make on one of its own.
General manager Reggie McKenzie has already stated to CSNBayArea.com reporter Scott Bair, that he wants to sign some impact free agents this year. McKenzie said:
Last year, I felt like we need more role players, more backups. We needed to upgrade so much. Now, we’re looking for guys who can come in and make a real impact. I’m looking for less volume this time around. I don’t need as many backup-type players. We’re going to go after some real players.
McKenzie must be judicious with free-agent spending. Top-tier players will likely use Oakland’s $49.73 million cap space, per Spotrac, as leverage for higher wages.
If the Raiders want to elevate expectations and make a run for the playoffs, they will start with making at least two key signings with implications of bringing immediate impact for the 2015 season.
Randall Cobb on Raiders' Radar
Randall Cobb is one of the newer free-agent targets whom the Raiders will officially pursue, per ESPN reporter Bill Williamson via Twitter, but it’s still unclear as to whether he’ll even hit the market.
The Raiders have more than enough to accommodate Cobb’s salary requirements, but will the Green Bay Packers franchise-tag him?
As good as Cobb has been for the Packers, he’s still expendable with Aaron Rodgers under center. The Packers feel good about their rookie wide receiver drafted in the second round in 2014, Davante Adams.
It’s no secret Rodgers makes receivers look great on the field and in free agency, just ask Greg Jennings and James Jones.
Expect McKenzie to pounce on a player he was acquainted with as the director of player personnel in Green Bay.
Quarterback Derek Carr is in dire need of a playmaker—while Cobb may not post the same numbers he has with Rodgers, he’ll be more valuable to the Raiders than the Packers.
Julius Thomas Too Pricey for Denver?
According to Chris Wesseling of NFL.com, it seems as though one of the best tight ends in the league is set to hit free agency in two weeks:
Broncos general manager John Elway now appears willing to let Thomas test his value on the open market. There are questions in Denver about the former college hoops star's injury history as well as his fit in Gary Kubiak's scheme that requires tight ends to do more blocking on cutback runs.
Yes, the report suggests the Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons (as reported by D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) as possible teams vying for Thomas, but a more sentimental value ties the tight end to the Silver and Black.
Everything's a possibility." Thomas said in an interview on Bay Area radio station, 95.7 the game. "I guess the Raiders would have to want me in order for negotiations to start or maybe offer me a contract. Who knows what's gonna happen...
Oh yeah, I was a big time Raiders fan," said Thomas. "I went to a lot of games with my dad and my grandpa. It's a family atmosphere out there for me. I think any given Sunday I was probably averaging about 20-25 family members at those games. I always enjoyed coming back to Oakland and playing and getting to see family and spend time. ...
That love still shows itself here and there. For instance, his Twitter avatar is the picture above which shows him tossing a ball into the stands in Oakland with the Raiders symbol clearly featured.
It’s a family affair for Thomas' family in Oakland. What’s better than playing for the team you grew up watching with your family attending en masse eight games a year?
The pipe dream of signing both Cobb and Thomas would immediately give prowess to the Raiders offense.
Thomas is looking for a hefty contract, but he could post numbers similar to Antonio Gates when his career was basically said and done. McKenzie has to at least make an offer to the Stockton, California, native.
Terrance Knighton and Del Rio 3.0?
The longer Denver waits to sign Terrance Knighton, the more disrespectful the gesture. This sentiment coming straight from the Broncos defensive tackle.
Knighton explains to ESPN reporter Josina Anderson (via ESPN.com), that he wants to stay in Denver, but the front office isn’t showing the urgency to keep him in the Mile High city:
To be quite honest with you, it's frustrating and it's somewhat disrespectful just knowing how important I was to the team and what the defense could've been without somebody like me. It's almost like, the longer they wait, the worse it is going to be.
In conjunction with Knighton’s increasing frustrations, Del Rio spoke highly of the defensive tackle he coached in Jacksonville and Denver in the Dan Graziano's report (via video); Del Rio said at the NFL's Scouting Combine:
We drafted him. We thought at that time he was kind of a dancing bear type. A big, powerful man that could stay on his feet and run down the line. So, you know, this game is about big, powerful men so that the guys that have the skill level can do their things.
So this big, powerful man played well in Jacksonville. We got back together; he played well in Denver, and so I appreciate that. I respect that. We have to have those kinds of people in our trenches on the offensive and defensive line in order to play the football we expect to play.
As a Raiders fan, this is the icing on the cake. Knighton openly admits he’d like to become a Raider if contract negotiations don’t work out in Denver, per Anderson:
There's been a lot of talk about me going to Oakland because of coach [Jack] Del Rio. He and I have a great relationship. I know his defense. I know exactly how he wants his nose tackles to play and I am a very loyal person. He stuck with me ... and he is a big part of me being in Denver. So if things don't work out, he is definitely the first person I would like to talk to.
This all but seals the deal for Oakland, if Knighton hits the market. It would also strengthen the Raiders' defensive line immensely. Knighton could help rookie Justin Ellis along as he develops, playing next to Leonard Williams who the Raiders hope is available or a more realistic potential first-round pick in Danny Shelton.
Regardless of the secondary outcome, the Raiders' run defense would be greatly improved in 2015 if Knighton inks a deal in Oakland.
Stefen Wisniewski on Denver's Radar?
The stalemate between Stefen Wisniewski and Oakland’s front office could be the first sign of changes for the offensive line.
Wisniewski is in a similar position to Knighton in more ways than one. As time goes on, it’s more likely he won’t be re-signed and will hit the market. Secondly, if he does hit the market, he’ll likely reach a deal with the archrival.
The Denver Broncos are reportedly a team that will be interested in Wisniewski, per ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan via Twitter.
What makes Wisniewski twice as attractive for Denver is his versatility. He began his career at left guard, a position the Broncos look to fill, per ESPN Denver reporter Cecil Lammey via Twitter.
If Denver cannot land Mike Iupati, look for an extreme push for Wisniewski.
According to Michael Wagaman of ESPN.com, Wisniewski’s asking price is relative to a mid-level salary for a center, approximately $3 million to $6 million average per year. If Oakland refuses to pay Wisniewski a mid-level salary at his position out of $49.73 million, it says a lot about how the Raiders assess his overall value.
Carolina Moving on from Greg Hardy?
Greg Hardy becoming a free agent isn’t set in stone yet, but it’s very close when reading Carolina Panthers GM Dave Gettleman's comments about how uncomfortable he is with character issues (via Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk):
Even though Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman wouldn’t speak specifically about pending free agent Greg Hardy, he did make it clear how worried his team has to be moving forward with players with character questions.
“I think every organization is careful about that,” Gettleman said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “This game is too hard. There are 53 guys and you’ve got all these coaches, all these personnel people, everybody’s working.
"Who wants a ticking time bomb? So I don’t think it’s going to change. Every organization I’ve ever been with that has gone into the draft and you talk about the background stuff, they’ll stay away from the guys that have character issues and the potential to continue those issues. This is too hard to have to worry about that."
Prior to last year’s arrest, the problems Hardy had were of the nuisance variety, the kind of bad decision-making that’s not uncommon for guys who fell to the sixth round for reasons not physical.
Hardy may have a checkered past, but it’s conceivable that the Raiders have enough veteran leadership to keep Hardy’s head on straight, with Charles Woodson, Justin Tuck, Antonio Smith and LaMarr Woodley in the locker room.
All the aforementioned players are approaching the sunset of their careers, but as a veteran nucleus, the group may be able to mentor younger guys like Hardy as positive influences.
Oakland certainly has a need for a prolific pass-rusher, and Hardy fits the bill. He recorded 26 sacks between the 2012 and 2013 seasons before only playing one game in 2014 due to his domestic-abuse charges.
Hardy’s future is unclear as to what team he’ll play for—but if McKenzie’s 2013 veteran signings were ever good for something, it would be keeping a promising talent who makes off-the-field mistakes composed and focused on what could be a great NFL career.
Advanced statistics provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com