It is that time of year again. You know, the time of year when technically the days are getting longer and brighter, while the bulb in Al Davis' head never seems to change?
That, and it's also the time of year when fans of teams on the outside of the postseason start looking ahead to the Draft and what may come from free-agency.
If no CBA is signed with the Players Union, free-agency will be much different than it has been. Any player that signed as a rookie less than six years ago but has an expiring contract, will not be a UFA, but rather an RFA.
Meaning that, an NFL player is required to play six years with the team that selected him before becoming an Unrestricted Free Agent.
Moreover, NFL clubs will have three franchise tags instead of one, while clubs that finish in the Final 8 (24-32) will have stiff restrictions on their ability to sign or resign free-agents.
Nevertheless, with three franchise tags in hand, the chances of an impact starter getting loose in free-agency is slim to nil.
Already, I have seen "Mock Drafts" which think that the Raiders could target a quarterback or linebacker, such as Ryan Mallet and Rolando McClain.
Al Davis generally doesn't use top picks on linebackers and if anything, Davis is still committed to JaMarcus Russell, while the progress of LB Trevor Scott seemingly suggests that linebacker is no longer a priority, anyway.
After that, safety Taylor Mays has been mentioned as a possibility, because of his measurables. Mays would help a secondary that has been burned deep and has had trouble with running backs going long.
Picking Mays would allow the Raiders some options in the secondary, such as giving more time to Michael Huff at corner, which is where he played in college.
I note that, because Nnamdi Asomugha played safety from 2003-2005 before returning to his college position of corner, where he has dominated, and so I wonder if Huff could do the same.
Yet, the progress made by former top pick Huff, former fourth round pick Tyvon Branch, and 2009 second-round pick Mike Mitchell, would seemingly suggest another direction than safety.
That said, I would not rule out Mays as possible, considering the selection of Darrius Heyward-Bey in 2009. It seems that every year, mock drafts pick wrong with the Raiders (good or bad), and when some started saying Heyward-Bey, I didn't believe it.
Live and learn.
The most pressing needs for the Raiders are right tackle, nose tackle, defensive back depth, and guard depth.
The Raiders need to get better in run support at the line and need stability on the right side of the offensive-line, where the retread Cornell Green has been both injury and penalty prone.
I'd say that a defensive-tackle is a safe pick in the first round. If the Raiders can't find a right tackle in free agency, then the second round or later should have talent available, while guards can be found in the later rounds.