With all of the upgrades made to the Oakland Raiders roster over the 2010 off-season, there are high expectations for them this season. For many, the release of TJ Houshmandzadeh over the weekend was the opportunity for the Raiders to ensure that those expectations will be met.
As reports surfaced that Houshmandzadeh would be deciding between the Oakland Raiders and the Washington Redskins, it seemed like those fans might have their dreams come true. However, these hopes were shattered when Houshmandzadeh shocked the NFL by signing with the Baltimore Ravens.
Despite the Raiders' inability to land TJ Houshmandzadeh, there are still players available that could improve the Oakland Raiders roster this season.
One year ago this week, Mr. Davis and the Raiders unexpectedly traded for Pro Bowl defensive lineman Richard Seymour. Raiders fans should not be surprised if Mr. Davis pulls another surprise this year.
There are a number of big names who are still refusing to report to their respective teams as the result of contract issues. As the season is about to start, teams will need to either do something about these players' situations or else be ready to start the season without high quality players or compensation.This provides a team like the Oakland Raiders an opportunity to make a last minute trade that could have a serious impact on the season.
Of the big names still holding out, two, Marcus McNeil and Vincent Jackson, play for the San Diego Chargers. It is unlikely that San Diego would trade them to a division rival. Once you get past those two players, the best player still holding out is the Patriots Pro Bowl guard, Logan Mankins. Trading for a player the caliber of Logan Mankins would drastically improve the Oakland Raiders offensive line. What is now considered to be the Raiders biggest liability would suddenly become a minor concern.
While this trade seems unlikely to happen, it is not at all out of the realm of possibility. The New England Patriots have shown that they are willing to trade older players who were once considered corner stones of their franchise in order to save money. Just look at Deion Branch and of course Richard Seymour. In addition, the Patriots still have to deal with contract situations for their two star players in Randy Moss and Tom Brady. Given these circumstances, the Patriots would likely welcome a trade if the price is right and given their past dealings with the Patriots, the Raiders would make the most sense in terms of a trade partner.
While Logan Mankins would obviously make the biggest difference to the Oakland Raiders roster, there are other players available that would also help the Raiders but at a much smaller price.
First, there are two veteran centers who are without teams to start the 2010 season. Kevin Mawae, formerly of the New York Jets and Tennessee Titans, and well-traveled Justin Hartwig can both provide a positive veteran influence. While I believe that Jared Veldheer will have a good year as the starting center in Oakland, both of these players are quality linemen with a lot of experience. If either would be willing to play the guard position, they would be an upgrade over Cooper Carlisle and would provide depth to a unit that drastically needs it.
Also left without a team after last weekend's cuts is former Pittsburgh Steelers' star running back Willie Parker. While Parker is not quite the same back he was when the Steelers ran him rugged, he would still be a valuable addition to the Raiders backfield. When Michael Bush broke his thumb against the San Francisco 49ers in the third pre-season game of 2010, Raiders fans became painfully aware of how a few injuries could ruin the season for this team.
With Darren McFadden seemingly incapable of playing an entire season without getting injured, running back depth on the Raiders is a concern. In fact, it is such a concern that the Raiders kept both Michael Bennett and Rock Cartwright on the team, while electing to only keep two tight ends.While Bennett had a good pre-season, Rock Cartwright did little to impress, likely earning a roster spot due to his versatility as he is a good receiving option and can play FB.
In spite of his versatility, Willie Parker would be much more valuable to the Oakland Raiders than Rock Cartwright would be. The Raiders need back up running backs who are able to make Oakland's ground game threatening enough to take pressure off of Jason Campbell and our young receivers. If Darren McFadden and/or Michal Bush goes down with an injury, Willie Parker would be a much bigger threat on the ground than Rock Cartwright would be.
Additionally, Cartwright's additional value as a pass catcher and fullback is far less important to the Raiders considering up and coming FB Marcel Reece and unsigned rookie free agent Manase Tonga (who is currently on the Raiders practice squad). Both of these players are young, pass catching fullbacks who provide the same kinds of skills that made Cartwright appealing to the Raiders in the first place. On top of that, Marcel Reece can also play the tight end position where depth is also concern for the Raiders.
The Raiders witnessed how disastrous a key injury can be for a team last year when guard Robert Gallery went out for a number of weeks. Caught in a bind, Tom Cable was forced to sub in tackle Langston Walker to play a position he had never played before. Preventing bad situations from becoming disasters as this one did, requires preparing for the worse. Adding reliable depth to your team is one of the best ways to ensure that injuries do not ruin a season.
Whether it is a game changing starter like Logan Mankins or a solid veteran to add depth like Justin Hartwig, Kevin Mawae or Willie Parker, the Oakland Raiders still have plenty of time and opportunity to solidify their roster. Doing so will help the Raiders stay on the path towards regaining their rightful place as an NFL power.