The Oakland Raiders are coming off their most successful season since they went to the Super Bowl. However, excitement in the Raider Nation is tempered as the Nation watches all of the changes being made. This concerns many because continuity is important to a team attempting to change a losing culture that has been around for over seven years.
Thankfully, despite the firing of head coach Tom Cable, the Raiders offensive players will not be forced to learn a new scheme as last year's offensive coordinator, Hue Jackson, was promoted to head coach. While maintaining the same offensive scheme is important, maintaining a solid core of players may be more important. Here is a list of players that Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders MUST re-sign if they want to contend for the AFC West title and a playoff bid.
The Oakland Raiders defensive line went from one of their biggest liabilities to one of their greatest strengths since Richard Seymour was acquired from the New England Patriots. Seymour has helped Tommy Kelly live up to the potential the Raiders saw in him when they signed him to a massive contract and has helped young players like Lamarr Houston and Matt Shaughnessy develop into real threats at the defensive end positions.
With Seymour on the field, the whole defensive line plays better. Add to this the fact that the Raiders gave away a first-round pick to get Seymour and you've got the most important free agent on the Raider roster this offseason.
Zach Miller is one of the most sure-handed tight ends in the NFL today and is an absolute necessity for success in the Oakland Raiders passing game.
With the perennial injuries that Chaz Schillens has faced over the past few years, Zach Miller is the only true possession receiving threat that the Raiders have and is the perfect compliment to the receiving corps.
DHB, Murphy and the great Jacoby Ford are all burners with the ability to stretch the field, but have not proved themselves to be reliable short yard, possession type receivers. By having a threat underneath in the form of Miller, defenses cannot play their safeties too deep without risking good pickups by Miller.
After being labeled a bust at the left tackle position, Robert Gallery has shown that he can not only play in the NFL, but that he has the ability to be one of the better guards in the league. Gallery has been pivotal in the Oakland Raiders success in the run game and is the best player on the Raiders offensive line.
Considering the fact that the offensive line is clearly the Oakland Raiders' biggest area of concern, losing their best player on that line will make it all the more difficult to build a playoff caliber line.
The Oakland Raiders doubled their offensive output this season and most of that was done on the back of a ferocious running game. Darren McFadden had a breakout season and finally lived up to the expectations the Raiders had of him when he was a top 10 draft pick.
However, we cannot forget the large role that Michael Bush played in the offense this season. Bush was arguably the best backup running back in the NFL last year. Having a serious threat as your backup running back is crucial because it allows McFadden to get enough rest to be fresh late in games while forcing defenses to respect the run regardless of who is in the backfield.
Bruce Almighty is a fan favorite in Oakland, but that is not the only reason that the Raiders need to re-sign him. Jason Campbell played well enough this past season to secure a starting spot at the quarterback position next season.
However, with the offensive line as porous as it is, Campbell constantly found himself on the wrong side of big hits. Often times, this resulted in Campbell being forced to sit a few plays out. While Campbell did not miss any major time except during the preseason, there is always the chance of injury when your offensive line is as weak in pass protection as the Raiders' o-line is.
Having a backup quarterback who can not only play, but also get the players around him to make plays for him, is crucial for a team like the Raiders.
The only reason Wimbley is not higher on the list is, because I have heard mixed reports about whether or not Wimbley is under contract for the 2011 season, with some speculating that he has an opt-out clause and might use it.
Regardless of what his status is, the Raiders must be sure that he is on the roster next season. Wimbley was the most underrated offseason move made by the Raiders this past year. The Raiders got Wimbley at the bargain price of a fourth-round pick, and he had a very good season for the Raiders.
Many in the Raider Nation were highly skeptical of the decision to trade Kirk Morrison and bench Thomas Howard. However, the play of Wimbley quickly made the Nation forget about any complaints and happily accept Wimbley as the new starter.