NFL Free Agency: Oakland Raiders May Go After Antonio Cromartie

Tim PetersonCorrespondent IJuly 27, 2011

Free agent  Antonio Cromartie could be on Oakland's radar.
Free agent Antonio Cromartie could be on Oakland's radar.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

While NFL teams can’t officially sign players until Friday, agreements in principle can be made. And as expected, the free agent moves made around the league came fast and furious.

The frenzy opened with Donovan McNabb being traded to Minnesota for a sixth-round draft pick. Then former Seahawks signal caller Matt Hasselbeck signed in Tennessee. And in a surprise move, former Minnesota wide receiver Sidney Rice struck a five-year deal with Seattle worth $41 million.

Also hitting a home run was Chargers safety Eric Weddle. The former Utah Ute got $40 million by agreeing to a five-year extension in San Diego. Denver’s Kyle Orton could be the next player on the move, as the Broncos and Dolphins try to hammer out a trade for the veteran quarterback.

Nonetheless, after a huge day of player movement, the biggest question still remains: Just when will prize free-agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha sign?

The Jets are clearly chomping at the bit to lock-up the three-time All Pro. Pairing Asomugha with Darrelle Revis on the corners would make the Jets’ pass-defense formidable, there’s no question about that. Still, other suitors are lined up if the Jets fumble their opportunity. Houston and the 49ers all have the cap space and desire to land the shutdown corner.

Jets are pursuing free agent prize Nnamdi Asomugha.
Jets are pursuing free agent prize Nnamdi Asomugha.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

CSN's Matt Maiocco reports that San Francisco cornerback Nate Clements will be released on Thursday, which will free up some $17 million in salary-cap space and could make the Niners the front-runners in the Asomugha sweepstakes.

As for the Raiders, if Asomugha does sign with the Jets, then it’s conceivable that Al Davis will target free-agent cornerback Antonio Cromartie as a likely replacement. NFL Network's Jason LaConfora's tweet yesterday fueled that fire: "Hearing rumblings the Raiders could be suitors for Antonio Cromartie. Corner market is very interesting."

Paired with Stanford Routt, Oakland would have the athletic corners its defense demands, while easing the pain of losing its most talented player. Cromartie is rated among Peter King’s top 50 free agents and the former Alabama product is obviously familiar with the AFC West from his playing days in San Diego.

On the downside, Cromartie isn’t nearly as gifted a defender as Asomugha in man-to-man coverage. And both Routt and Cromartie have a bad habit of getting burned in coverage.

Oakland is also connected to Niners safety Dashon Goldson. In 2010, the fifth-year player from Washington recorded 80 tackles and had one interception. The free-agent safety is also very durable, he's played in 32 straight games. Goldson is a hard hitter and would be a terrific replacement for Michael Huff.

Up front, the Raiders are reportedly in discussions with Baltimore tackle Jared Gaither. The 6'9", 340-pound tackle would certainly fill a huge gap on the offensive line and allow LSU tackle Joe Barksdale to ease into his rookie season.

Yet none these moves can be made until the Raiders’ front office finds a way to get under the new salary cap, which stands at $120 million. However, Contra Costa Times beat writer Steve Corkran is reporting that the organization is working on a long-term deal for franchise player Kamerion Wimbley and if a new contract can be reached, it could free up $10.5 million for the Raiders to use toward free agency.