NFL Free Agency officially starts on March 18th but the legal tampering period allowed them and others to make some moves before the period opens.
I planned on writing an article about how the Raiders should tackle the offseason. However, the world is practically ending so give me a break for missing the deadline.
Free Agency Tampering Reaction
The Raiders mentally read my memo because they attacked free agency exactly how I wanted. Las Vegas addressed their brutally mediocre linebacker corps by adding Nick Kwiatkoski and Cory Littleton. I worried about those two getting out of the Raiders price range but the Silver and Black are willing to pay $56 million over the next three years to make them both their starting linebackers.
Kwiatkoski’s $7 million average contract makes sense for a player who got his first year as a starter last year. Littleton’s price tag is a little much but he should bring some added athleticism and playoff experience to the Raiders.
After Kwiatkoski’s addition, the next rumored move was the Raiders signing Marcus Mariota. Again, Mariota seemed like a logical QB 1B for the Raiders. They could give Mariota a year as the athletic backup or he offers the tools to beat out Mariota outright for the spot. Either way, this QB room won’t have it’s short of rumors as long as Carr remains on the roster.
Then, things kind of got weird. Las Vegas signed Jason Witten out of nowhere. Witten showed he still had some juice by finishing with over 539 receiving yards and four touchdowns after sitting out 2018. The only issue is the Raiders tight end position was already one of their strongest groups with Pro Bowlers Darren Waller as well as Foster Moreau and Derek Carrier finding their own roles.
Las Vegas continued making moves adding former Cowboys defenders in Jeff Heath and Maliek Collins. Neither were really on my radar but seem like serviceable NFL players to boister the roster competition. Heath you might remember as the player who got credit for Carr fumbling away our playoff hopes short of the end zone a few years ago. He will be 29 next year and brings 54 games starting experience.
Collins started 55 games in four years with Dallas including 16 last year. He had his best year with four sacks and brings experience playing in both even and odd fronts.
It’s ironic the Raiders went after a few Cowboys since that team underachieved enough to get their coach fired and miss the playoffs. Still, there’s a clear message getting sent to current Raiders D.C. Paulie Geunther that maybe he isn’t the made man anymore. The Raiders are plucking people from D-line coach Rob Marinelli’s tree because he might be the D.C. sooner or later.
Vegas added more defensive help with Carl Nassib. Nassib is hybrid edge rusher with 12.5 sacks combined over the past two seasons. Nassib is only 27 and should be a factor in the Raiders rotation with Collins over the next few seasons. Both these guys were excellent ascending players on fair deals.
It’s hard to say. The Raiders have about $30 million in cap space currently but that does not include the reported deals for Heath, Nassib, Mariota or Witten. Those additions plus their upcoming draft picks could mean the Raiders are tapped out.
That means Gabe Jackson or Derek Carr getting traded are probably the next one or two steps. Moving Carr could save them $13.6 million in cap space or moving Jackson saves $9.6 million. Both should have markets it’s just a matter of how much. Teams knowing the Raiders could cut either won’t make it easier for Vegas to get the draft pick return they really want.
Either way, the Raiders could afford to add another corner in free agency. A veteran like Chris Harris makes sense. There are also veterans like Desmond Trufant, Ronald Darby or Xavier Rhodes who could also use a redemption year. Nickell Robey-Coleman or Mackensie Alexander could make sense if they want ascending players with experience thriving in the slot.
I also would not be immune to the Raiders adding another veteran pass rusher like Everson Griffen to give them even more chances to sack the quarterback. Something like that probably wouldn’t happen until after the draft or they move some other defensive linemen.
Plus, what about the offense?
The Silver and Black offense was solid but all the issues were not Derek Carr’s fault. He or Mariota could use some added receiving targets.
Emmanuel Sanders is a veteran guy with experience in the Raiders offensive scheme. Paul Richardson played under Gruden’s brother in Washington. Travis Benjamin or Demarcus Robinson are speedster who knows the division. Nelson Agholor needs a new start. Robby Anderson is probably the best of the group remaining and the Raiders almost traded for him last year. Breshad Perriman also wrapped up a breakout year. We also can’t forget Phillip Dorsett who had almost 400 receiving yards for the pats last year. The point is, the Raiders can add speed and deep threats ahead of what will be a very deep receiving class in the draft.
We also can’t forget backup running back. Jalen Richard is a cool guy and special team player but he is what he is at this point. The Raiders should kick the tires on a veteran runner like Carlos Hyde who has always been good at finding the end zone. Devonta Freeman also makes sense as a west coast zone back off a few bad seasons. Freeman is still 28 and could have some trend on the tires if used in situations. Lamar Miller is another veteran low-risk, high reward move or the legend of Frank Gore who would be great at getting downhill with the Raiders.
Moving forward, the Raiders set themselves up to pick the best player available in the draft by addressing their key needs before free agency officially opens.
That means one or two of their first five picks across rounds one thru three will be a wide receiver. In between, they should still take Richie Incognito’s eventual replacement as well as another pass rusher or secondary player. Then, of course, they also got to find a quarterback even if they commit to an open competition between.