Oakland is expected to release both Carson Palmer and DT Tommy Kelly before free agency begins. The cap saving between the two would open the floodgates for potential signings. Assuming Reggie McKenzie doesn’t trade the Raiders first round pick to Kansas City, something that has been speculated by many analysts, Oakland could potentially go from worst to best in the West. Note that I said potentially.
Wide Reciever Darrius Heyward-Bey and Safety Michael Huff were released by the Raiders roughly three hours into free agency. The team is still expected to release Kelly and Palmer. Phillip Wheeler signed a $26M contract with the Miami Dolphins in the first few hours of free agency.
I am a firm believer that McKenzie will turn around what has been a dastardly 30 years since the Madden generation ended, and that it will be centered around the defensive line and cheap receiving corps that Oakland currently possesses.
Starting with free agency, Oakland could add cheap interior lineman that would substantiate this. Osi Umenyora and Chris Canty, the two main reasons that the Giants won the 2011 Lombardi trophy, are both up for grabs, and for around $3M per season each. That’s $2M less than Tommy Kelly’s guaranteed money alone. Retain Matt Shaughnessy and you have a very explosive DE and DT set. Retain the young cornerbacks and your defense is very solid. Draft a growing MLB in the third round and you have an incredibly formidable defense.
Offensively, the Raiders have a trickier task.
No team ever won a Super Bowl without clutch play at quarterback. There are a few names that could be thrown around in free agency, however.
Jason Cambell is one of them. He has experience in Oakland and proved to be a great threat under center. Just before his season ending injury in 2011, the Raiders were poised for a decent looking postseason. He also worked well with the backfield. If I was McKenzie, I would make Cambell an offer like three-years at $12M. Even if it didn’t pan out, it would hardly be a cap hit and the team could continue rebuilding.
The incredibly inexpensive receiving talent is already present on Sunday’s. Every wide-out in Oakland excluding Heyward-Bey made under $1M per year last season.
Ridding out Darren McFadden for a second or third round pick would create enough cap room to afford a very solid running back committee, something that is being considered currently in all team offices.
So to review, these are some of the offers to look for in free agency:
Chris Canty-DT, two years, $6M
Osi Umenyora-DE, three years, $8M
Jason Cambell-QB, three years, $12M
Kevin Smith-RB, two years, $2.5M
Kahlil Bell-RB, three years, $3M
Players to retain
Matt Shaughnessy-DE, three years, $5M
Joselio Hanson-CB, three years, $3.5M
Phillip Wheeler-LB, four years, $6M
As for the draft, Oakland does not have a second round pick because of the Carson Palmer trade. Instead, Cincinatti will have the 35th overall pick. That trade really put the Raiders front office in a bind and creates some interesting scenarios.
One is that Oakland will trade their first round pick and third overall, for a second and third round pick, or second and fourth round. Assuming this to be the case, they could draft Oregon RT Kyle Long. Long was a primary reason that Oregon played so well the past two seasons and beyond blindside protection, is a great run-blocker. Assuming they are able to get a third round pick as well, they may be able to steal Stanford RB Stefan Taylor with their early pick and snatch the best defensive back available with their next.
If they keep their first pick, one thing is certain: Their pick will be from Alabama. It could be LB Jarvis Jones, DE Alec Ogletree, RB Eddy Lacy or CB Dee Milliner. Any of those four players would provide significant long-term aide in Oakland.
If Oakland does trade their first pick, fans should fear not. Barring catastrophic structural collapse at the coliseum that kills the entire team, it’d be pretty difficult to do any worse than last season.