The Oakland Raiders, along with the rest of the NFL, is preparing for the start of free agency on March 9th. And now that we have finished reviewing the roster for potential cuts and re-signings, itâ€™s time that we turn to our attention to free agency as well.
First off, we rank the needs that the Raiders could try and address through free agency.
7. Slot Receiver
This is what I would characterize as a luxury need. Seth Roberts is a solid slot receiver, but his dropped passes have gotten to the point of being on an unacceptable level. But because itâ€™s nowhere near as big of a need as the others on this list, itâ€™s an upgrade that might be able to wait a year.
Assuming the Raiders donâ€™t cut Reggie Nelson, this is another need that could wait a year if need be. But at the end of the day, Nelson is only a stop gap and one that gave up a lot of big plays last season. If the Raiders have the chance to upgrade the position in free agency, it wouldnâ€™t be a bad idea. It wonâ€™t, however, be a high priority for the Raiders as long as theyâ€™re willing to pay Nelson his $6 million this season.
Given his contract, itâ€™s highly unlikely that the Raiders cut Sean Smith. And while David Amerson‘s contract would allow for him to be cut, it doesnâ€™t seem very likely either. Amerson struggled at times this season but was probably still the best corner on the team last season. But with D.J. Hayden likely gone, the Raiders will be looking for a new nickel corner.
4. Short Yardage Back
Unless he decides to take a discount of the home town variety, I think Latavius Murray is on his way out of town. The Raiders have two guys in Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, who are capable of being the work horse backs next season. But Oakland could, and should, look for a short yardage back to round out the running back stable.
3. Offensive Tackle
I know some think I have this too high, but I feel pretty strongly about this. Right tackle was clearly the weak spot of the offensive line last season and is in need of an upgrade. Left tackle is still being held down by Donald Penn, but for how long? The Raiders have two young linemen in Vadal Alexander and Denver Kirkland who could play tackle, but their futures do not appear to be as starters, and perhaps not even as tackles. An investment in the tackle position this offseason would be wise.
Bruce Irvin was very good for the Raiders last season and Khalil Mack, is, well, Khalil Mack. The rest of the linebackers? Not a confidence inspiring group. Perry Riley was a nice addition and would be a very good backup, but as a starter he was above average to good, at best. Â Meanwhile, Malcolm Smith was just brutal to watch. Linebacker is in big need of an improvement and is one of the first areas that the Raiders need to address this offseason.
1. Defensive Tackle
The number one area the Raiders should attack this offseason is defensive tackle. But not just any defensive tackle. The beef is already there with Justin Ellis, Dan Williams and Stacy McGee. Yes, there is a chance that one or two of those guys leaves during the offseason, the big need is for a defensive tackle that is a threat as a pass rusher.
Despite a Defensive Player of the Year caliber performance from Mack, the Raiders were still dead last in sacks this season. A large part of that was due to the lack of interior pressure in the pass rush. Far too often, opposing quarterbacks were able to avoid Mack and Irvin but stepping up into a clean pocket. Taking that option away requires a pass rushing defensive tackle.
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