It’s no secret: The Raiders need personnel at every position.
Their 4-11 record entering Christmas Day only validates the inconsistency that has led to a last place record in the AFC West.
At least there’s some good news.
Oakland’s general manager, Reggie McKenzie, will have more cap room available than any other GM in football. The $60 million or more in spending cash can provide for a formidable offseason. The question is, who will they sign?
For the offense, they have one player who is an easy must-sign: Jared Veldheer.
Veldheer, who missed the first half of the season and more, is arguably the best left tackle in the league. He could knock off around $5 million in cap room, though it could be the best move of the offseason to lock him up for the long-haul.
Between free agency and the draft, there’s not much of a reason that Oakland shouldn’t be able to put together a winning record. That said, here’s some names they might target in free agency:
Branden Albert He was franchised by Kansas City during the offseason, and may not return. Albert is one of only a couple premier tackles in football.
Jon Asamoah Another Chiefs lineman, Asamoah is the top offensive guard that would be available in March. He’s young, only 26 years old, and the Raiders could easily bring him on long-term.
Jay Cutler He’s a guy who might be available, or might not be. It’s been the question every analyst has been dying to answer. Chicago is in a position to save other valuable players by letting him walk. And with the new CBA, there’s a solid chance they’ll do just that.
Michael Vick The former inmate has been inconsistent at best since returning to the turf. Not only is his ceiling questionable, his price tag could be interesting as well.
Eric Decker As this list is full of guys from AFC West teams, Decker has been an integral part of Denver’s success. He’s big, he’s got speed, though the price tag may negate his chances of playing for the Raiders. Signing the top receiver on the market is not always advantageous.
Jeremy Maclin After two injury-riddled seasons, Maclin hits the market. There’s always the chance that the Eagles keep him, though the money they’ll offer is hard to predict. When healthy, he’s among the best in the business. It’s just a matter of who’s willing to take the chance.
Anquan Boldin He was probably the most important part of the Baltimore offense in 2012. Without him, the 2013 49ers probably wouldn’t be in playoff contention. Now, the ultimate third down target is on the market. He’s old, but so was Ray Lewis when he won his second ring.
The NFL has become a passing league, with running backs becoming less relevant than ever. With a solid offensive line, there’s not much of a reason that bargain buys can get the job done, especially with Marcel Reece signed for the next few years.
That said, Tavares Cadet of the Saints might be a good fit. He’d need to be waived at some point before the regular season to be signed, however.
This is one position that doesn’t need filling, as Mychal Rivera has performed admirably in the stead of David Ausberry, who missed the entire season with an injury.
The 2014 NFL Draft
There’s a number of players in the impending draft class that would make a scout drool. Quarterbacks, receivers, a few running backs. This draft class is stacked.
It’s widely believed that Teddy Bridgewater will be the first player taken, though there’s whispers from scouts that he might not. Some, think Fresno State’s Derek Carr is the best available.
The knock on Carr, that he hadn’t faced much for defense, is one major point of separation from Bridgewater.
It’s a valid point, and Carr may need some grooming before he can be successful in the NFL. Bridgewater doesn’t seem to have that problem. There’s a list beyond the two:
- Zach Mettenberger, LSU
- Aaron Murray, Georgia
- David Fales, SJSU
- Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
- Tajh Boyd, Clemson
- Blake Borltes, Central Florida
Depending on the outcome of the Senior Bowl and combine, there could be some shifts. Mettenberger might be the biggest steal, since he tore his ACL late in the season and won’t be able to show off individually for a while.
Just like the quarterback selection, wide receivers are everywhere. There’s Marqise Lee, who has taken scouts aback. Sammy Watkins out of Clemson has been thought of as a first-rounder.
Despite the myriad of names, my favorite is a lesser known player: Kelvin Benjamin from Florida State.
Accounting for 14 of quarterback Jameis Winston’s 38 touchdown passes, Benjamin has it all. Size, speed and hands, not to mention serious blocking ability. Standing six-foot-four, weighing in at 234 pounds, he’s everything scouts loved about Calvin Johnson.
Between Watkins, Lee and Benjamin, Oakland would be making a decent pick — except Watkins and Lee will more than likely be taken in the first round — with Benjamin possibly being available in the second.
Others on the list include:
- Ty Montgomery, Stanford
- Mike Evans, Texas A&M
- Jaelan Strong, Arizona State
- Jordan Mathews, Vanderbilt
- Jarvis Landry, LSU
I could address possible offensive linemen, though the Raiders don’t have a need — now or in the near future. They could give their favorite undrafted rookie a contract, but the way the line has played since McGloin stepped in has shown their strength.
Instead, there’s the terrible return game.
Jacoby Ford has been pretty awful. He was drafted for his speed, but it just hasn’t panned out. Getting an extra five yards of field position per return, might have meant the difference between 4-11 and 6-9 for the Raiders this year.
One of the reasons Montgomery made the receivers list is his insane speed.
He’s proven his worth as a deep threat, though the more immediate need for McKenzie is special teams. He appears similar to Seattle’s Golden Tate, who has averaged over 11 yards per punt return and 19 yards per kickoff.
Montgomery has been the best return man in all of college football by a lot this season and the Raiders could utilize his services.
All in all, the future of any football team weighs heavily on that teams ability to draft. If the Raiders are able to trade down, they could really come up. They might not do that, though one thing is certain: the team is in no position to trade up.