Early Thursday, a Tweet came my way, alluding to a lack of history for one team signing multiple top five free agents.
It’s a solid point, seeing as how few teams even chase multiple top five free agents with big offers.
Normally a team will lock into one or two, narrow it down just before the moratorium ends, then make their offer to the candidate they feel is best.
What may separate the Raiders this season is their possessing the most cap room of any team in history, and no contracts that will bog the team down over the next four seasons.
In 2013, the Dolphins nabbed Wide receivers Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline, cornerback Brent Grimes, tight end Dustin Keller, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and quarterback Matt Moore. All six were considered top 50 free agents.
That same year, Seattle signed Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, considered the top two defensive linemen available. The Broncos signed Wes Welker and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, two top 10 free agents.
Of the three mentioned teams, only Miami had a bounty of cap space, just over $50 million, according to available data.
So the idea of Julius Thomas, Ndamukong Suh, Terrance Knighton, Devin McCourty and Randall Cobb all coming to Oakland, while certainly possible, would be something that’s never occurred in free agency. It would be the greatest bounty in the salary cap era, and akin to the Eddie DeBartolo 49ers free agent periods.
Reggie McKenzie has helped the Raiders to a few firsts — largest salary cap purge in history being one of them — and may finally be in a position where he’ll need to spend big to save his job, even if it doesn’t fit his philosophy.
Owner Mark Davis, who was on board for the purge of contracts, has remained in McKenzie’s corner. But that probably won’t last if there’s another awful season.
So, no it’s never been done. But that is partly because no team has ever had this much wiggle room before, and also been a desirable landing spot for players.
With that, lets move onto to the official mailbag:
@LeskiwSFBay best guess for DC and D line coach?
— mdub (@mdub_9) January 29, 2015
There are two candidates that seem to be highly favored: Ken Norton Jr., and Kris Richards — both assistants with the Seahawks and finally available on Monday. Richards is partially responsible for the Legion of Boom, and the guy I’d be inclined to bring on if it were my decision.
Norton Jr., though, has playing experience, something Jack Del Rio favors, and ties to both McKenzie and Del Rio. He is a strong candidate, probably stronger than Richards in the minds of Raiders’ brass.
@LeskiwSFBay should they draft Cooper at 4? If not who can they sign that's a solid fa receiver?
— Anthony Piedra (@norcal_Piedra) January 29, 2015
No receiver — maybe shy of Calvin Johnson — should be drafted that high. Ever. There is perhaps no more positional parity in the NFL than at wide receiver. Moreover, Cooper is a good receiver, but I have trouble seeing why people love him the way they do.
Good is where it ends. He’s not even the best receiver in the draft class, in my evaluations, and I would be shy to take any receiver in this class before round four.
Jeremy Maclin, Randall Cobb and Torrey Smith are all solid options. But they’re all smaller. The Raiders need Brice Butler and Andre Holmes to step up and be the big-play, jump ball players they possess the body to to be.
And, obviously, coaches may want to consider Brice Butler more and more. Seemed to make every play he was given the opportunity to make.
Randy Gregory or Leonard Williams seem like good bets at the four spot, but trading down would be wise if the Raiders were offered substantial return.
Denzel Perryman — inside linebacker out of Miami — could help create a top defense, especially if Gregory is drafted by Oakland as well.
That’s something a lot of people are curious about. Del Rio refused to answer that same question directly at his introductory press conference, opting for the basic “tailor to our roster” response.
He may not just be paying lip service, as the roster is unique up front. Justin Ellis may have the anchor strength to play nose tackle, but he’s lacking experience for the position.
The Raiders do have a premium 3-4 linebacker in Khalil Mack, who is one of the only total package players in the league.
Mack is more of an edge rusher than 4-3 linebacker, even though he covers inline receivers as good as anyone ever could. I believe the outcome of free agency will dictate the defensive terms, but Oakland can go a 3-4, 4-3, but they’ll be running a nickel defense more often than not.
The AFC West holds two of the best “11 personnel” offenses, San Diego and Denver, in the league, and the Raiders need to excel there.
@LeskiwSFBay What key free agents come to Oakland?
— Fresno Raider (@FRESNORAIDER34) January 29, 2015
Hmm. Well, Julius Thomas could be the biggest bonus on offense, particularly if the Raiders adopt the two tight end sets that Bill Musgrave saw in Philadelphia.
Unless the Cowboys fail to create the necessary cap room to franchise Dez Bryant — something he’s adamantly against anyway — the wide receiver market isn’t exactly shining with talent. But Torrey Smith has enough speed and ability to help vault Oakland’s offense into the top half.
Wiz wants a big payday, though all the statistic services say he is an average center. He wants money similar to what was reportedly offered to Rodger Saffold.
I’m told by Jason Fitzgerald of overthecap.com, though, that the contract which was reported was different than the real contract.
Fitzgerald, via email, said:
“The way his contract was structured was in year one of the contract he would earn $3 million roster bonus and a $7.875 million salary along with a $5 million signing bonus. That was all guaranteed to bring the full guarantee to $15.875 million. His cap charge would have been $12 million.”
“But after that he was fair game to cut. His 2015 salary was guaranteed for injury and would only be fully guaranteed if he was still on the roster in February. The dead money was just $4 million. There were no guarantees beyond that season and the dead money so small that it was never a barrier to release.”
If players are expecting the money reported in the Saffold deal, they’ll likely leave Oakland disappointed. And if Wisniewski thinks he can get that kind of money, well, he needs to fire Tony Agnone as his agent.
Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.