Trent Richardson Signs With Raiders

Another free-agency pickup that might not excite a lot of fans, but won’t hurt, either. Getting DeMarco Murray would have been nice, but would have cost a ton of money, and possibly impeded the development of Latavius Murray. Richardson is still young and can easily regain his college chops, and be a solid complement to Murray, with an incentive-loaded contract.

Free Agency Update

Here’s a list of the players the Raiders have signed so far (as of 3/14):

    C Rodney Hudson
    LB Malcolm Smith
    TE Lee Smith
    RB Roy Helu, Jr.
    LB Curtis Lofton
    DL Dan Williams
    DB Nate Allen
    QB Christian Ponder
    DB James Dockery

While there might some disappointment and annoyance around The Nation that we didn’t get Suh or Cobb, or any perceived “big name” free agent on the market with all that cap money to spend, I don’t think we did poorly either.  Hudson was the 3rd-highest-rated center in the league last season, and while the Raiders had to make him the highest paid at his position, it’s rare for elite linemen to make it to free agency at all, especially at just 25 years of age.

Continue reading Free Agency Update

Suh Signs With Fins; Cobb Stays With Pack

Well, that’s disappointing, but not unexpected. Suh made it clear from the start that he was going to follow his wallet, and the Raiders had at least a 13.3% disadvantage to Miami in that department, since Florida has no state income tax.

Cobb re-signing with Green Bay before even visiting other teams is a little more surprising, as a handful of teams (including Oakland, of course) were jumping at the chance to throw money at him. He could have made a lot more money, guaranteed and overall, and chose to stay in the tundra. That sort of loyalty deserves some respect, but it still doesn’t get the Raiders the WR upgrade they sorely need.

Of the rest of the FA WR crop, there’s nobody really worth throwing a lot of money at. Jeremy Maclin maybe. The Jaguars’ Cecil Shorts might be worth taking a look at, but he wouldn’t be a marquee, big money signing.

And the Raiders really need at least one or two of those big-name signings, not only to show that they’re serious about making a statement and showing that they intend to compete, but also because they have so much money to spend. Remember, there’s a salary floor as well as a salary cap, and teams need to spend 90% over the four-year period, from 2013-2016.

Suh is one of those players that would make a difference wherever he happened to land, including Oakland. The good news is that the Raiders can probably get equivalent value by grabbing Terrance Knighton (Denver) and Dan Williams (Arizona), who together should cost a fraction of what Suh would have commanded.

Another position in serious need of an upgrade is middle linebacker, as Nick Roach has also been cut, and his career is probably over. Rey Maualuga would have been a great FA pickup at the mike spot, but of course the Bengals re-signed him. Brandon Spikes (Bills) or Mason Foster (Bucs) should get a look, but both of those players had injury issues last season.

Hopefully the Raiders intend to draft Amari Cooper and Melvin Gordon as their first two picks, as they would add much-needed punch to a mostly punchless offense. The addition of veterans such as Maclin at WR, and maybe C.J. Spiller to complement Latavius Murray at running back, would make a real difference, and still leave plenty of cash and draft picks to continue improving the lines.

MJD Retires; Woodley Cut

Maurice Jones-Drew announced his retirement on Twitter, which is a shame, but if he felt he wasn’t going to be able to return to peak form, or get an opportunity to do so, was probably the right move for him. Additionally, LaMarr Woodley was released, as expected.

Matt Schaub is most likely the next big name to be released from the team, which would put the Raiders’ cap room at just under $70 million.

Initial Roster Cuts

The first two big-name roster casualties in the Raiders offseason appear to be safety Tyvon Branch and defensive end LaMarr Woodley.

Branch showed himself to be a tough tackler during his first four seasons, and was rewarded after the 2012 season with a fat $26.6M/$10M guaranteed contract. Since that time he had only managed to play five games, with recurring injuries hampering his ability to get on the field. Branch also had a large ($9.657M) cap number.

Woodley came to the Raiders as a free agent last offseason, afte being cut by Pittsburgh. He has was given a 2-year/$12M contract, and started six games, racking up five total tackles (three solo) before getting injured. It should be noted that Woodley’s best years with the Steelers were in more of a linebacker role, but for some reason former Raiders DC Jason Tarver decided to deploy Woodley as a down lineman.

Naturally, many fans have asked about Maurice Jones-Drew’s continued status with the Raiders, and new head coach Jack Del Rio(who coached MJD in his most productive years with the Jaguars) has mentioned it at press conferences.

While it is important to determine whether Jones-Drew is still able to contribute significantly, it’s also important (and Del Rio is already addressing it) to recognize that the offensive line was horrible at creating running lanes for MJD and Darren McFadden. And while former OC Greg Olson probably did what he could with what he had, a real problem is that MJD and DMac are both one-cut-and-go type runners, and Olson for some reason insisted on plowing them up the middle as power runners, behind a line that could not reliably function as a true power line.

All that is to say that while Jones-Drew may be done, he might also be rejuvenated after an off year (he had only 43 carries for 96 yards), if given a competent run-blocking line. It would not cost the Raiders very much to find out, and use MJD (and possibly even McFadden as well) to complement Latavius Murray as he develops.

Unless Marshawn Lynch suddenly becomes available at a reasonable price, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see the Raiders’ running back corps remain largely intact. They might let DMac test the free agency waters again, and someone (probably Dallas or Indy) might snap him up, and Oakland can grab one with a mid-round draft pick.

But unless the wheels have visibly fallen off, I see MJD staying at least into camp or preseason. He just doesn’t cost them enough to worry about, and could have some real upside behind a better line and better play-calling.