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.

Hudson will plug right in at center as an instant upgrade, and if they can find a way to retain Stefen Wisniewski and move him to guard, so much the better. In the meantime, Williams, Lofton, and Allen are all starters, Helu can complement Latavius Murray at running back (and they may draft another RB as well), Malcolm Smith is a valuable addition to the LB corps, and Lee Smith should help in run blocking in jumbo formations.

One concern with last year’s free-agent pickups was the age, several of them being over 30 years old. Of the above list, Lofton is the oldest at 28. There could be key players in this group for the next few seasons.

The big whiff here is in not finding a #1 wide receiver, a reliable weapon for Derek Carr to throw to. There were not many true #1 WRs to choose from. Randall Cobb stuck with Green Bay, for less money at that. Brandon Marshall and Mike Wallace probably could have been pulled in, but for way too much money, and probably more baggage than McKenzie and the coaches were willing to take on.

I think the biggest upgrade for the team took place before the free agency period began, in the coaching staff. While the previous coaches did the best they could with the talent they had, the current staff have a more proven track record, and with even modest improvements (running game, run defense) they’ll turn the corner. Not saying playoffs just yet, but just solving a couple of simple but persistent issues will give them seven or eight wins this year, and set the stage for better times.

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