Every year there is the big first wave of free agents that get the big money. Then there is a period where almost no one is signing free agent contracts. Then there is the draft. And after all of that we are left with a few free agents that weren’t able to find a seat when the music stopped.
That doesn’t mean that there are not still quality guys out there to be had. There are a number of reasons they are still available. Often times the teams are simply seeing what they can garner from the draft before they take a dip in the free agent pool. Other times, the players are biding their time to see which teams become the most desperate for their services and will a) give them a good contract, and b) make them a starter. And then other times, they were just passed over.
This is the time when Al Davis has historically made his best moves. He has long had an eye for reclamation projects. Sure, he doesn’t always hit on them and it kinda seems like he hasn’t really found a gem for a while. But when it happens, it is worth the many times it didn’t. Kind of like panning for gold. You can go a long time while finding nothing but a bunch of fools gold, but when you stumble upon that big nugget, the past failures don’t mean much anymore.
Here are a few of those free agent players that could be a welcome addition to this Raider team:
OT Jared Gaither RFA Ravens
You will find that he is the only restricted free agent on this list. The Ravens tendered him at the first round level but they would most likely be willing to take less in a trade. If I were the Raiders, I would give up as much as a 2nd round pick or perhaps a couple of lower picks. Granted, if the Raiders traded away their 2011 2nd round pick, they wouldn’t make their first draft pick until the 3rd round and that would kinda suck. But Gaither is young and he could immediately step in at either tackle position and stay there for years to come. Is that not worth it? I think it is. But I highly doubt the Raiders would pull the trigger. Tom Cable seems pretty happy with the competition between Mario Henderson and Jared Veldheer at left tackle and Langston Walker and Khalif Barnes at right tackle.
WR Laveranues Coles UFA Bengals
He isn’t the tallest or the fastest receiver by any stretch. But that makes his longevity in this league that much more impressive. He has been a solid and at times great receiver in his 10 year career. The Bengals signed him to a big contract last offseason in the hopes that he could replace TJ Houshmandzadeh in production and apparently name spelling difficulty. He wasn’t able to make them forget about the loss of TJ and with his price tag being what it was, he was released. Last season was his least productive season since his rookie year. Which tells me that his lack of success was more a product of the Bengals offense. And yet he was still literally better on his worst day than any wide receiver on the Raiders roster statistically. He had 514 yards receiving but still averaged 12 yards per catch and had 5 touchdowns. His dip in production is what you might refer to as a buyers market on Coles. I mean come on, the guy just had 70 catches for 850 yards and 7 touchdowns the year before. With the Raider receiving corps not being exactly set at receiver, they would be wise to look into being a buyer.
TE LJ Smith UFA Ravens, TE Randy McMichael UFA Rams
The Raiders only have four tight ends in came right now which is not enough. Behind Zach Miller is Tony Stewart, Brandon Myers and the newly acquired John Owens. Stewart is getting a little long in the tooth, Myers has not proven he is worthy of a roster spot yet, and John Owens is just hoping he can beat out one of the other guys for a roster spot. Either of Smith or McMichael would be worth bringing into camp to see if they can be the guy behind Zach. Both have had productive NFL seasons and have proven themselves. Which is more than you can say for Stewart, Myers and Owens. More competition is always better.
LB Keith Bulluck UFA Titans
The Raiders have already made a point to go out and get linebacker this offseason. The line backing corps has had a complete overhaul. New acquistions Kamerion Wimbley and Quentin Groves strengthen the unit with first round pick Rolando McClain taking over at middle linebacker. He has 11 seasons under his belt in the NFL which means he likely has a couple more good seasons left. Bulluck is a hard nosed, firey veteren presence and that would be a great addition to this team. He likely wouldn’t start unless there was an injury at to McClain or Wimbley but just having him as a reserve would be a plus. The question becomes, would he be willing to take a reserve role?
G Chester Pitts UFA Texans
He has knee surgery early last season and was placed on injured reserve. He was a stalwart on the offensive line for the Texans for the past eight seasons. He is the ideal guard candidate for the zone blocking scheme as he is an excellent athlete. He is not considered to be an overpowering blocker but at 6-4 308, has enough bulk and strength to do more than just hold his own. The Raiders would have nothing to lose bringing him in. He has earned an opportunity and one knee surgery nine months ago should do nothing to change that.
RB Justin Fargas UFA Raiders
Sure, the Raiders just released him a couple months ago. Even then I thought to myself that if he were not signed by another team quickly, the Raiders could very easily bring him back. He is one of those “Raider for life” types of guys which is why he was able to remain with the team for 7 years. The Raiders are seeing if Michael Bennett and Rock Cartwright can fill his shoes but I would think that bringing in Fargas to compete with them would tell them for certain who is the best option.
DT Jimmy Kennedy UFA Vikings
If this team has any plans on mixing in 3-4 type schemes on defense, they MUST bring in another big body along the defensive line. Kennedy weighs in at 320 so he has the size. He has been a career backup for the most part which certainly isn’t good for a former first round pick. His weakness is pass rush. But if the Raiders only bring him in to fill the NT functions in the 3-4, he won’t need to rush the passer. His strength is anchoring the point of attack which is how he has hung around in the league for 7 seasons. He would give the Raiders someone to compete with William Joseph is a reserve role.
WR Javon Walker UFA Raiders
Come on, sign him to a veteran minimum contract and see if he can finally deliver on all that potential he showed in camp last year. I know the whole ordeal left a bad taste in everyone’s mouths but if it turns out he can get back to form, wouldn’t the Raiders feel a lot better if he did it in Oakland? Right now, it is looking like another potential Randy Moss debacle. Where a player plays his best football for everywhere he goes except Oakland…well except Oakland as a member of the Raiders. They tend to play pretty well in Oakland while playing for the other team. And you can bet if Walker signs with an AFC West rival (Chiefs anyone?), he will get up to prove to Tom Cable that he made a big mistake in not playing him and then releasing him.