Free Agency: The best of what’s left

Cincinnati Bengals v Oakland Raiders

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.

About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

Free Agency: The best of what’s left

The Raiders careful approach to this offseason has been celebrated by just about every NFL analyst and reporter in the biz. Even by those that usually have nothing but negative things to say about the organization. It is well documented at this point how smart it was to lock down Chris Johnson, Nnamdi Asomugha and Shane Lechler along with plenty of other Raider free agents whether restricted or unrestricted.

There have been only two notable outside additions to the team and both were at offensive tackle– one of the positions on this team in the most desperate need of an upgrade. Former starter, OT Eric Pears, was signed away from Denver for his familiarity with the zone blocking scheme. Then, of course there was OT Khalif Barnes who can play either tackle position and will compete to start on either side.

So with offensive tackle well taken care of, the focus can turn to how to upgrade the other positions that need some help. The draft has exciting prospects in it but before April 25th rolls around there can still be some help brought in to start, add depth or simply inject some competition.

 


Those positions are defensive tackle, linebacker, safety, wide receiver, and defensive end. Here is the best of what is still out there to be had at these positions:

Defensive Tackle:

Tank Johnson, UFA, Cowboys

I mentioned Tank Johnson very early on in my “Raiders have questions, we’ve got answers: Dline” article. He is still out there and would still be a great pick up.

Here is snippet of what I said in the previous article: “He would be promised a legitimate shot to start for the Raiders and resurrect his career. Up until he got into trouble, he had become one of the most coveted Defensive Tackles in the league. He’d been in the league three seasons and was one of the key pieces in the Bears stingy 06 run defense that helped take them to the Superbowl.”

Kedric Golston, RFA, Redskins

Another player I mentioned in my “Raiders have questions, we’ve got answers: Dline” article was Kedric Golston. Since then, the Redskins did just what I thought they would do in regards to slapping a tender on him: they haven’t. So he is there for the taking. Here is a snippet of what I said in the previous article:
“In his 13 career starts, Golston has totaled 53 tackles (31 solo), 0.5 sacks and four passes defensed. He was a rotational nose tackle for the Redskins and would probably start consistently for the Raiders. He just had ankle surgery but it’s not much of a concern.”

 

Shaun Cody, UFA, Lions

Cody would really only offer some quality depth behind Tommy Kelly (or whomever starts at UT next season). He has only visited one team thus far in the Saints and left without a contract offer. He would be a guy that hopefully would offer a better option than William Joseph in spot duties.**

**UPDATE: Shaun Cody was signed by the Houston Texans on Monday Mar 23rd

 

Linebacker

Freddie Keiaho, UFA, Colts

I am really surprised Keiaho is still available. He is an outside linebacker that had 105 tackles last season which is pretty damn good. He has gotten steadily better in each of his three seasons after starting no games as a rookie, 11 in 07 (with 81 tackles) and 14 in 08. Hopefully the reason he is still out there is not because his asking price is unreasonable. Al Davis has proven that this will NOT be an off-season of big contracts. Keiaho played along side Kirk Morrison at San Diego State. In fact, after Morrison led the Aztecs in tackles in 04 and went on to the NFL, Keiaho took over for him at middle linebacker for SDSU in 05 and promptly led the team in tackles as well. I wonder if he would welcome the opportunity to reunite with his former teammate. That would be fun to see I think.

Safety

Keith Davis, UFA, Cowboys

If his name sounds familiar it is because I just mentioned him in the last “The Raiders have questions, blah blah blah: Safety” That was four days ago and he is still out there. Here is a snippet of what I said about him in the article:

“Davis filled in for Pro Bowler Roy Williams last season in Dallas and is described by various scouting services as a special teams hit who can play the run. While the Raiders may already have a player in Hiram Eugene that does the exact same thing, injecting some competition and depth in that area can only be a a good thing. The Raiders made a run at him in free agency last year but he signed with the Dolphins — only to get cut and re-signed by the Cowboys. So it stands to reason that there is still some interest in aquiring Davis especially with the Raiders being even more thin at safety this season than they were last season.”

Roy Williams, Cut, Cowboys

Yeah I know. The only two safeties were the former starter and the guy who replaced him. It seems weird really. Says a lot about how the rest of the NFL thinks of the Cowboys safety play. There is said to be some marginal interest from the Raiders despite Cable saying he likes Tyvon Branch at strong safety. So until we see good ole “Horse Collar Roy” sitting in a press conference we have to assume that there is a chance he could sign with the Raiders.

Wide Receiver

Drew Bennett, Cut, Rams

East Bay native, solid 8 yr veteran, cut by Rams after two injury plagued seasons. 1,247 yard receiving in 04 with Titans

Mike Furrey, Cut, Lions

98 catches  for over a thousand yards two seasons ago

DJ Hackett, Cut, Panthers

Marginal receiver signed by Panthers just last season and never broke out for them. 

Marvin Harrison, Cut, Colts 

Second all time in receptions. Set for huge bonus, cap casualty.

Ike Hilliard, Cut, Buccaneers

Reaching end of career but can still contribute 

Tory Holt, Cut, Rams

Is slowing down but still has game breaking abilities. Released in Rams rebuilding effort.

Shaun McDonald, UFA, Lions 

Just a year removed from near thousand yard season. Speedy, reliable receiver.

Amani Toomer, UFA, Giants

Reaching end of career but can still contribute.

Roydell Williams, UFA, Titans

3 yrs in league, had best year in 08 with 719 yds receiving.

Defensive End

Phillip Daniels, UFA, Redskins

Was offered a minimum contract with the ’skins and initially turned it down. But after not garnering much interest on the market he is said to be reconsidering signing the deal. Until that happens, he is fair game. And if it would take just slightly over the minimum to get him, that would be worth it.

Kalimba Edwards, UFA, Raiders

That’s right I said it. As long as Edwards is still out there, he could return. He played quite well at times last season and I would love to have him back. The word is that he failed a physical and was released but we all know it has to be more than that. He was a cap casualty more than anything so after some time not feeling the free agent love he could opt to return for a more cap friendly deal.

Kenechi Udeze, UFA, Vikings

Was diagnosed with leukemia in 2007. The cancer is in remission and if he feels ready to return to the NFL, I would love to see the Raiders take a chance on him.

Ebenezer Ekuban, UFA, Broncos

Will be entering his eleventh year in the league and while that may be getting a bit long in the tooth, he seems to have some left in the tank. He started the last 10 games of last season and matched the Raiders team lead in sacks in that time (5). He visited the Raiders on Friday so there is clearly some interest in his services.

So, the market is thinning out but obviously, as you can see, there is still some quality to be had. The “wait and see” approach has been paying off so far for the Raiders, and now I think it is time to reap those benefits and sign some of these guys. Free agency has been in full swing for about a month now. I can’t imagine these players feel too comfortable not being shown much interest and therefore still are without an NFL roster to call home.

Last offseason in a high stakes game of poker, the Raiders were playing “Go Fish”. So far this offseason Mr Davis has done a fine job of not tipping his hand and keeping his poker face. Khalif Barnes tried to bluff until he realized the Raiders were holding all the cards. Now it’s time for Al to go all in and lay the cards on the table. Let’s see what the Raiders can pull from the deck.

About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

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