While the uncapped year may put a damper on the amount of players actually changing teams actually changing teams via free agency, some players will undoubtedly still be moving.
Usually, when the off-season starts, the bulk of the attention shifts to preparing for the draft. And while it may be true that “championships are built through the draft”, the fruits of those drafts usually don’t drop for 2-4 years afterward. Not only that but, most teams have more areas they would like to upgrade than there are draft selections to be had. This is where the right free agent acquisitions are ever so important.
The right free agents can inject much needed leadership. Not only that, but in most cases, the player has already proven himself such as Greg Ellis last off-season. Or another team may have given up on him and therefore he is a low-risk/high-reward type of guy like so many Raiders in the past. A guy like Lincoln Kennedy immediately comes to mind.
The first day for franchise and transition tags to be applied was Thursday so the free agency period is upon us. Here are a list of a few guys the Raiders should have on their offensive wish list:
Antonio Bryant, Tampa Bay Buccaneers UFA
After a great season two years ago, Bryant had an off year last season.But that is not all Bryant’s fault with a lack of consistency from the quarterback position for the Bucs. He has proven through the years that he has great hands and game-breaking abilities in the right situation. Unfortunately for Bryant, he has rarely had an even decent quarterback throwing to him. He has played for three different teams the last four years. And despite the likes of Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye, Alex Smith, and the rogues gallery the Bucs have trotted out there the past two seasons, Bryant has gone over 1000 yards two of those four seasons. Sure a member of that Buccaneer rogues gallery from two seasons ago is in Oakland now (Gradkowski) but Bryant did it before, he can do it again.
Chris Chambers, Kansas City Chiefs UFA
When the Chargers waived Chambers mid-season, there was a lot of talk about the possibility of him becoming a Raider. But the Chiefs were ahead of the Raiders on the waiver list and swiped up Chambers before he could become a free agent. Well, now he is a free agent and after a stellar season with the Chiefs, he is once again an intriguing option for a team such as the Raiders, who are in need of a reliable veteran receiver.
Chad Pennington, Miami Dolphins UFA
Pennington does not fit into the mold of what Al Davis wants in a QB. But then again, neither does Bruce Gradkowski. Which means that if the Raiders were to keep Russell on the bench, Pennington could be an even better option than Gradkowski. Either that or he would make the ideal backup. He is 34 years old and coming off a third shoulder injury so he won’t garner much excitement in free agency, but he could certainly sign on to a cheap one year deal and be at least a good stop-gap solution.
Naufahu Tahi, Minnesota Vikings – Restricted FA (UFA with CBA)
When Oren O’Neal went down with injury last season, the Raiders were left with Luke Lawton at the fullback position. Lawton was far from a solid option and then he was given a four game suspension that will carry over into next season and he is just not good enough for all the bother. The Raiders can’t afford not to grab a fullback either in free agency or the draft. Tahi is a ferocious blocker and his style is quite effective. When he blocks a guy, it looks more like he is attacking him. He blocked the way for Adrian Peterson in his last two All-Pro campaigns. In all 16 games of Peterson’s 1760 yard All-Pro season two years ago, Tahi was the blocking back. Last season the Vikings went 8-1 in games he played and after he went down with injury mid-season, Peterson only went over 100 yards rushing once the rest of the season. Tahi’s value is obvious.
Leonard Weaver, Philadelphia Eagles – Restricted FA (UFA with CBA)
Weaver is coming off an All-Pro season and should garner some serious interest in free agency. After such a season, the Eagles may not let him get away. But if they do and the Raiders somehow were able to sign him, that would be a really nice get. Weaver is not only a great blocker but he is a weapon out of the backfield as well. He had 70 carries last season for 323 yards. He also caught the ball 15 times.
Jared Gaither, Baltimore Ravens – Restricted FA
The Ravens would like to keep him and Michael Oher on each side which would have a pair of tackles for the next decade. The Ravens have the ability to place a restricted tender on Gaither for at least one more year, which will give them ample opportunity to work out a long-term extension if they choose to do so. Gaither has ideal size and athleticism for a left tackle at 6’9″ and 350 lbs. And at just 24 years old, he has plenty of upside as well. He could step in and take the left tackle spot for the Raiders who would move Mario Henderson to the right side in that instance.
Jammal Brown, New Orleans Saints – Restricted FA (UFA with CBA)
The Saints placed Brown on the injured reserve early in the season after undergoing consecutive surgeries, first for a sports hernia then later for his hip. In Brown’s absense, the Saints used Jermon Bushrod and he played well enough to help the Saints to their Superbowl title. The Saints are in an enviable position now with two solid left tackles to choose from. Both Brown and Bushrod are set to be free agents so one is likely to move on whether as an outright free agent or in a tag and trade scenario.