If the NFLPA and the NFL owners cannot agree on a new collective bargaining agreement in a timely fashion, the best scenario could end up being a postponement of the free agency period altogether. It’s all very confusing to me. I have so many questions and it seems nobody has any real answers, only speculation of what could happen, speculation that I am finding it hard to wrap my mind around at times. One of the biggest issues I have is, if there is no CBA before that third weekend in April, will there even be a draft? And also, on that same note, if the draft does happen in spite of having no agreement, how can you draft for your team’s needs when you don’t even know what you are getting out of free agency?
Nevertheless, I’ve decided to take the list of the now 31-man list of Raiders free agents this year and tell you the guys that the Raiders must re-sign this year.
1. TE Zach Miller- I don’t care how interested he is in the open market and I don’t care if you have to make him the highest paid tight end in the league. He has proven he is dedicated and is a highly reliable safety valve in what has been a highly chastised receiving group for the Raiders. He might have the best hands on the entire team.
2. HB Michael Bush- He may want to go elsewhere and try to become the man, but if you can restrict his movement under the new CBA with that first and third round tender that Stanford Routt received last year then why not do that? Darren McFadden did have a breakout season but he hasn’t proven he can go all the way without injuries yet. And when he is out, the Raiders need to have Bush in.
3. OLB Kamerion Wimbley- He is the perfect sidekick to Rolando McClain in the Raiders linebacker crew. He is versatile enough to line up at defensive end in the nickel and dime packages and had a career year last year with nine sacks. Plus, he is great with the media.
4. FB Marcel Reece- He has developed into one of the most versatile fullbacks in the league and if he keeps going at this rate he could completely reinvent the position. He also blocked for the fifth highest single season mark in Raiders history and when McFadden wasn’t on the field, Michael Bush managed to rack up 655 yards and eight touchdowns behind him as well.
5. DT Richard Seymour- I’m not giving him top priority on this list because of the possibility he will be franchised again. Though I think the Raiders should give him a deal that makes him a Raider until he retires, the early signs point to another tag for Seymour, if it is applicable under the new rules. But Seymour was a beast this year and if he hadn’t missed three games he would’ve had career numbers. He makes Tommy Kelly look good, too.
6. CB Stanford Routt- Never thought I would be saying this at this time last year, but here I am. With the possible impending departure of Nnamdi Asomugha, the combination of Routt and Chris Johnson (who still has two years left on his deal) is a must have for the Raiders. With these two as starters, it may be easier to play coverage in the Oakland secondary because nobody is getting picked on. Bonus: that could mean more interceptions and less pressure on Tyvon Branch.
7. LG Robert Gallery- He may not be the franchise left tackle he was supposed to be when he was drafted, but he is the heart and soul of the group as a whole. With his move to left tackle, his price tag will drop significantly. If Gallery can stay healthy next year and the Raiders make the playoffs, Gallery could see his first Pro Bowl nod. Premature, I know, but he is of that caliber in my opinion.
8. LS Jon Condo- The San Diego Chargers special teams’ issues were due in large part to rotating their long snappers all year long. Condo’s value on special teams is something that is often overlooked, but his snaps as well as his punt team coverage make him invaluable. In addition, he is a veteran and a Pro Bowler.
9. RB Rock Cartwright- He proved his worth this year on special teams more than once and actually got into the backfield at times. His locker room presence speaks volumes for his character and he brings his own brand of energy to his teammates. He is a valuable commodity for the Raiders moving forward.
10. C Samson Satele- Many in the Raider Nation wonder if Satele is the right guy for the job, but he was one of the only solid players on the line this year, like it or not. And the Raiders played ten teams that use the 3-4 defense this year that he had all that trouble with while he was in Miami. He fared significantly better against it this year and he is a far better option than Jared Veldheer.
Now let’s take a look at some guys who didn’t make the cut.
FS Michael Huff- I’m still not sold on his arm tackling and his sometimes half-hearted play, but he appears to be the best option at the position currently on the roster. Is that good enough to warrant a new contract with similar money? Probably not, and Mike Mitchell is just drooling over the possibility of proving himself next to Tyvon Branch in the Raiders secondary; Branch, with his former CB knowledge from college, could be the better choice to swap positions.
CB Nnamdi Asomugha- Some of you will take this the wrong way when you read it. Don’t do that, I love Nnamdi, I want him to be a Raider forever and normally I’d say we have to re-sign him, but his price tag will keep going up and up and up. There are 32 teams in the league and 32 of them will want this guy to be on their team. 31 of them would probably use him better than the Raiders do. Unfortunately some teams don’t have the cap space for it and there will most assuredly be a cap. The Raiders are one of those teams who don’t have the cap space.
QB Bruce Gradkowski- The Raiders have four backup quarterbacks with contracts coming up: Grads, Kyle Boller, Charlie Frye, and J.T. O’Sullivan. Of the four, I think Frye’s value may be the highest. Bruce is injured too often and the other two guys are not worth keeping over the possibility of having Hue Jackson and Paul Hackett developing a rookie or younger player at the position. Frye could be a quality backup for the Raiders. And they shouldn’t put the Gradkowski pressure on starter Jason Campbell again.
LB Thomas Howard- He was hurt for the beginning of the year and only made a few plays on special teams this season. Most of his value with the Raiders appears to be behind him. He probably wants a shot at being a legit part of a defense again and with the linebackers the Raiders now have, like Quentin Groves and hybrid Trevor Scott, playing time could be slim pickings. Howard could be a better fit in a 3-4 scheme that requires faster linebackers who may not have the size for a 4-3.
RT Langston Walker- He was not horrible this year, but he looked very sluggish at times. While he is a favorite of Al Davis, a cerebral guy, and a mammoth, he isn’t going to be winning any lineman of the year awards and he is not in great shape anymore. He could be a suitable backup for both tackle positions, but I don’t think he is needed in Oakland. Khalif Barnes and Mario Henderson are both capable backups and they are younger and in much better physical shape than Walker.
And now the guys who should have a shot in training camp.
LB Sam Williams, DE Jarvis Moss, S Hiram Eugene, LB Ricky Brown, DT’s John Henderson & Desmond Bryant, WR’s Nick Miller & Johnnie Lee Higgins, OT/TE Khalif Barnes, OT Mario Henderson, OG Daniel Loper.
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