Now that the Raiders know they won’t be using the cap space saved from re-signing Kamerion Wimbley on re-signing Zach Miller, they have been busy stockpiling depth on the offensive line. They announced that they have signed four new offensive linemen today in an attempt to ensure they have five solid starters and adequate depth behind them.
The new acquisitions are OG Justin Smiley, OT Stephon Heyer, and OG Seth Wand. The Raiders also re-signed former starting center Samson Satele.
Smiley was originally drafted in round two of the 2004 draft by the 49ers. He spent four seasons in San Francisco, starting every game in his second and third season. From there he moved on to the Dolphins for two seasons and spent last season with the Jaguars, starting 29 games over those three seasons. He has switched back and forth from left to right guard and brings valuable depth and competition for the Raider interior line.
Heyer started 33 games at offensive tackle over four seasons with the Redskins. He started every game at right tackle in 2009 but was not able to acclimate to the new zone blocking scheme in Washington. You can read more about him here. If Joseph Barksdale is not ready and Khalif Barnes can’t step up, Heyer has a real shot at being the Raiders’ starting right tackle.
Seth Wand is a familiar name around Napa. The Raiders have brought him into camp nearly every training camp since 2007. He has only played in one NFL game since 2006 and it was for the Raiders in 2008. He is back to be a camp body yet again.
Samson Satele started at center for the Raiders the last two seasons. He looked pretty good the latter half of last season and adjusted well to the switch back to power blocking. He had an original round two franchise tender placed on him before the new CBA changed the rules. That made him an unrestricted free agent but the mere fact that the Raiders tendered him suggested they wanted to bring him back.
Even after Stefen Wisniewski was drafted, Hue Jackson was talking about how he liked Satele’s versatility. The positive mention suggested that the Raiders wanted to keep him as at least a utility guard/center if not a starter at one of the guard spots.
Jackson said earlier this week that he was happy to enter the season with the starters they have now. He said this even though the right tackle position is not set as of yet. They have been playing rookie Joseph Barksdale at the right tackle spot since they have no better option. Then they re-signed Khalif Barnes although he can’t practice until Friday. Barnes has never been able to hold down a starting job at either tackle position and I don’t see how Jackson could possibly feel comfortable with him as the starter on the right side.
Free agent tackle Jared Gaither came to camp earlier this week but it was discovered that he was not entirely healthy and therefore left without a contract. If he had been healthy and signed with the team, it would have moved Jared Veldheer to right tackle and thus given the Raiders two solid tackles.
There have been rumblings about the Raiders ready to re-sign OT Mario Henderson only to have him come in overweight and fail his physical. I have expected the Raiders to bring Henderson back into the fold if another team didn’t make a strong play for him. His inability to keep his weight down didn’t factor into that.
The signings made today are not groundbreaking by any stretch. The Raiders would be lucky to get two serviceable players out of the group and even more lucky to somehow end up with a solid starter. The best free agent linemen are long gone but there are still a handful of good ones out there. And with the money they now have, they may not be done, though there are other positions that need some money spent on them. Like tight end for instance.