The Oakland Raiders are essentially rebuilding the entire defensive side of the ball. After a partial purge before the 2012 season, general manager Reggie McKenzie has continued his purge this offseason, both by cutting players (Dave Tollefson and Michael Huff) and allowing others to walk (Philip Wheeler, Desmond Bryant and Mike Mitchell). As a result, McKenzie gave himself essentially a blank slate to rebuild the team.
However, despite all of the needs, the Raiders found themselves, once again, in serious cap trouble that would prevent them from being big-time players in free agency. As a result, most expected the Raiders to be quiet during the first week of free agency, but then be rather active in the second week.
Instead, it was the exact opposite.
The Raiders signed six players in the first week, three linebackers and three defensive lineman. And a few of those guys were pretty significant. Both Kevin Burnett and Nick Roach will be automatically slotted in as starters and could wind up being very good for the Raiders. Plus, defensive tackle Vance Walker, while probably not a starter, is a great role player who will have an impact.
In the second week, news on the Raiders was all but silent. The Raiders re-signed tackle Khalif Barnes, which was far from exciting for Raiders fans. Aside from that, the only news the Raider Nation had was the never ending saga of when cornerback Terence Newman would make his decision.
Now, with the cornerback market thinning out, the Raiders will have to be more active in week three of free agency if they want to put together a respectable defense in 2013.
As much as Reggie McKenzie would like to build through the draft, the Raiders do not have a second- or fifth-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft, leaving them with six picks after receiving an additional sixth rounder as compensation for lost free agents in 2012.
That is simply not enough picks to fill all of the holes. McKenzie could trade for more picks, but one can’t rely on something that might not even happen. Even if McKenzie wants to acquire more draft selections, there’s no guarantee that he will find adequate trade partners.
With all of that being said, lets take a look at what positions do the Raiders still need to address.
First and foremost, the Raiders MUST sign some cornerbacks. No, not a cornerback, a few cornerbacks. The Raiders only have three CBs on their roster (if you dont include Taiwan Jones who is supposed to move to CB this year). Chimdi Chekwa, who was a practice squad player last season. Phillip Adams, who shows promise but is still very raw, and Coye Francies, a guy who Raiders fans are still trying to understand why he is on the team.
None of those guys are starting caliber and the Raiders should not peg hopes on being able to draft a starting quality CB in the draft unless they plan on taking Dee Milliner with the #3 pick.
Next, the Raiders need to find a free safety. After cutting Michael Huff and with Matt Giordano the Raiders do not have a single FS left on their roster. This, however, is a need that the Raiders may actually want to wait until the draft to address. This year’s draft is supposed to be stacked at the safety position, so given the cap issues, the Raiders should find at least one FS for depth and do not necessarily need to find their starter in FA.
Next, the Raiders need to move to the offensive side of the ball and address their offensive line. Though the Raiders re-signed Khalif Barnes, he is not very good and represents a position that the Raiders have neglected for far too long. In addition, while both guard spots have viable starters, they are also positions that could use an upgrade.
Finally, the last need that is glaring for the Raiders is a pass rushing defensive end. Lamarr Houston has one DE spot locked down, but with the departure of Matt Shaughnessy, the Raiders need another DE and preferable a pass rushing specialist.
Though the Raiders have lots of needs all over the field, CB, FS, OL and DL are clearly needs that stand out above the rest and Raiders fans are hoping that McKenzie will start addressing them ASAP.