The Oakland Raiders spent the first day of free agency focusing on their offensive line. But it did not take long before general manager turned his focus to defense, making two key signings. Both defensive end Justin Tuck and outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley are veterans who the Raiders hope will represent a big upgrade to the defense.
One of the biggest problems for the Raiders defense in 2013 was an inability to create pressure on the quarterback using only the front four on the defensive line. While the Raiders finished 18th in sacks with 38 (the same total as the 49ers), most of those came early in the season when Jason Tarver was blitzing like crazy. Once word got around, the Raiders’ pass rush suffered as the year went on as they only had 15 sacks in their last nine games. Pro Football Focus gave Oakland’s pass rush an overall score of -28.6, seventh-worst in the NFL.
Tuck and Woodley were brought in to address this issue. Tuck, 30, has 60.5 career sacks. He had 11 sacks last season, showing he has healed from injuries that slowed him the past few years.
Woodley, 29, has 57 career sacks, although only nine have come in the past two seasons. He missed time last season with injuries and is not quite the same player he was in the past, but he still has plenty to offer the Raiders (who will likely move him to defensive end).
Both defensive additions are pass rushing specialists who represent significant upgrades to a lackluster pass rushing unit. Plus, both guys are Super Bowl winners with experience under some great coaches. As the Raiders try and build for the future, having quality veterans will go a long way toward helping the young talent improve.
The Raiders are far from done in free agency and McKenzie is showing he has a plan. Focusing on the offensive and defensive lines, McKenzie is clearly intent on building from the inside out. As free agency progresses and price tags drop, expect McKenzie to continue building with veterans and some younger guys as well.