NFL

Raiders in a good spot heading into free agency

When a team heads into free agency, there are two areas of focus: re-signing your own players and adding new ones. With a projected cap space total of almost $68 million, second only to the Jaguars, the Raiders should have an easy time adding players … as long as the ongoing uncertainty over where they’ll play their home games in future years doesn’t keep guys away.

Upgrading a team becomes that much more difficult when key contributors sign elsewhere, and teams can’t control a player’s wishes or opposing general managers. That’s the tricky part — often players are overpaid by teams in desperate situations, which makes testing the market fairly tempting for players. This won’t be a problem for the Oakland Raiders, who have a fairly lackluster list of pending free agents.

  • OLB Lorenzo Alexander
  • SS Larry Asante
  • G Khalif Barnes
  • G Tony Bergstrom
  • LS Thomas Gafford
  • WR Andre Holmes
  • P Marquette King
  • DE Benson Mayowa (restricted)
  • SS Taylor Mays
  • OT Matt McCants (restricted)
  • QB Matt McGloin (restricted)
  • OT Donald Penn
  • WR Jeremy Ross (restricted)
  • WR Rod Streater
  • FS Neiko Thorpe (restricted)
  • G J’Marcus Webb

Webb started all 16 games, but most Raiders fans wouldn’t mind if the Raiders let him walk. The only big name on the list who is set to hit unrestricted free agency is another offensive lineman, left tackle Donald Penn. The Raiders were lucky to land him after wasting time trying to replace Jared Veldheer with Roger Saffold. Mark Davis nixed the Saffold trade due to health concerns and suddenly the Raiders found themselves without a left tackle. Not long after, Penn was cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and soon found his way to Oakland. Penn, 32, gave the Raiders two very good years, but appeared to be slowing down at the end of last season. Plus, the Raiders want to be able to run the ball more and Penn is much better in pass protection.

As of now, it looks like Penn will hit the free agent market and the Raiders seem perfectly comfortable with that.

The other “big” name is punter Marquette King. I put “big” in quotes because, you know, he’s a punter. But just because he won’t command a massive pay day doesn’t mean he isn’t an important guy to re-sign. King finished last season with the second-most punts inside of an opponent’s 20 yard-line with 40, just one short of the league leader. He also only had four touchbacks all year. King has always had an incredibly powerful leg, but over the last two seasons has worked incredibly hard on his consistency and touch, and it has really paid off.

The Raiders will get King signed, the only reason they haven’t already is because, you know, he’s a punter. My guess is he’ll get a contract with an average salary that would put him among the top five punters in the league.

The Raiders also have two important players who are exclusive rights free agents in Denico Autry and Seth Roberts, who’ll be back next season assuming the Raiders want to keep them. The question is whether they will be given an ERFA tender or signed to a longer deal. General manager Reggie McKenzie will likely go with the more cost-effective tender. Rarely are ERFA players given longer contracts; the only reason it’s a possibility here is because both of these guys played well last season and the Raiders are going to have problems reaching the cap floor if they don’t re-sign some guys to longer deals.

While left tackle is obviously a huge hole, it seems as though the Raiders are making the conscious decision to move on from Donald Penn. If that’s the case, they really will not lose much in free agency, at least in their own eyes. That combined with a ton of cap space and a full compliment of draft picks sets the Raiders up for the chance to make the next big step and become a playoff contender in 2016.

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