After six days of free agency, the Oakland Raiders have made some not-so-big moves. Coming into the offseason with more than $60 million to spend, some may have expected general manager Reggie McKenzie to make some big splashes.
However, McKenzie is not like deceased former owner/general manager Al Davis, who wanted every big name player and would hand out ridiculous contracts that would come back to haunt the team. Instead, McKenzie is like his previous boss and mentor Ted Thompson, who finds value in mid tier free agents and fringe players. While it hasn’t played out to success yet, it takes time for a rebuilding vision like McKenzie’s to come to fruition.
Not counting the botched Rodger Saffold signing, the Raiders have re-signed three of their own players and signed five outside free agents. Of the three re-signings, only Usama Young was a good choice.
Young graded out very well when playing defense, and had a chance to overtake the starting free safety position before going on injured reserve with a neck injury. Young is also a stalwart special teams player. Barnes struggled mightily as a blocker and McFadden underperformed in his six seasons as a Raider.
On the unrestricted free agency front, Oakland signed CB Tarell Brown, OT Austin Howard, DT Antonio Smith, DE Justin Tuck, and DE Lamarr Woodley.
Brown (1-year, $3.5 million) was an effective starter on a dangerous San Francisco 49ers defense that made three straight NFC Championships and ranked in the top 10 of pass defense the last two seasons.
Howard (5-years, $30 million) was a mid tier starting right tackle for the Jets and excelled as a run blocker. We examined more of his impact here.
Smith (2-years, $9 million) was a highly efficient interior pass rusher for the Houston Texans and made a Pro Bowl in 2011. Although he was a 3-4 DE in Houston, Smith has the capability to play end or tackle in the Raiders 4-3.
Tuck (2-years, $11 million) is a two time Pro Bowler, two time All-Pro, and two time Super Bowl Champion. Although he may be long in the tooth, he is a tenacious pass rusher who can rush from any spot on the defensive line.
Woodley (2-years, $12 million) is similar to Tuck in that he has been to a Pro Bowl, was elected to the All-Pro team, and has won a Super Bowl. Although he was an outside linebacker in Pittsburgh, Woodley was a defensive end in college, and should help give defensive coordinator Jason Tarver some ability to throw multiple looks at offenses.
The two year deals for Smith, Tuck, and Woodley are more indicative of the timeline Mckenzie and owner Mark Davis are putting on the team to win. Renting out veteran pass rushers for a few years is more of a temporary fix until the team can draft some younger talent, Although Woodley could stay longer if he plays well enough.
On the other hand, Oakland also let DE Lamarr Houston (Chicago), CB Tracy Porter (Washington), OT Jared Veldheer (Arizona), RB Rashad Jennings (New York Giants), and DT Vance Walker (Kansas City) leave in free agency. Although Woodley, Tuck, and Smith pretty adequately replace Houston and Walker, both of them were younger and had more long term upside for the team. Porter was not that great in Oakland, but could’ve made strong depth. Veldheer, like Houston, was a massive loss, one that the Raiders will be kicking themselves over in the coming years. Jennings was the most effective runner for Oakland last year, and could’ve made a good run on the starting tailback job if he came back.
It has not even been a week into free agency, and Oakland can still make some beneficial moves as the offseason goes on. Although McKenzie is more likely banking on using the draft to improve the team.