2013 Team Needs: Oakland Raiders
In 2010 and 2011 the Oakland Raiders went 8-8. In 2010 they even swept their division, yet still failed to make the playoffs. In each of those seasons they had a different head coach as well. Last season the silver and black had yet another new head coach, but won only four games.
Dennis Allen and new General Manager Reggie McKenzie didn’t walk into the best situation last year, but that’s the reason why a new HC and GM were needed. Still, they often struggled to be competitive on both sides of the ball. Especially troubling was their running game which, under offensive coordinator Greg Knapp’s new zone-blocking scheme, finished 28th in the league — this led to Knapp being fired after one year, though many fans and pundits had been calling for his head long before the season ended.
Here’s a look at some team needs and possible free agents that could help — and you can check their own list of free agents here.
The Raiders seem set at center (Stefen Wisniewski) and left tackle (Jared Veldheer). The other three spots could all use upgrades. Right guard Mike Brisiel, a former Houston Texan who was signed last year, is getting older and struggled in run blocking (-3.4). He also reportedly just underwent significant ankle surgery. On a rebuilding team in need of cap space, he’s no lock to make the 2013 roster.
The other two spots include free agents Cooper Carlisle and Khalif Barnes. Aging left guard Cooper (he was drafted in 2000) was reliable in pass protection but awful in run blocking (-7.2 and hasn’t graded out positively in this area since 2009). Right tackle Barnes, a former second-round pick in 2005, was limited to just nine games last season due to injury and also recently underwent surgery. Unfortunately, Barnes was also a liability when he was on the field. Barnes’ backup Willie Smith, a former Washington Redskin, is not the answer either.
Free Agent Fix: King Dunlap
The former seventh-round pick of 2008 is not a stud candidate, but when a team has as much cap limitations as the Raiders, options are limited. Dunlap mostly played left tackle in relief for the Eagles, but he has played at right tackle as well. In his single start on the right side last year, against the division rival Cowboys , Dunlap was good in pass protection (+1.6) and run blocking (+1.1), though three penalties did stain his performance. In the last four games of 2010 (including the Wild Card loss vs. the Green Bay Packers) he also started at RT, grading out at +5.8 overall.
Dunlap is currently an unrestricted free agent and he probably won’t be commanding a high price tag. He played the other 11 games he appeared in as the left tackle last season, but Jason Peters should return healthy. Obviously the Raiders are happy with Veldheer, but many would perceive that side — which is the blindside of most NFL signal-callers — as more difficult to play, and Dunlap graded out at a solid +6.3 overall for his efforts. The thought of him being at least a decent starting right tackle is worth pondering. It’s also possible the Raiders focus more on the guard position, but Dunlap could be a low-cost risk worth taking.
The Raiders need a pass rusher. It could be a defensive tackle, or it could be a defensive end, but they need to be able to put more fear into opposing QBs with their D-Line. Their most productive pass rusher (which is to say, the player who made the most of his pass rushing opportunities, not the player with the most pressures necessarily) was DT Desmond Bryant, who is set to be a free agent. Their next best pass rusher on the line was veteran Richard Seymour — but the three-time World Champion (with the Patriots) played in only eight games before being put on injured reserve and likely won’t be back, at least because of his contract.
Another tenured Raider D-Lineman, Tommy Kelly, should also be worrying about his job after last season. Kelly was a force in 2011 (eight sacks, 10 QB hits, 16 hurries) but significantly regressed last season with only 19 total pressures (including just one sack). More concerning though was Kelly’s lack of composure, which led to 10 penalties. Defensive end Matt Shaughnessy can also not assume to be resigned, with only 15 total pressures in 368 rushes. Solid journeyman Andre Carter, recently seen terrorizing QBs with the Patriots in 2011 before a season-ending injury, also failed to make an impact, with only 16 pressures in 12 contests with the Raiders in 2012.
Free Agent Fix: Henry Melton
The fourth-round 2009 pick has been a consistent pass-rushing contributor for the Chicago Bears. Set to be an unrestricted free agent, Melton could significantly help Oakland’s pass rushing problems.
Among defensive tackles and nose tackles, Melton ranked fifth overall in our Pass Rushing Productivity signature stat with eight sacks, five QB knockdowns and 24 hurries in 2012. He also ranks first among the same group in our Run Stop Percentage signature stat with zero missed tackles against opposing ground games and 23 stops. There’s no doubt his ability to help in run defense would also be welcomed in Oakland. He may come with a price tag, but he’s worth, at the very least, the Raiders’ attention.
Veteran Shawntae Spencer lasted less than two full games and is a pending free agent. Ronald Bartell played only seven games as a Raider, and less than a full game the year before as a Ram, so his health is a rightful concern. Free Safety Michael Huff had been a positive factor in Oakland’s secondary the past few seasons, but he was asked to play cornerback from Week 3 and responded with eight negatively graded performances.
While 2010 seventh-round pick Phillip Adams was the highest-graded CB in coverage, he played only 178 snaps. Former Eagle Joselio Hanson also played above-average, mostly in the slot, but is about to become a free agent. Meanwhile, yet another up-and-coming free agent is Safety Matt Giordano. It seems wise for the Raiders to focus on getting cornerbacks so Huff can move back to his natural position next to Tyvon Branch.
Free Agent Fix: Adam Jones
The controversial former Titan and Cowboy has seemingly put it all together with the Bengals over the past three seasons. In his first two years with Cincinnati he played only 673 total snaps, but his lowest coverage grade was +1.3. He would get much more playing time in 2012, and would take advantage.
Jones found the field on 626 snaps last season and finish with a +10.5 overall grade. While he was average in run defense (+0.7), he did make the most of his limited blitzing opportunities with a sack and a hurry on a mere four rushes. He was even more effective in his primary responsibility, coverage, allowing only 37 of 69 passes to be completed. He gave up only two TD passes (to Santana Moss and Antonio Brown) while successfully defending seven. Jones is a risk, but he’s proven himself worthy of a shot with another team.
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