Gutierrez: Raiders under cap; who will they target?

Gutierrez: Raiders under cap; who will they target?
August 17, 2011, 1:55 pm
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Paul Gutierrez
CSNCalifornia.comRapture preacher Harold Camping had next-to-nothing on the Raiders salary cap doomsday prophets two weeks ago. Oakland was anywhere from 10 million to 17 million over the cap a day before the Aug. 5 deadline to get its payroll to 120 million.A restructure here -- think Richard Seymour -- a restructure there -- hey, there's Stanford Routt -- and a long-term deal to wipe out an 11-million franchise tag -- paging Kamerion Wimbley -- and, voila!According to numerous reports, the Raiders on Tuesday had 5.1 million in cap space.
Fuzzy math? Or just the Raiders doing what they do best in keeping players they want to keep? I'm going to go with a little of both.So with some money burning a hole in Al Davis' pocket, and with some definite needs on the roster -- especially in the secondary, at weak-side linebacker and on the offensive line -- what should Davis do? Should he dangle some of this coin in the direction of free agents who are just as established as they are currently unemployed? And if so, who should be his targets? The feeling here, though, is that Davis likes his starters and would be hesitant to bring in a guy to compete for the job. Rather, he might continue to bring in second-tier guys, as he's done since camp began.I put up a poll on my Facebook page and those that voted were in favor of securing the services of safety Darren Sharper. A look, then, at those free agents you voted for, and a pro and con for each when it comes to the Raiders' potential interest.Safety Darren Sharper (31.8 percent)Pro: A five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro with a Super Bowl ring, he brings a wealth of experience with him. Besides being known for his soft hands -- he led the NFL with nine interceptions in 2009 -- Sharper is also one of the most feared hitters in the game.Con: Sharper is 35 years old, a dinosaur in today's NFL. And he is a free safety by trade. The Raiders just paid a boatload of cash to starting free safety Michael Huff.Linebacker Kirk Morrison (15.2 percent)Pro: He's from Oakland and spent the first five years of his career with the Raiders before being traded to Jacksonville in 2010 so a homecoming, of sorts, would no doubt re-energize him.Con: Where would he fit? He's been a starting middle linebacker most of his career so would he be able to stomach being a back-up to Rolando McClain? Or could he make the adjustment to the weakside?Linebacker Lofa Tatupu (14.4 percent)Pro: An absolute warrior, even if he's a tad undersized for a middle linebacker, Tatupu is also the consummate professional and a team leader others gravitate toward.Con: Similar to Morrison, Tatupu is a middle linebacker by trade, so how would this work? Undersized at MIKE, that might hurt him at WILL, right? And his coverage skills in the flat are suspect.Right tackle Jon Stinchcomb (12.9 percent)Pro: He was a Pro Bowler for the Super Bowl XLIV champs from New Orleans and would presumably be an immediate upgrade over either Khalif Barnes or rookie Joe Barksdale. Plus, he knows of Oakland, what with older brother Matt a former Raider lineman.Con: He's somewhat damaged goods, coming off a season-ending left quadriceps tear last season. And the ninth-year vet has a lot of mileage on him having started 80 straight games at one point and also enduring a ruptured right patella tendon in 2005.Receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh (9.9 percent)Pro: He's already worked with Raiders coach Hue Jackson, who referred to him as his "son" from their time together in Cincinnati. And Houshmandzadeh had a career-year in 2007, catching 112 passes for 1,143 yards and 12 touchdowns.Con: Houshmandzadeh seems to excel when he's a No. 2 receiver, as he was with the Bengals behind Chad Ochocinco. So expectations of his stepping in and being No. 1 might weigh him down.Cornerback Kelvin Hayden (9.9 percent)Pro: A wily six-year vet with the experience of not only winning a Super Bowl with Indianapolis, Hayden also returned an interception for a touchdown in the Colts' defeat of Chicago that day. He'd bring experience to a young cornerback group.Con: Hayden is a pure zone-defense corner. The Raiders play almost exclusively man-defense. Think DeAngelo Hall. Next.Receiver Terrell Owens (6.1 percent)Pro: Desperate, needy and always willing to go across the middle for a pass, Terrell has something to prove.Con: Despite his numerous football talents, T.O.'s ego is even bigger and would be a threat to rock the Raiders' young and impressionable receiving corps' good vibe.