Gutierrez: Ranking the Raiders' free agents

Gutierrez: Ranking the Raiders' free agents
July 26, 2011, 9:09 pm
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July 26, 2011


Paul Gutierrez

NAPA -- More than likely, fourth-year players being labeled unrestricted free agents is one of the reasons Al Davis and the Raiders abstained from voting to ratify the owners' CBA proposal last week. That and the murkiness and feeling of the rich-getting-richer (think Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys) and the poor-getting-poorer (the, ahem, Raiders) vibe of the new supplemental revenue sharing system.

So with the new language in the new CBA, the Raiders suddenly find themselves with seven more unrestricted free agents in their midst, including Pro Bowl tight end Zach Miller and second-team All-Pro free safety Michael Huff. A look then, at the Raiders' 17 unrestricted free agents (only New Orleans, 26, San Diego and Seattle, 22 each, have more UFAs) plus one restricted free agent, on the eve of training camp opening in Napa, and where they rank in importance of re-signing. At least from this Insider's perspective...

Silver and Black category
The Raiders should do everything in their power to re-sign

Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha - Yes, I know the three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro cornerback is as good as gone. But if there's even a sliver of a chance of re-signing the top free agent on the marketnah, never mind. Seems like both he and the Raiders have turned the page.

Tight end Zach Miller - The most valuable, and productive, member of the Raiders' offense the past three seasons, his blocking ability is on par with his pass-catching capacity. Plus, Hue Jackson and new offensive coordinator Al Saunders utilize the tight end with aplomb.

Running back Michael Bush - Some good news for the Raiders as Bush was classified a third-year player and thus, a restricted free agent, meaning the first- and third-round tenders the Raiders assigned him stick. Along with Darren McFadden, Bush powered the Raiders to the NFL's No. 2-ranked rushing attack. And with Jackson's desire for more of a power-running back, retaining Bush is a must.

Long snapper Jon Condo - Don't laugh. You'd be shocked at how important a long snapper truly is to special teams, where games are often won and lost. All-Pro punter Shane Lechler continually sings the praises of Condo, another fourth-year player suddenly flung into unrestricted free agency who, by the way, is one of the best long snappers in the game.

Silver category
It would be nice to retain their services, but would not make or break the season

Free Safety Michael Huff - There is mutual interest but until the last two seasons, the No. 7 overall pick of the 2006 draft was seen as a bust. Of course, he's come on late and even picked up an All-Pro vote last season but with the Raiders needing to shed salary -- as much as 10 million -- to get under the 120-million salary cap, he might be too expensive to bring back. Still, his career seems on the upswing.
Linebacker Ricky Brown - He is the Raiders' lone backup to second-year middle linebacker Rolando McClain and understands the role. Especially that of being the quarterback of the defense.

Linebackerdefensive end Jarvis Moss - Came on late after being cut by Denver and impressed coaches with his athleticism and nose for the ball. A great change-of-pace pass rusher, Moss hinted on Twitter Tuesday he was close to a deal with the Raiders.

Offensive lineman Khalif Barnes - Versatile big man who can catch a pass might have caught a break with so many youngsters on the offensive line. Could potentially challenge for the right tackle spot.

Offensive lineman Mario Henderson - What if the Raiders decided rookie Stefen Wisniewski was not ready to start at center yet, and they moved Jared Veldheer back to center? That would open a spot at left tackle for Henderson, right?
Offensive lineman Langston Walker - Purportedly, the Cal big man and ninth-year veteran is contemplating retirement. But if he could man right tackle while rookie Joseph Barksdale gets caught up, he could find a role again.

Quarterback Charlie Frye - Jason Campbell is the starter and Kyle Boller has been re-signed as the back-up. If the Raiders are unable to find that developmental QB they crave, QB coach-in-waiting Frye might be their guy.

Linebacker Sam Williams - A glue guy if ever there was one. He doesn't pile up stats, gaudy or otherwise, but he's a special teams standout and while there may not be a market for him, he'd come back for the vet's minimum and steady special teams play.

Black category
Can't really see the Raiders bringing them back or making an effort to

Offensive lineman Robert Gallery - Is the one-time cornerstone left tackle-turned-left guard in Seattle with Tom Cable yet? Both team and player have already bid adieu.

Receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins - Has not been the same, as a pass catcher or kick returner, since getting blasted by Eric Weddle going across the middle in the 2009 season opener. Jacoby Ford's emergence makes JLH more than expendable.

Linebacker Thomas Howard - From starting at weakside linebacker to forgotten special teams player. How did he get into the doghouse so quickly? His speed might find him a roster spot, but not the money he once envisioned.
Center Samson Satele - Li'l Wiz being named the starting center on draft weekend all but sealed Satele's fate. The salary cap issues and Satele becoming a UFA probably settled it.

Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski - From folk hero to purported distraction and having his health questioned publicly by Al Davis. Not exactly a recipe for staying in Oakland.

Quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan - Who? Exactly. Late season-signee who came aboard when Gradkowski's season was ended prematurely.