Taking stock of Raiders' free agents


Taking stock of Raiders' free agents

Culling different sources and reports, it appears the Raiders have 21 contracts expiring, with 16 unrestricted free agents, two restricted free agents and three exclusive rights free agents.The NFL's franchise tag deadline date is Feb. 20, with free agency beginning March 13.A look, then, at the purported 21 contracts expiring for the Raiders

SS Tyvon Branch -- A focal point on being retained, especially with new coach Dennis Allen's defensive mindset that could make Branch more of a playmaker in the secondary.RB Michael Bush -- A likely Franchise Tag candidate, what with Darren McFadden's health an issue every season and Bush showing he can carry the load.QB Jason Campbell -- Likely gone to sign elsewhere, even if his skill set is more geared towards a West Coast offense than that of Carson Palmer.LB Quentin Groves -- He predicted he had already played his last game as a Raider, but might he be more useful with a combo of 4-3 and 3-4 packages?OL Stephon Heyer -- Valuable cog on the O-line, but can he play in the zone-blocking scheme coming down the pike?DE Jarvis Moss -- Another 'tweener' at end and linebacker who might be useful in a hybrid defense championed by Allen and new D.C. Jason Tarver.C Samson Satele -- Thought to be too small for last year's power blocking scheme, Satele actually came to Oakland to play in Tom Cable's zone-blocking scheme.WR Chaz Schilens -- Potential can only get you so far before consistent results validate it. Raiders seem set on WR corps sans Schilens.DE Trevor Scott -- Has not been his sack-happy self since blowing out a knee on special teams at Pittsburgh in 2010. Could add depth though, especially since he has played both DE and LB.S Matt Giordano -- The only member of the roster to have actually played for Allen, in New Orleans. What he lacked in speed he made up for in guile.CB Lito Sheppard -- His best days are behind him, as evidenced by the clinic San Diego's receivers gave him in the season finale.RT Khalif Barnes -- Had a better season than expected at RT and might come back if the Raiders don't think Joseph Barksdale is ready.QB Kyle Boller -- Tied too closely to Hue Jackson to bring back in a backup role.WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh -- See above.RB Rock Cartwright -- Two-time Commitment to Excellence Award winner is a soothing locker room presence that could help with coaching transition.LB Darryl Blackstock -- Tied too closely to former D.C. Chuck Bresnahan to bring back, though he did do work on special teams.RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
DL Desmond Bryant -- Undrafted Ivy Leaguer continues to impress, and could thrive as an end in a 3-4 variation.FB Marcel Reece -- The most dynamic fullback in the league thrived in Jackson's offense. What about in Greg Knapp's?EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
S Jerome Boyd -- Practice squad refugee had a tough season after a good camp.DL Mason Brodine -- Practice squad refugee is young and cheap and might provide depth, or head back to the practice squad.CBKR Bryan McCann -- Made more of a mark as a returner, but is expendable with a healthy Jacoby Ford.

Inactives: Raiders RB Murray to play vs Jags; Watson remains out

Inactives: Raiders RB Murray to play vs Jags; Watson remains out

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Latavius Murray is active and ready to play Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. That was expected, as the top Raiders running back passed tests during the practice week that showed coaches he could go.

Right tackle Menelik Watson, however, needs another week. He was limited in each practice, and Austin Howard remained in the catbird’s seat there. Watson will miss a fourth straight game.

Howard will have a solid backup. Matt McCants is active for the first time since the season opener. Vadal Alexander is also out with an ankle injury, though the Raiders have eight offensive lineman dressed an ready for the first time since the opener.

The Raiders will be without some core special teams players. Brynden Trawick is out with a shoulder injury and Taiwan Jones is inactive. He was questionable with a knee injury.

That should hinder the Raiders special teams coverage in particular.

The Jaguars are healthy for this stage in the season, with their starting lineup intact heading into this game.

Here are the full inactives for both teams

Bortles, Carr still carry quarterback bond since NFL Draft

Bortles, Carr still carry quarterback bond since NFL Draft

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Derek Carr found a friend in Blake Bortles during the taxing, often invasive pre-NFL draft process. The pair were considered among 2014’s top college quarterbacks, with stats, size, smarts and arm strength to warrant a top selection.

The pair ended up visiting several of the same quarterback-needy teams leading up to the draft and national events like the NFL scouting combine.

They actually crossed paths in Jacksonville as both players were in to visit a Jaguars team in desperate need of a quarterback.

“We were in Jacksonville together, and then we were somewhere else together, I believe,” Bortles said. “I remember Jacksonville vividly because we went and got dinner together the night before.”

They exchanged numbers and texted each other during that spring. It started a friendship that continued on.

“We talk every now and then – I still have his number, still text him here and there,” Bortles said. “We’ll talk in the offseason and throughout the year, but he’s an unbelievable guy. He’s a guy that I definitely check and see how he’s doing throughout the year after every game and rooting for, and look forward to seeing him Sunday.”

Their paths cross again Sunday in Jacksonville, when the Raiders and Jaguars meet in a Week 7 clash important to both clubs. The 4-2 Raiders hope to surge ahead and erase a terrible home loss to Kansas City. The Jaguars want to expand on a two-game win streak.

These upstart clubs are dependent on big offense and steady play from quarterbacks selected two-plus years ago.

Jacksonville picked third, and had first crack at a 2014 quarterback class headlined by Teddy Bridgewater, Carr, Bortles and Johnny Manziel.

They took Bortles, with all his size, arm strength and Ben Roethlisberger comparisons. Cleveland made a colossal mistake and took Manziel, who flamed out after two hard-partying seasons with the Browns. Minnesota traded back into the first round and nabbed Bridgewater, a competent signal caller who suffered a major knee injury that stole his 2016 season at least.

The Raiders were patient, held on to their pick and still got their guy. They selected Carr No. 36 overall, paired him with No. 5 pick Khalil Mack and put the franchise on the right track.

Through two-plus seasons, Carr’s been the best of the bunch, and Bortles is solidly in second place. Carr’s been more productive, earned more wins and taken better care of the football. Both guys can be gunslingers, but Carr is a bit more measured.

Bortles exemplifies the term. He’s willing to take risks for great reward, a style the Raiders defense wants to exploit in this crucial meeting.

Jaguars offensive coordinator Greg Olson knows Carr and Bortles extremely well. He was the Raiders offensive coordinator during Carr’s rookie year, and the quarterback credits Olson for getting his NFL career off on the right foot.

He has worked with Bortles over the last two years and has played a major part in his development.

Olson sees similarities between these two passing talents and their development from rookie starters into their third professional seasons.

“Both guys are great competitors,” Olson told reporters in Jacksonville. “They are individuals who were thrown into the league and had to play early as rookies. Both guys have gone through changes in coordinators, but they are tremendous competitors and the both prepare extremely well. They’re both intelligent guys.”