NFL teams have been talking to free agents -- their representatives, anyway – for a few days now. Talk turns to action on Thursday afternoon, when players can start signing on the dotted line.
This time last year, the Raiders were spending heavy. As reported Tuesday morning, the Raiders won’t be following a similar tact. Nothing over the last few days has altered that expectation.
The Raiders have needs to fill this offseason, and will use free agency to help fortify an already talented roster.
Fans were hoping for top defensive tackle Calais Campbell. He’s reportedly headed to Jacksonville. They were thirsting for top safety Tony Jefferson. He’s reportedly headed to Baltimore.
The Raiders have $43 million in salary cap space heading into the formal signing period.
They’d like to spend some on an inside linebacker, though top option Dont’a Hightower might too expensive a target. Zach Brown, Kevin Minter and Gerald Hodges are options, though don’t sleep on last year’s middle linebacker Perry Riley. The veteran made an immediate impact after signing in Week 5, and had a solid season in the Raiders defensive system. He could come back, as the San Francisco Chronicle reports the Raiders are trying to lock him down. The Raiders were willing to let Malcolm Smith walk, and he was talking contract with the 49ers on Wednesday.
The Raiders could still look to a veteran interior pass rusher to pair with Mario Edwards Jr. Denico Autry was given an original round tender as a restricted free agent. The Raiders like Stacy McGee, though he has long looked forward to hitting a free agent market he’s expected to explore.
The Raiders hope to keep Andre Holmes in town, sources say. He offers solid receiver depth and excellent kick and punt coverage. He has reportedly attractive attention from other teams.
The Raiders have a need at running back. While that’s a sexy position, it may take some time to develop. There’s an excellent draft class ripe for picking in April, with several veteran options looking for teams.
Incumbent Latavius Murray has hit the market, and while it’s distinctly possible, maybe probable, that he finds another team, the Raiders haven’t eliminated the prospect of re-signing him. Should the Raiders choose a veteran running back with the size they’re looking for not named Murray, Eddie Lacy or LeGarrette Blount could be options. Adrian Peterson’s camp keeps mentioning the Raiders as a possible landing spot, it’s uncertain what type of deal would prompt a match.
The Raiders need a slot cornerback or versatile defensive back to add to the mix. Green Bay’s Micah Hyde seems to fit that bill perfectly, though it’s uncertain whether the Raiders have interest. They could look to other slot options, return to DJ Hayden or find one early in the NFL draft.
There’s plenty the Raiders can do in free agency, even if they don’t do quite as many big deals as years past.