Raiders shuffling offensive line to correct 'fixable' mistakes
Jared Gaither is the most accomplished of the tackles available, but he is a wild card with a history of back spasms. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
The Raiders have four healthy offensive tackles on the 90-man roster, and one of them is a guard for emergency use outside. In two words: Not good.
Injuries have sapped talent from this position group, leaving little to work with in the immediate future. Jared Veldheer is out for an extended period. Regarded rookie Menelik Watson hasn’t practiced this camp with a camp injury.
Alex Barron, Khalif Barnes, reserve Willie Smith and starting guard/backup tackle Tony Bergstrom strike fear in few.
The Raiders are looking outside for stable reinforcements, but wishing won’t make a young Art Shell appear.
The Raiders will certainly sift through scraps after rosters are cut to 75 on Aug. 27 and 53 on Aug. 31, when the options might be better.
Right now, free agent pickings are slim. Most pros already have a roster spot. Those who don’t generally come with a caveat. Here are the best available options, with focus on players who could compete with/start over Barron at left tackle:
LT Jared Gaither (6-foot-9, 337 pounds)
-- The San Diego Chargers released the veteran this offseason after a tumultuous 2012. Gaither barely played after signing a four-year, $24.6-million contract. He succumbed to back spasms during the first training camp practice, missed all of the preseason and played just four games. He fell out of favor in the locker room after the team couldn’t find back issues Gaither insisted he had. Gaither is the most talented tackle on the street, but his motivation is suspect.
Jammal Brown (6-6, 317)
-- The 32-year old didn’t play in 2012 following season-ending hip surgery conducted in the preseason. He had 85 starts since 2005, but hasn’t played left tackle since 2008. That’s a strike against. He might come cheap on a tryout during the preseason, but at this point he’d only play in one game.
Sean Locklear (6-4, 310)
-- The 32-year old has some experience on the left, and had several quality seasons with the Seattle Seahawks. As with most street free agents at this point in the preseason, there are injury concerns. He tore an ACL in week 13 while with the New York Giants, which is a giant red flag.
Frank Omiyale (6-4, 310)
-- The 30-year old has played left tackle well as a reserve in recent seasons, although he struggled mightily on the blind side during 2010, when he was Chicago’s starting left tackle. He’s the healthiest of the group (although Gaither is a wild card), but his effectiveness is in question. He can play multiple positions and might be attractive as a swing.
A few others: Wayne Hunter, Winston Justice (not discussed in greater detail because he’s expensive, and a career right tackle), Travelle Wharton.
Those options aren’t great, even compared who what the Raiders have. A camp body would certainly help, especially since John Wetzel is expected to miss the rest of the preseason with a knee injury.
The Raiders will likely hold out hope for a savior (relatively speaking) to get cut by another team, or that Barron improves his play in recent weeks. They’ll likely add new names to the offensive line at some point, at least one when they move Veldheer to injured reserve with a designation to return after final cut. It’s clear the Raiders need some help. They just have to cross fingers and wait for the right player to come along.