YSTL: Top priority for Raiders -- Houston or Veldheer?
In 10 NFL seasons Jared Allen has been named a First-Team All-Pro four times -- '07, '08, '09, '11 (USATI)
Justin Tuck started 15 games in 2013, registering 11 sacks and 63 total tackles. (USATI)
The Raiders hope to re-sign defensive end Lamarr Houston. Whether they do or not, the team needs to add pass rushers. At least one is expected to come via free agency.
Head coach Dennis Allen said an intimidating defense and a potent four-man pass rush is the best way to combat the quarterbacks of the AFC West. The Raiders didn’t fare well without blitzing, which left holes in pass defense.
Finding a quality pass rusher is second only to quarterback on the offseason to-do list.
Right now, the Raiders don’t have pass-rushing talent on the roster. That means the team will reach out to outsiders when allowed. Teams can negotiate with unrestricted free agents beginning Saturday, but can’t sign deals until Tuesday.
Here’s a select list of players the Raiders could add.
Lamarr Houston: 6-foot-3, 280 pounds, 4 accrued seasons, Texas
Stats: 71 tackles, 6 sacks, 63 quarterback pressures, 2 forced fumbles
A good fit?: After playing well in the Raiders defense, Houston has scheme familiarity, power-rushing ability and room to improve. He’s also an excellent run defender. He was a team captain last season, and his leadership would help a defense likely lacking continuity next season. He played right end for the first time, but could move back to left end and have increased success with a potential on the opposite side of the defensive line.
[RELATED: In search of Lamarr Houston's market value]
Big ticket items
Michael Bennett: 6-foot-4, 274 pounds, 6 accrued seasons, Texas A&M
Stats: 31 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 65 quarterback pressures, 1 forced fumble
A good fit?: Bennett was an effective part of Seattle’s rotation of defensive linemen. While he said he wants to return to Seattle, he isn’t taking a discount to do so after signing a 1-year, $4.85 million deal last season. The Raiders could secure him with a big contract and get a solid playmaker at left end. He had nine sacks as a full-time starter in 2012, when he played 985 snaps.
Jared Allen: 6-foot-6, 270 pounds, 11 accrued seasons, Idaho State
Stats: 52 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 75 quarterback pressures, 2 forced fumbles
A good fit?: The Los Gatos native would be a solid addition to a pass rushing group and would offer veteran leadership to a younger corps of defensive linemen. Allen can still make an impact at 32 years old. He told SiriusXM Radio on Wednesday that he is looking for a “fair contract” and a “chance to win.” Whether the Raiders recent record can sway him to sign early in the free-agency period might prove difficult.
Justin Tuck: 6-foot-5, 268 pounds, 10 accrued seasons, Notre Dame
Stats: 41 tackles, 11 sacks, 68 quarterback pressures, 2 forced fumbles
A good fit?: Tuck had another strong season, turning in the fourth double-digit sack total of his career. He could be part of a solid rotation, although he typically plays left end, against the opponent’s right tackle. The Raider might prefer Houston plays there, but Tuck could fit in if Houston bolts or Houston is comfortable continuing to play on the right. Tuck isn’t getting any younger, but Pro Football Focus shows that he created quarterback pressure on 10.4 percent of passing downs. That ranks third among free agent 4-3 ends, behind Bennett and Robert Ayers.
Others: Michael Johnson, Cincinnati; Robert Ayers, Denver
Willie Young: 6-foot-4, 251 pounds, 4 accrued seasons, North Carolina State
Stats: 47 tackles, 3 sacks, 60 quarterback pressures
A good fit? Don’t sleep on Young because of his stats. While his sacks total isn’t high, he was staggeringly efficient. Pro Football Focus rated him No. 15 overall in pass-rush efficiency and No. 2 – just behind Houston – in run-stop percentage. Young will certainly be due a significant raise, though he won’t command as much as ends with longer track records. Youth and upside will be on his side entering the free market.
Everson Griffin: 6-foot-3, 273 pounds, 4 accrued seasons, Southern California
Stats: 27 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 52 quarterback pressures, 1 forced fumble
A good fit? The Vikings haven’t committed to bringing this young pass rusher back for a fifth season. He’s been strong as a sack man, but hasn’t done much against the run. He could help as part of a larger rotation, although it seems unlikely a team like the Raiders could hope for him to step in as a three-down starter.
Shaun Phillips: 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, 10 accrued seasons, Purdue
Stats: 35 tackles, 10 sacks, 47 quarterback pressures, 2 forced fumbles, 1 interception
A good fit? The market bottomed out a bit on Phillips last year, and brought him to Denver on a $1 million contract without guaranteed money. As he’s done most of his career, the underrated edge rusher turned in his third double-digit sack season in his first as a 4-3 end. A longtime 3-4 outside linebacker, Phillips can do a bit of everything and rarely gets hurt. He could be a real value on a shorter-term contract if Denver lets him walk away.