Ranking the Raiders' free agent needs by position
Reggie McKenzie's wish list
The Raiders have roughly $43 million in salary cap space heading into this offseason. They can offer those funds to free agents starting Tuesday and formally employ them 48 hours later. General manager Reggie McKenzie signed a heavy volume the past few years, when the Raiders had significant salary cap space and huge holes on the roster. His focus, however, was to reach a point where the draft became his focal point and money would be spent on his own guys. He’s almost there. McKenzie’s roster doesn’t need as much from the free-agent market, and he's ready to focus on extensions for Derek Carr and, eventually, Khalil Mack. There are some areas where veteran free agents can help.
5) Running back
Latavius Murray is set to hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent with several other veteran rushers. If the value stays low, Murray could return to the Raiders. His recent production, however, might price him out of Oakland. The draft is loaded with good backs and the Raiders have found some late in the amateur selection, but veterans could help add physicality to a group that includes DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard. Adrian Peterson has been linked to the Raiders since Minnesota declined his contract option, though he’d have to sign for a reduced rate and be a two-down player. Eddie Lacy would be a good target if he’s healthy and trim. LaGarrette Blount could be a productive power back.
4) Wide receiver
The Raiders seem set in their starting lineup, with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree on the outside. The team likes Seth Roberts, despite some drop issues in the slot. Roberts is as exclusive rights free agent expected to get re-signed, but depth here might help if the Raiders don’t stand pat. They need depth, especially if Andre Holmes walks in free agency – the team loves him and he could be back. DeSean Jackson’s price tag will be too high. Pierre Garcon might be an intriguing option. Brandon Marshall or Anquan Boldin might look to the Raiders chasing a ring. The primary need is production over the middle, which could be met by a tight end like Martellus Bennett, who has reportedly drawn interest from Oakland.
DJ Hayden was the Raiders’ primary slot cornerback last season. The 2013 first-round pick made significant progress in 2016 working from the slot, though his production didn’t match his draft status. He finished the year with a hamstring tear that required surgery, though he could re-sign with the Raiders for the right price. Buffalo’s Logan Ryan or Minnesota’s Captain Munnerlyn seems like an excellent fit inside, though the draft class for corners is incredibly deep and a young player could be groomed to replace an expensive player on the outside.
2) Defensive tackle
Head coach Jack Del Rio made it clear the Raiders need an improved interior pass rush. Arizona’s Calais Campbell would certainly provide that. Despite spending his career as a 3-4 defensive end, he could easily slide inside and create havoc on passing downs. He’s also a solid run defender and a character guy who would fit well in the locker room. He might be the highest paid free agent this offseason, though a huge up-front payment could be mitigated by releasing Dan Williams' $4.5 million salary. If Campbell produces sticker shock, Kansas City’s Dontari Poe is a secondary option and a stout interior defender. New Orleans' Nick Fairley might be a good gamble and Cleveland’s Steven Paea could be an option. Don’t forget about Stacy McGee, who could re-sign after being productive when healthy in a contract year.
1) Inside linebacker
The Raiders primarily deploy two linebackers in coverage and run support from a 4-3 formation that typically looks like a 3-4 or a 5-2. Perry Riley and Malcolm Smith occupied those posts last season. Both guys are free agents. Neither is certain to return. This could be a position of interest in the draft, but a veteran would be welcome considering the position’s cerebral nature and a lack of experience under contract. New England’s Dont’a Hightower is the cream of this crop, offering coverage and pass-rush ability for a pretty penny. It might be too rich for the Raiders’ blood. If Riley isn’t re-signed, Carolina’s A.J. Klein, San Francisco’s Gerald Hodges, Pittsburgh’s Lawrence Timmons or Arizona’s Kevin Minter might help here.