YSTL: Top priority for Raiders -- Houston or Veldheer?
The Raiders haven't inked many of their own unrestricted free agents during an exclusive negotiating period. That ends on Saturday, when outsiders are allowed to contact and negotiate with any free agent prior to Tuesday’s formal start of free agency.
As of midday Friday, the Raiders hadn’t locked up anyone save offensive Khalif Barnes. With just a few waking hours before Saturday, it’s likely that 17 unrestricted free agents will become fair game.
[RELATED: NFL free agency Q&A]
That includes top-tier free agents in defensive end Lamarr Houston and left tackle Jared Veldheer. A source has indicated that Veldheer will likely push his decision into the weekend. That’s long been expected for Houston.
That doesn’t mean anything is lost. The Raiders have a few more days to lock things down with their own players and are still expected to do so sign several of them in time.
They have plenty of salary cap space to sign players they want. No matter which players return, the Raiders are committed to upgrading at several spots.
“Hopefully there will be a few of the guys coming back and whether it’s that same role or whatever, at least we’ll have some guys to choose from if we can get ‘em back. If not, we’re going to upgrade,” Raiders general manager McKenzie said back in January. “…continuity helps, but great players and really good players will help more.”
The Raiders feel that some players can come back and contribute. Here’s a list of the team’s free agents and whether they'll fit on a 2014 roster:
LT Jared Veldheer: If there’s one place where continuity is important, it’s along the offensive line. Veldheer is the best lineman and an excellent pass block. It’d be tough to let a franchise left tackle walk out the front door.
[RELATED: In search of Jared Veldheer's market value]
DE Lamarr Houston: Houston is an excellent run stopper with powerful pass-rushing ability. He’s young and was a captain in 2013. Would be a good fit and a positive sign that team rewards its own players.
[RELATED: In search of Lamarr Houston's market value]
RB Rashad Jennings: Jennings proved an excellent fit for the Raiders rushing scheme during a career year in 2013. Retaining his services should keep the Raiders running game reliable.
S Charles Woodson: Woodson is 37, but head coach Dennis Allen believes the free safety has something left in the tank. Both sides hope an accord can be reached.
CB Tracy Porter: Porter showed versatility playing outside in the base defense and in the slot during the nickel package. He could be a productive slot corner with upgrades on the outside. He could also provide insurance if D.J. Hayden can’t capture a starting spot.
DT Vance Walker: Walker was an underrated run stopper on the interior line and provided some pass rush at times. He could provide depth or start on a value deal.
DT Pat Sims: Sims was frustratingly inconsistent. He was dominant at times, invisible at others. He said he was going to the highest bidder, which might not be the Raiders.
CB Mike Jenkins: Was the team’s best cornerback last season, but Jenkins will be looking for a multi-year deal. Raiders might put their money elsewhere.
RT Tony Pashos: He filled in admirably when injury beset the offensive line. He missed time due to injury and isn’t getting any younger. The team tendered tackle Matt McCants, who could be a swing tackle. The Raiders are hoping to find an upgrade, which could be 2013 second-rounder Menelik Watson or an outsider.
S Usama Young: Young has experience at both safety spots and could provide depth, though a lack of defensive snaps when he was healthy suggest the Raiders don’t agree.
RB Darren McFadden: The Raiders are open to bringing the oft-injured rusher back, but only at the right price.
WR Jacoby Ford: Ball-security issues and inconsistency in 2013 suggests the Raiders will let him walk.
TE Jeron Mastrud: Primarily a run-blocking tight end might get squeezed out thanks to improvement from Nick Kasa and Mychal Rivera and the return of David Ausberry from a shoulder injury. Could return cheap and compete in camp.
CB Phillip Adams: The Raiders needs upgrades down the depth chart at defensive back. He struggled when asked to start, especially against high-powered offenses. The club has quite a few of those on the schedule.
DE Jason Hunter: Hunter struggled as the season went on against the run and pass. The Raiders are looking for upgrades at this spot.
OG/C Andre Gurode: The veteran was brought in for depth, but five-time Pro Bowler showed signs of age when asked to fill in.
DT Daniel Muir: If he’ll take the minimum, Muir’s size and physicality could help down the depth chart.