The NFL league year – and subsequently the start of free agency – starts Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. PT.
With 22 unrestricted free agents, four restricted free agents, and eight exclusive rights free agents, the Oakland Raiders figure to be active with transactions over the next couple weeks.
Now just a few days out from the action getting underway, Raiders.com’s Kyle Martin and Eddie Paskal take a look at free agency, and some of the biggest questions surrounding the Silver and Black.
Of all the Raiders impending free agents, whose situation intrigues you the most?
EP: Marshawn Lynch, for multiple reasons.
First of all, even at 32 years of age, The Beast is still one heck of a running back, and he showed in the first half of the season last year that he still has plenty left in the tank.
Age aside, Lynch is one of the most-intriguing characters in all the NFL, so I feel like it’s hard to ever get an accurate gauge on what’s going on in his head – let’s not forget that No. 24 already did retire once before.
In terms of Lynch’s impact on the field; as we enter the new NFL league year, both he and Doug Martin are scheduled to hit free agency, and if either one or both of those guys have new homes in 2019, that changes the makeup of the Raiders running backs room immensely.
Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock have decisions aplenty to make over the next few days, but what they decide to do with Lynch – and if the former Cal Bear even wants to return for one more year – is something I’m immensely fascinated with.
KM: Since Eddie went with Marshawn Lynch, I’m going to roll with Doug Martin.
No denying Lynch’s impact when he’s on the field, but after he went down with a groin injury, Martin stepped up to fill the void left by Marshawn’s injury. The Bay Area native had his best season since 2015 just a year ago, and even though he didn’t hit the 1,000-yard mark, he averaged 4.2 yards per carry. After signing a one-year deal in 2018, it’s possible the team brings him back.
Martin recently turned 30, but he looked fresh during his seventh NFL campaign. The two-time Pro Bowler hasn’t rushed over 200 times since 2015, and that could be the reason he still has some juice left.
If Marshawn decides to move on, I could see a scenario where Martin returns to Gruden’s offense.
If you could bring one free agent back, who would it be?
EP: This might come as a surprise to some, but I’m going with Dwayne Harris.
Yes, I’m aware that Gucci will turn 32 during the early stages of the 2019 regular season, but as our department’s resident special teams advocate, I feel like it’s my duty to give a little shine to Mr. Harris and what he brings to the table.
Not only did Dwayne handle a bulk of the team’s returning duties for every game save one in his first season as a Raider – a feat in and of itself – but he managed to return the Raiders first punt for a touchdown in a decade.
Finding a guy who can cleanly field kicks and punts on a regular basis is no easy task, and Harris did that and then some, also serving as a gunner on coverage units throughout the year.
The man’s stats might not be the most overly impressive out there, but there’s no denying that he was a net positive on the Silver and Black’s roster a year ago.
And let’s be real, there wasn’t a player with better pre-game outfits.
KM: Easy answer for me here; the team needs to re-sign Jared Cook.
Cook is Derek Carr’s favorite target, the team’s leading receiver in back-to-back seasons, and a Pro Bowler. Why wouldn’t you want to bring back one of the Raiders’ best receivers?
Jared Cook has always been a talented tight end, but since joining the Silver and Black, he’s elevated his game to another level. I don’t think it’s bold to say that Cook was a top-three tight end in the NFL last year and is one of the best receivers at the position currently. Without him in the fold, Carr will have Jordy Nelson, Marcell Ateman, and Seth Roberts to throw to, and no disrespect to any of those players, but I think we’d all feel better if Cook was able to return.
With free agency beginning on March 13th, take a look at the Raiders players officially slated to become unrestricted, restricted or exclusive restricted free agents.
What need would you like the team to fill in free agency?
EP: A gentleman who knows more about football than I do once told a young Eddie Paskal that you build through the draft and supplement through free agency.
In the spirit of that statement, and with the recognition that the Raiders currently have three first-round picks at their disposal, I just want to add depth across the board.
Re-signing Denzelle Good – while it wasn’t the sexiest transaction of all-time – definitely falls into that category, and I think it set a nice tone for the type of productive player that I hope the Silver and Black target in the coming weeks.
Last season’s crop definitely tended to be a little more on the veteran side of things – and for good reason – but I’m really interested to see if Gruden and Mayock decide to go with a bit more of a youth movement in 2019.
That said, if we’re going to get a little more specific – a stud receiver (for the right price) and some depth in the linebacking corps would help me feel good headed into the Draft.
KM: Prior to the franchise tag deadline, I would’ve hoped that Gruden and Mayock signed a premier pass rusher, but Jadeveon Clowney, Frank Clark, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Dee Ford were all tagged by their respective teams. The free agent market is thin at the defensive line position (fortunately there’s a lot of talented pass rushers in this year’s draft class), but the Raiders should still try to address some needs on defense.
Cornerbacks Gareon Conley and Daryl Worley played well last season, so the cornerback position doesn’t seem like a huge need at this moment, but the safety position could use some revamping. Erik Harris and Karl Joseph played admirably, but the team needs depth at that position. Fortunately, several top-flight safeties are set to hit the free agent market, and if the Silver and Black just signed one of them the group would improve immensely. Landon Collins leads the group, but Earl Thomas, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Lamarcus Joyner and many more would be a good fit in Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther’s system.
Yes, the Raiders need to improve the run defense after allowing 140.6 rushing yards (30th in the league) in 2018, but those issues can be addressed in the draft. This is a loaded group of free agent safeties, and I’d like to see the Raiders sign one of them come March 13.
Who’s your dream free agent signing?
EP: Well, since we live in the real world and Bo Jackson isn’t on the market, my guy is going to be C.J. Mosley, a 26-year-old linebacker on one of the best defenses in football.
Bringing in Tahir Whitehead during free agency last year paid big dividends for the Raiders, so I’d love to see them go back to the well to add another dude who can flat out ball at that position.
Mosley has not only been productive since making the jump from the University of Alabama to the NFL, but he doesn’t miss a ton of games either, so he gets the nod on this one.
KM: I really like Eddie’s C.J. Mosley pick, so for the sake of conversation I’ll mix it up.
In my heart, I’d love for the Raiders to sign All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell to give Derek Carr a dynamic playmaker to throw to out of the backfield, but part of me would also like the team to sign Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins…
… I’m going with my heart.
The Raiders need a playmaker on offense; find me a player that’s better than Bell on the free agent market capable of making game-changing plays. Carr isn’t shy about his love of the running back, just look at how often he threw the ball to Jalen Richard and Marshawn Lynch out of the backfield. You could make the argument that Bell is a hybrid between a running back and a wide receiver, and his skill set would benefit the Raiders greatly.
Sure, Bell sat out last year, but I’d rather have fresh legs from the recently turned 27 year old over a player coming off a 300-plus carry season. Signing Bell might cost a pretty penny, but if the team does opt to sign him, it would allow Gruden and Mayock to focus the team’s three first-round picks on defensive players. Several mock drafts have the team selecting running back Josh Jacobs from Alabama, but if you sign Bell that pick could be used to add a pass rusher or a linebacker, which the team desperately needs.