Left to right: G Evan Mathis, WR Wes Welker and RB Shonn Greene are three of the top free agents still available. AP Images.
The first week of March brings the excitement and hype of the opening of the NFL free agent market. What tends to get lost in the shuffle of the Draft, mini-camps, OTAs, the schedule release and other NFL business, is that free agency is an on-going process.
Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie is on record saying that the Raiders are always on the lookout for talent and ways to improve the roster. A dip in the free agent pool occurred recently out of necessity when 7th round Draft pick WR Andre Debose went down with a season-ending injury during the offseason program. Veteran return specialist Trindon Holliday was signed quickly.
With that in mind, here is a look at some of the top free agents available on the market, some of whom have been linked to the Raiders by sports writers and analysts.
Evan Mathis – G
Mathis was released this past week by the Philadelphia Eagles. A former Pro Bowler, Mathis has played in 114 games with 78 starts with Carolina, Miami, Cincinnati and Philadelphia. The Raiders added to the offensive line in free agency and the Draft. However, veteran Pro Bowl guards don't come free that often.
Wes Welker – WR**
The Raiders seem pretty set at wide receiver with drafting Amari Cooper, adding Michael Crabtree and Rod Streater's return from a foot injury. However, the kick return jobs may remain unsettled despite the addition of Trindon Holliday. Several players took reps during the recent mandatory Mini-Camp including rookie WR Amari Cooper, WR Austin Willis, CB TJ Carrie and Holliday.
"Latavius [Murray] has done a nice job, he's got some experience back there. TJ Carrie has done a nice job. We were really hopeful for Andre Debose. Unfortunately, he got injured," Special Teams Coordinator Brad Seely said recently. "So those are guys that stand out right now. We brought in the young guy from LSU [Trindon Holliday] that, you know, he's got talent, has been talented here in the past in the NFL. So we're giving him an opportunity, too. Amari Cooper is another guy we're working back there."
Welker is a 12-year veteran who has had stops with San Diego, Miami, New England and Denver. He has played in 167 career games and has caught 890 passes for 9,822 yards and 50 touchdowns. However, he hasn't seen significant kickoff return duty since 2006. He did return 25 punts for the Patriots in 2012.
Shonn Greene – RB
ESPN's Bill Williamson suggested the Raiders could take a look at the one-time rising star who had his best success with the New York Jets. The Raiders signed Trent Richardson and Roy Helu, Jr., as Darren McFadden left for Dallas via free agency. The Raiders also have rookie Michael Dyer on the roster. Chris Johnson – RB
One of the more explosive players the NFL has seen in recent memory, and injured this offseason, former Titans and Jets RB Chris Johnson is still on the market. CJ2K rushed for over 2,000 yards in 2009.
Dwight Freeney – DE
Once one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL, the 35-year-old Freeney and his 111.5 career sacks are still on the market. The Raiders drafted Mario Edwards, Jr., and are looking for more sacks from second-year LB Khalil Mack. Freeney recorded 3.5 sacks in 1 game for the Chargers last season.
Dawan Landry – SS
The 32-year-old strong safety spent the past two seasons with the New York Jets after two years with Jacksonville. He played for the Baltimore Ravens from 2006-2010. He has played in 130 games and has collected 13 interceptions.
Red Bryant – DE
Released by the Jacksonville Jaguars after one season, Bryant, one of the larger defensive ends you'll find at 6'4", 323 pounds, is on the market. He spent the first six years of his career with the Seattle Seahawks. He has played in 80 games and recorded 143 total tackles.
Barry Cofield – DT
The 31-year-old Cofield was released by Washington this offseason. He played for the Redskins the past four seasons after spending the first five years of his career with the New York Giants. The Raiders drafted DT Justin Ellis last year, added DT Dan Williams from the Cardinals this year, and also have youngsters Ricky Lumpkin, Denico Autry and Stacy McGee on the roster, and added undrafted free agent Leon Orr.
A team will always look to improve its roster throughout the offseason and regular season as needs arise. These are just some of the better players on the market, and as we saw with Debose and Holliday, anything can happen and often does.