Oakland Raiders’ free agency decisions are coming around the corner as free agent negotiations open after the 2017 NFL combine. The Silver and Black have their own team needs to address in free agency and the draft.
Before that, the Raiders must decide which of their own free agents are worth bringing back. They have 13 unrestricted free agents, a few restricted free agents, and more than $40 million in cap space, per Spotrac.
Free Agents To Re-Sign
Defensive tackle Stacy McGee
— Oakland Raiders (@OaklandRNews) February 17, 2017
McGee easily had his best season as Raider. The defensive tackle started 9 games, registered 2.5 sacks and 2.0 forced fumbles. With an 80.6 PFF grade, McGee was the Raiders best interior defender. Oakland should bring him back on a one-year prove-it deal. They have too many needs on defense to not allow McGee to continue developing.
Offensive tackle Menelik Watson
Signing an offensive tackle is sometimes like buying a used car. The ones with no problems usually don’t hit the open market. Hence, the Raiders should try fixing their own problem rather than inheriting someone else’s problem.
That means, the Raiders should re-sign Watson. The 2013 second-round pick should be retained on a team-friendly deal. He has been inconsistent and injured during his time as a Raider. Most of us also remember him getting murdered at left tackle versus Jadeveon Clowney when Watson started at left tackle during the AFC Wild Card game. But Watson has shown enough to be a quality swing tackle depth option for Oakland.
Safety Nate Allen
— Zesty Raiders News (@zesty_raiders) February 4, 2017
Allen registered two interceptions and three passes defended last year. The veteran safety has value as a free and strong safety. He would be a good insurance policy behind young safety Karl Joseph and veteran safety Reggie Nelson. Allen could command more dollars on the open market, but Oakland should look to re-sign him.
Linebacker Perry Riley
— Raider Nation UK (@RAIDERNATlON) February 24, 2017
Riley Jr. came over to the Raiders in the middle of the season. In 11 games, he registered two forced fumbles and 38 tackles. He also graded as the Raiders best linebacker with an 84.8 accumulative grade from Pro Football Focus.
The Raiders may be tempted to explore younger linebacker options like Cory James, Ben Heeney, and Neiron Ball. They may also look at other backers in the NFL Draft. Either way, they should bring back Riley. He offers 74 career starts, which is a ton of experience for Oakland’s young linebackers corps. That also means he has taken a lot of hits. Therefore, Perry should re-sign on a cap-friendly deal.
Safety Brynden Trawick
Trawick registered an interception last season and played well during Oakland’s playoff game. He also brings value as a special teamer. Why not bring him back?
Long snapper Jon Condo
Condo is not getting any younger, at age 36. That said, he is still one of the best players at his position. He is also one of the longest-tenured Raiders. Just bring him back to Oakland, Baby!
Free Agents To Let Walk
Running Back Latavius Murray
— Zesty Raiders News (@zesty_raiders) February 26, 2017
It may be difficult finding out that the Raiders will not retain the Tay-Train. Reports indicate that the starting running back will test the open market, per Pro Football Talk.
In 2016, Murray took a step-back. He failed to surpass 1,000 rushing yards for a consecutive season. Some of that is attributed to the breakout seasons of rookie backs Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. However, Murray also did not show that second-gear to create long and explosive runs.
The big back can probably command more money elsewhere. Thus, the Raiders will probably let him walk. Oakland can find a replacement in this deep NFL draft class of running backs too.
Quarterback Matt McGloin
Some Oakland fans remember McGloin’s decent starts as a rookie. He could not find that form in his only start versus the Denver Broncos. Granted, he did get injured.
Still, the Raiders coaching staff let McGloin know that they were over him by not giving him a chance to play in the AFC Wildcard game. Maybe, McGloin was injured but he did not even get a shot to help the team win because the coaches probably did not think he would make a difference. Time for McGloin to move on.
Tight end Mychal Rivera
— Raiders Report (@raiders_fanly) February 16, 2017
Rivera did not make any fuss when he started the season as a healthy scratch from the active roster. He filled in the secondary tight end role when Lee Smith went down with a season-ending injury. Rivera also held down the starting role when Clive Walford went down.
Nonetheless, Rivera’s passing yards have gone down every year since 2014. He should get a better look on another roster.
Receiver Andre Holmes
Yes, there is a trend here. Players like Holmes were once poised for a prominent role in the Raiders offense, but Oakland has improved their talent since Holmes’ best season as a Raider in 2014. He is still a physical specimen and valued player on special teams.
Regardless, this is not enough to give Holmes another roster spot. Oakland should look for a younger fourth receiver with more upside. Holmes will catch onto another roster somewhere. Meanwhile, the Raiders will have to figure out what to do with receiver Seth Roberts too.
Corner D.J. Hayden
In 4 seasons w/ #Raiders, DJ Hayden had as many penalties (35) as INTs, sacks, passes defensed, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries total
— Josh Dubow (@JoshDubowAP) January 12, 2017
It seems like every offseason, I make the same argument for keeping Hayden. Dude deserves another chance due to his athleticism. Remember, he almost died from a chest injury in college. Plus, he could stay as a bargain.
However, a change of scenery could be beneficial for both the Raiders and Hayden. The 2013 first-round draft pick has not lived up to that status due to inconsistencies and injuries. He did not register an interception last year, and it is finally time for us to move on.
Linebacker Malcolm Smith
— Oakland Raiders (@OaklandRRaiders) February 22, 2017
The Raiders have a series of tough decisions to make at the linebacker position. Letting Smith walk won’t be easy. He has ties to defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. dating back to USC. Plus, Smith was once a Super Bowl MVP in Seattle and he is only 27-years-old. He has also appeared in every game since he joined the Siver and Black.
Further, Smith has also led the team in tackles over the past few seasons. Regardless, Pro Football Focus gave him a 49.7 accumulative grade. Thus, the Raiders could really upgrade the position with a better player in coverage and run support.
Linebacker Daren Bates
Bates has mostly been a backup and special teams player during his career. The Raiders could easily replace him in free agency or the draft. Otherwise, they could replace him with Ben Heeney, Cory James and Neiron Ball getting healthy next year.
Denico Autry, Gabe Holmes, Seth Roberts, and SaQwan Edwards are all different types of restricted free agents. Holmes, Roberts, and Edwards are exclusive rights free agents so the Raiders can keep them with a minimum salary offer. All three are worth retaining.
Especially, Roberts who has emerged as the Raiders third receiver. He even scored a few game winning touchdowns, including the overtime winner versus Tampa Bay.
Autry should be retained too. He has value as an end and defensive tackle. However, his RFA status means another team could offer him and the Raiders could match their offer.
Moreover, the Raiders could create more free agents by cutting veterans like Justin Ellis, Aldon Smith, Lee Smith, Austin Howard, Dan Williams, Taiwan Jones, and Keith McGill for their added cap space.
Hence, it remains to be seen what the Oakland Raiders will do in Free Agency, which officially begins on March 7.
[Featured Image by Daniel Gluskoter/AP Images]