The opening week of free agency: Oakland Raiders

NFL Free Agency

Free agency opened with a bang this past week with some shocking trades (LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills and Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks) and shocking free agent signings (DeMarco Murray signing with Philadelphia after Kelly seemingly let key free agents leave via free agency and trades).

General manager Reggie McKenzie didn’t waste much time in making improvements to the silver and black.

Rodney Hudson.

Last season, McKenzie brought in Donald Penn and Austin Jackson as free agents and drafted Gabe Jackson to upgrade the offensive line.

McKenzie made a splash when he signed Hudson to a 5 year deal worth 44.5 million on Wednesday, marking the end of center Stefen Wisniewski’s tenure with the team as the starting center. It also makes Hudson the highest paid center in the league, but it was neeeded. It will provide some stability for the OL and help Carr progress in his second NFL season.

Dan Williams.Dan Williams

Williams was the #3 rated defensive tackle by Pro Football Talk and was signed for 6 million per season after the top two DT’s (Ndamukong Suh and Terrance Knighton) reached agreements with Miami and Jacksonville.

He was probably overpaid a little bit for a part time run stopper but he’s a good player and a upgrade over Pat Sims. He’ll start alongside Antonio Smith.

Roy Helu.

He’ll be a solid backup to Latavius Murray and a change of pace back as a receiver out of the backfield on third down. Along with fullback Marcel Reece on third down, second year quarter back Derek Carr will have two backup options/safety valves if the receivers are covered and can’t get open.

A 2 year deal worth 4 million isn’t bad for a guy who will give them a nice third down back and added depth at a key position.

Malcolm Smith.

They already have Khalil Mack and Sio Moore, two very promising youngsters and now add the Super Bowl MVP to give their LB unit even more talent. One of the key reasons he signed was new Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton Jr who was the Linebackers coach with Seattle from 2010-2014.

Curtis Lofton.Curtis Lofton

Lofton was given a 3 year deal worth 18 million (10 million of which is guaranteed) but he is just 28 so this has the potential to be a great signing. He’s a productive player as evident by last season with the New Orleans Saints (100 tackles, 2nd most of his career) and will solidify this unit and be their veteran presence/mentor for the youngsters. He’ll start at middle linebacker, veteran Miles Burris will back him up and provide experienced depth.

Now with Mack, Moore, Smith, Lofton and Burris they have five solid players that can rotate in and out, keeping them fresh and rested. This is easily the strength of the defense.

And then came the head scratchers.

Christian Ponder.

This caught me totally off guard. I realize he’s being brought in as a backup but Matt McGloin has shown promise as a player. However, this has Bill Musgrave written all over it. He is being brought in as the offensive coordinator and wants a player familiar with the offense, Musgrave coached Ponder his first 3 seasons.

The Raiders can save 5.5 million by releasing Matt Schaub and bringing in Ponder guarantees Schaub is a goner.

Lee Smith.Lee Smith

They paid a decent blocking TE 3 million per season, it was a classic overpay. They struck out on landing any premier free agents, they talked to former Bengal Jermaine Gresham but were unable to come to terms.

James Dockery.

Depth signing. If he plays a lot, the Raiders are in trouble.

Are they done?

Heck no, we still have around 25 million or so (once Schaub is inevitably released) and we still need an elite #1 WR for young Carr to throw the ball to and move the chains on offense, and another TE wouldn’t hurt. We could also use a right tackle, some depth at defensive end, and a veteran CB to mentor DJ Hayden, TJ Carrie, and Keith McGill.

Some of these needs will be addressed in the NFL draft next month.

Grade so far: C+

Former Oakland RB Darren McFadden signed a two year with the Dallas Cowboys.

Maurice Jones-Drew retired after a less than stellar season with the Raiders.

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Big time sports fan of the Lakers, Raiders, Angels and Dodgers. From 1990-1995, I worked at the Glendale News-Press and I had a blast. I covered mainly high school sporting events and Glendale Community College athletic events, but also attended Dodgers, Raiders, and Rams games. I also write for Joel Huerto (former co-writer and editor at the GNP) at onemanfastbreak.net. I watch a lot of sports on TV (basketball, football, usually just postseason MLB) and UFC.

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