Key Additions: Matt Schaub ($6.8M per year), Austin Howard ($6M), LaMarr Woodley ($5.2M), Justin Tuck ($5M), Donald Penn ($4.8M), Antonio Smith ($4.5M), Tarell Brown ($3.5M), James Jones ($3.3M), Kevin Boothe ($1.3M), Maurice Jones-Drew ($2.5M)
Key Re-Signings: Charles Woodson ($2M per year), Darren McFadden ($1.8M), Pat Sims ($1.5M), Usama Young ($1.2M)
Key Losses: Jared Veldheer (Cardinals), Lamarr Houston (Bears), Rashad Jennings (Giants), Tracy Porter (Redskins),
Major Cuts: Mike Brisiel ($1.4M cap savings)
Free Agency Thoughts:
The Raiders went into free agency with the most cap space in the history of the NFL and they did what they could to spend it. Was it spent wisely? I guess that depends on your perspective. If you are excited about having a large number of contracts that are in essence one year contracts then you should feel that the Raiders did great. They added at least nine starters, kept three good pieces and if any fail they can go and cut them all in 2015. If that doesn’t float your boat, then you should think this was a terrible offseason.
The one decision nobody should argue with is bringing in Matt Schaub. Oakland was in desperate need of a QB and Schaub is just one year removed from at least being an effective game manager. In a sense it’s a lateral move from Carson Palmer but with more favorable contract terms. It was a huge need and they filled it. His new deal does not preclude them from drafting a QB either.
The Raiders brought in Austin Howard to play either right tackle or guard at $6 million a year. It’s a very strong contract for Howard made stronger by what seems to be a clerical error by the Raiders which caused a large first year roster bonus to be treated as a signing bonus. I’d be almost certain the Raiders had no desire to do this as no contract they signed had prorated money beyond 2014 and the bonus language here was designed to avoid this bonus from prorating. Perhaps they can petition for a change but the current management council decision has the bonus prorated.
Outside of the Howard signing free agency pretty much played out like an attempt to recreate a Pro Bowl team from 2009. Charles Woodson (38), Donald Penn (31), Kevin Boothe (31), Antonio Smith (33), Justin Tuck (31), LaMarr Woodley (30), and James Jones (30) all make up the post 30’s brigade this year, and all, except for Jones, should have question marks surrounding them. Penn and Woodley were no longer wanted by their original teams because their play had dropped so much. Tuck was willing to stay in New York for less money but the Giants had no desire to bring him back. Smith and Woodson are both at ages where you keep your fingers crossed.
I’m can’t explain the decisions at running back. The team retained Darren McFadden and then signed the ancient, in football years, Maurice Jones-Drew. There are no excuses for McFadden who is not just injury prone but also awful when healthy. McFadden’s deal contains almost no guarantees but even $1.75 million if he makes the team is too high. MJD will earn $500,000 less than the younger Knowshon Moreno and about $1 million less than the top players signed this year at RB. Oakland has to hope that the only cause for his problems in Jacksonville was the poor offensive line.
Tarell Brown was a strong signing by the team. He is a capable cornerback and being on a “prove it” contract should get the best out of him. It would have been nice to get him for two years, but I don’t think he would agree to those terms right now. Jones should be a reasonable veteran that can be the third guy with potential weeks to have more of a role. The re-signing of Sims and Young were both solid and both on reasonable contracts.
I can’t wrap my head around allowing the younger Veldheer and Houston to walk away without a fight. The loss of Veldheer in particular seemed like a lesson in not how to run a franchise. At the least they could have put a transition tag on him and then rescinded the tag had Rodger Saffold, who the Raiders identified as his replacement, passed a physical. Instead they let Veldheer walk and when they backed out of the Saffold deal had to scramble to find a name off the scrap heap to play left tackle.
Overall Grade: D
For whatever reason when I look at Oakland I see the same type of team that they put out there two or three years ago, except the contracts are not obscene this time around. I would have thought they would have been aggressive in trying to nab a few younger players such as one of the cornerbacks or guards but they passed on the front tier of free agents. I understand wanting players on your contract terms (no signing bonus and nothing more than vesting guarantees) but that should not hamper you from getting a player. The Buccaneers run a very similar style and had no issues getting players to sign. If the Raiders vision is to have these veteran players show a new crop of younger guys how to professionally approach the job, that’s something, but as it stands there is very little long term vision in the group that was put together.