Free Agency Thoughts: Oakland Raiders


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.




  • RaiderTruth

    Same hate from the Raider hating media…. First, the notion that everyone in Free agency is young and the Raiders only signed older players is absurd. Second it would make financial sense in a weak Free agency market to not give out long tern deals that could break the bank in the future. The author cant bash the Raiders by saying they are not looking to the future and than say they are avoiding the mistakes made by the previous regime of larger and longer contracts . The MJD signing is were this author loses all credibility. The same MJD that the Patriots, Steelers, Rams and 6 other teams wanted as well. The same MJD that suffered an injury last year and still have over 800 yards rushing with the statistically worst o line in the league. Lastly, to argue that the team is not building for the future, while saying we should have given Valdheer a 1 year transition tag is contradictory. Maybe we should have overpaid for Revis, Vick, Cromartie and Melton… But then they would bash the Raiders for overpaying, troubling makers, that are injury prone.

    I give you mr. Fitzgerald an D+ for you evaluation efforts.

    • Reprocity

      1)Some teams like the Pats might be a player like MJD away from winning a SB. The raiders are not.
      2)If they had given Valdheer the transition tag and Scaffold fell through they’d still have him or if the Scaffold deal held they could have traded him. They would have benefited either way from the tag.
      3)Revis,Vick, and Cromartie signed for fair market value. Revis wanted 16 and Vick wasn’t the top paid FA QB this year.
      4)He wasn’t bashing, he was being critical of some of the decisions and comparing them to the bad decisions the old regime made. Until McKenzie has some success like making the playoffs or a winning record the Raiders will be treated like a bad team.
      Jason is spot on and maybe this year will the Raiders will show improvement but historically it’s never worked out for teams that have signed this many FA’s ala Redskins!

    • Reprocity

      A lot of teams are being bashed by the media. It’s the new in thing and I wish Goddel would do something about it.

  • LosBass

    Research? They tried to sign Revis on the first day of free agency and he declined. After him, who else is a game changer? Thought Reggie did a good job considering most analysts said this was the weakest FA class in the past 10 years.

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  • Frank Fowler

    Being a huge fan of this website and also a Raiders fan,I don’t think Jason Fitzgerald is biased against the Raiders.He like most of the media is trying to understand why Raiders did what they did.
    If you told me before Free Agency started this is who the Raiders would get in Free agency I would say it is very lackluster considering how much Cap space the Raiders had.
    Being the third offseason under Reggie McKenzie,McKenzie is very deliberate to who he wants on his team and their value to him.
    After the whole Roger Safford thing he made it clear he would not over pay for players to come to Oakland,Howard I think was a little overpaid,but his deal was done before Safford contract was voided.
    But Reggie did target a few younger guys like Henry Melton and Alterraun Verner,but they made it clear they did not want to come to Oakland.Most other younger players I don’t think Reggie valued as high as the media.
    You can’t force someone to sign with your team.If your Alterraun Verner and you had a choice to play with a new coach(Lovie Smith,TB)that’s going to have at least 2 years on the job,plus is a proven good coach and with a system that fits your skill set or
    a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2002 and where the GM and coach might not even finish the coming season with that team?It’s a pretty clear choice if the money is somewhat close.
    Reggie has also made it clear he will not force someone to play for the Raiders if they don’t want to.Carson Palmer did not want to reduce his salary or play for the Raiders so he got traded to Arizona.
    Lamar Houston directly after the last game of the 2013 season mentioned he was sure the Raiders did not want him around in 2014.So if him or the Raiders did not see eye to eye of things why keep him if he did not want to be here?
    Look at MJD,you think if the Raiders wasn’t his childhood favorite team he would have signed with them?Most likely no,he would have signed with the Pats or the Steelers.
    Even Tarell Brown formerly of San Francisco,who by most accounts say is a solid signing by the Raiders.He signed a 1 year prove it deal,I think him not having to pack up and move at all for a year and his history with Jason Tarver(Raiders DC) played a big part with his signing.
    The Raiders got worried with Matt Schaub,thinking he may sign with the Browns if he became a free agent.Making a trade with the Texans to secure him,even with all the huge front office turnover in Cleveland some would argue that the Browns have a more stable situation than the Raiders.
    In 2012 they did a poll asking 103 anonymous NFL players,Which is the worst organization in the NFL? Check out the top 4,Cleveland Browns 20,Jacksonville Jaguars 19,Oakland Raiders 19,Buffalo Bills 9.The top 3 much higher than the other teams overall.
    “Oakland Raiders. Everybody says it’s a black hole. They say you go out there and your career might be over.” — AFC defensive player.I know things have changed in the front office of the Raiders,but it is still how most players view the Raiders.

    This offseason could have been much better like most the media suggests,but there is more to it than just picking a player and say sign here your a Raider now.
    The Raiders did improve the football team and didn’t mortgage the future in this process,so things could be much worse.
    OK,I ranted enough now.

    • I agree with most of what you are saying, but I think that is why you have to differentiate yourself with money to overcome the stigma. For the most part money talks in the NFL and when you are a team that has negative thoughts around the NFL you do usually have to go above the expected salary ranges. I think as long as you stick to your contract strategy that’s fine. When they had originally agreed to terms with Saffold it seemed like an overpay, but sometimes its something you have to do to get your guys. While the Jets and Dolphins situations were never as bad as Oakland’s both had to do something similar- the Jets in 2008 and the Dolphins last season. The Buccaneers with Schiano were in the same boat. That doesnt mean you go out and overspend on bad players/aging players (i.e. it makes far more sense for the Raiders to select Justin Tuck over DeMarcus Ware simply because of the cost element) but you should see if there is a way to make more of an impact.

      The tags are in place to keep a player from walking. Alex Mack had no desire to be in Cleveland. Now hes happy to be there. Branden Albert had no desire to be in KC. He took it in stride last year and played well. It was a viable option of almost no risk for Oakland to tag him. Its just protecting your asset. When you find someone else and get him signed then just take the tag away and have him be a free agent.

      This particular free agency I thought had some depth at cornerback, safety, guard, and secondary wide receiver. There was some bargain bin shopping on running backs and maybe one or two defensive tackles. I would have thought that the team would have targeted some of those players, who should still be viable 2-3 years down the line, to grow with the draft picks you bring in now. When they blew everything up, which was the right decision as was trading down in a weak draft last season, I thought that was the plan. I never would have expected the teams strategy to be to piece together what looks like a one year stopgap team.

      • Frank Fowler

        The Dolphins of last year do remind me a lot of the Raiders this year.Jeff Ireland I feel overpaid greatly for many of the talent he signed,but had to do this to get players to even consider coming to Miami.McKenzie started free agency almost exactly the same as the Dolphins giving Safford a crazy high deal.What ever happened with the Safford deal and the doctors seemed to change Reggie’s free agent strategy,and it may end up being a blessing.

        Overall I think your correct the Raiders could have spent more money on more of a quality young talent base.I really hope Mark Davis has more patience with McKenzie.As I think McKenzie is a very good evaluator of pro talent,take a look at all the guys he got rid of since becoming GM,over half are not in the NFL anymore and the ones that are are backups or struggling with there current teams.I’m very interested to see how Veldheer and Houston end up.Now as a collage to pro evaluator the jury is still out on McKenzie.

        Keep up the awesome work on the site.

      • blite13 .

        That’s because you don’t know the long term goals. This isn’t about winning a Super Bowl, this is about building the team for a couple of years down the road. Reggie is building for the FUTURE, through the draft and is trying to set a standard with ex Super Bowl players who still have something to prove. Only an idiot would think that Reggie was signing these players with a Super Bowl in mind….just shows you don’t have a clue about the Raiders and are to damn lazy to find out or even try to understand it. That is not journalism, that is lazy reporting with a bashing slant. And it is typical of anyone in the MEDIA, they just hop on trends and that is what you are doing too…..just another hack pretending to know….BOOOOOOOOOOO.

  • RaidingTexas

    Why are the Bucs able to do business the same way successfully? Easy answer: Facilities. I love the Raiders, but it’s a colossal joke. Antiquated headquarters, practice and workout facilities. Sewage backups in the locker room. The scouting department didn’t even have computers before Reggie arrived! The organization is literally just getting started on a move into the 21st century. This stuff does matter. It’s not always about the money!

  • John Thomas

    I’m sure you probably gave Denver an A for signing players that their team didn’t want either, to longer deals, and of which some of those players are older than who Oakland signed.

  • blite13 .

    LOL, Reggie made these moves to get through until his own talent is ready. Reggie always said he wanted to build the team through the draft. These vets are a bridge to that point. Why is it so hard for “experts” to understand what is happening in Oakland? The whole damn thing had to be rebuilt, how else are you supposed to do it? Think, it ain’t illegal yet….but they are workin on it.

  • blite13 .

    Also, Veld didn’t want the transition and he isn’t worth 11 mill/yr. Reggie said, if they don’t want to be here, they won’t = Veld and Houston.