Projecting the Raiders free agent finds
The Raiders are in a unique situation this year when it comes to adding to their roster.
They have two corners with huge upside in T.J. Carrie and David Amerson, but might need to add another. Adding two high-caliber safeties is ideal, but nabbing just one could prove difficult.
And linebacker is perhaps the largest need — assuming Khalil Mack plays defensive end, all three spots could be upgraded between free agency and the draft.
The general train of thought is that the Raiders need to add the best corner possible. Sure, that’s always the idea, but with a limited supply on the market, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see Oakland sign a young safety like Cleveland’s Tashaun Gipson, along with George Iloka, who should be departing Cincinnati. And doing little else in the secondary.
There are two reasons for that. Carrie moved between safety and corner for the bulk of 2015, and the split undoubtedly hampered his progress at corner — he even forgot which position he was playing at times as a result.
The other issue is that Raiders linebackers surrendered a high number of completions that the secondary gets blamed for.
Adding some depth at corner could certainly be in the cards, Jeremy Lane is a name that has been floated around the Twitterverse (h/t Rory Anderson of Just Blog Baby), and Lane is a solid option at nickel corner, which pushes D.J. Hayden back to a reserve player.
That’s an ideal situation, and not just because Hayden has been underwhelming since drafted in the first round of 2013. But because Hayden has plenty of starting experience, and that’s major with backup players.
The two biggest edge rushers on the market — the Raiders will likely add one of them — are Olivier Vernon and Malik Jackson. They’re both impact talents, and Oakland could nab both if they wanted, which would push Mack to linebacker, a position he’s proven comfortable with.
Throw Danny Trevathan in the middle, and the Oakland defense is markedly improved from the 2015 version.
An estimated salary range for these players is as follows:
Tashaun Gipson — 5 years, $30 million, AAV $6 million
George Iloka — 5 years, $33 million, AAV $6.6 million
Jeremy Lane — 4 years, $28 million, AAV $7 million
Olivier Vernon — 5 years, $60 million, AAV $12 million
Malik Jackson — 5 years, $60 million, AAV $12 million
Danny Trevathan — 4-years, $45 million, AAV $11.25 million
The defensive changes would put Oakland on the hook for around $44 million per year in spending this offseason, which is right around half of what they will have to work with through the offseason.
On offense, the needs aren’t too hefty. We’re talking right guard, right tackle, and not much else.
The top offensive names, quarterbacks excluded, are mostly at guard and center. It’s not a terrible year for tackles, but not a good one. As is usually the case, the best free agent left tackle received the franchise tag, but that shouldn’t be a problem.
Oakland should be able to re-sign their starting left tackle Donald Penn, who is a high-caliber player but at 33 years old, isn’t as valuable to other teams as he is the Raiders. He’ll still command a salary on par with the league’s highest paid tackles. That means the $10 million per year range.
If the Raiders can’t work a deal with Penn, it’s a reasonable expectation that they make a run at Steelers blind side protector Kelvin Beachum, who may even come at a discount after tearing his ACL in 2015.
The biggest name when it comes to total impact is Kelechi Osemele, who the Baltimore Ravens might try to retain, but their tight salary cap situation will make it easier said than done.
Osemele could instantly become the highest paid guard in the NFL due to his exceptional track record and versatility. The former second round pick can play left tackle in a pinch, but is best suited at right guard.
Cleveland’s run at having the best offensive line in the NFL may soon be over as their starting right tackle Mitchell Schwartz is set to hit the market and unlikely to return to the Browns.
Here’s the expected salary breakdown of the aforementioned players:
Kelechi Osemele — 5 years, $40 million, AAV $8 million
Mitchell Schwartz — 5 years, $42 million, AAV $8.4 million
Donald Penn — 2 years, $18 million, AAV $9 million
The three contracts work out to a hair less than $25 million per year, putting Oakland’s spending at $70 million.
Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Oakland Raiders.