The Oakland Raiders have been about as aggressive as a neutered puppy since free agency started last week, but when you just had a winning season and made the playoffs for the first time in 15 years, you can get away with not chasing all the free agents on the market.
However, Raiders’ fans may not be as controlled as Reggie McKenzie has been this off-season. If the team is to improve, they’ll have to address their weaknesses, such as their interior in the box on defense and their lack of depth at defensive back.
The Raiders let Menelik Watson walk already, but they more than likely filled his shoes with Marshall Newhouse, whom they signed to a two-year deal just days ago. Newhouse will look to take over at right tackle as he competes with Austin Howard, who split time with Watson the last two seasons.
Right tackle was arguably (but, pretty obviously) the weakest spot on the Raiders’ offensive line last season with the left side boasting Pro Bowlers in Kelechi Osemele and Donald Penn. Gabe Jackson was a lock at right guard and center Rodney Hudson, another Pro Bowl selection, is set as well.
So, who do the Raiders look to follow that signing up with? Here are a few free agents to watch:
Dont’a Hightower – ILB
Hightower posted the lowest solo tackle total (31) in any season last year, but had a total of 65, but the 27-year-old linebacker has proven he can get to the quarterback from the inside. Hightower had 2.5 sacks last year, but had six sacks two seasons ago and 3.5 the year prior, proving he can disrupt an offense. It’s not a tremendous mark, but as mentioned, he rushes from the inside.
Plus, with Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin on the edges, he’s not needed to do much but keep the quarterback in the pocket and disallow him from stepping up.
Hightower is rumored to be heading back to New England, but the Raiders have some money to play with and if Hightower is fine with a two-year deal, I’m sure McKenzie wouldn’t mind throwing some bread his way.
Adrian Peterson – RB
The Raiders haven’t closed the book, or even set it down, on bringing Latavius Murray back. But, they’ve allowed him to test the market as he stated he wanted to do. Murray was the primary head in a three-headed monster attack out of the backfield for Oakland last year and was the red zone specialist as he found the end zone 12 times.
However, Murray has dealt with injuries and that’s why he’s replaceable. Rookies DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard each showed they can handle about 10 carries per game, but neither are ready to be a lead back in my opinion.
Adding Peterson, who is among the most coveted of free agents, would be a huge move for the Raiders, but it’d be a bad decision to pay him more than whatever Murray ends up signing for. Peterson is coming off another injury and is on the wrong side of 30 (31 compared to Murray’s 27).
Peterson has a lot to prove and he’s also looking for one final chance at getting a Super Bowl ring. The Raiders are in prime position to make a deep run next season long as they’re able to stay healthy.
The pairing is a match made in Bob Barker heaven, only if the price is right.
Johnathan Hankins – DT
While many are hoping for Dontari Poe, Hankins is a quiet monster. He played on a New York Giants team that allowed just the third most rushing yards on the season (tied with the New England Patriots). Hankins posted 43 total tackles and three sacks.
But, the big story was his domination of the backfield. Hankins had eight tackles for loss. It was his second time in four years that he posted eight TFL. Hankins (24 years old) also has the age advantage over Poe (26). Hankins could be a huge problem in the middle for a Raiders’ team that struggled stopping the run last season (ranked 23 of 32).
Bradley McDougald – FS
McDougald posted back-to-back strong season stats for Tampa Bay with 87 tackles and 91 tackles in 2015 and ’16, respectively.
The Raiders have Sean Smith and David Amerson at the corner positions, but they lack much depth. I expect them to build upon that in the draft rather than at free agency, however. With Karl Joseph coming into his second year at safety, I expect the team to pair him with a veteran free safety to help take some pressure off the young Joseph.
McDougald also had a solid 79.0 rating from Pro Football Focus in ’16 and only cost the Bucs $2.55 million. If that contract was any indication, the Raiders may be able to get McDougald for a decent price.
What free agents would you like to see the Raiders go after?
Featured Image: Johnathan Hankins, 2015 Topps Football #117
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