The 2011 NFL Draft is so close I can taste it. Sure, the Raiders don't have a pick today, but maybe they should try and change that. I'm not sure they'll have a player to line up at tackle otherwise.
"I have heard from other players that Mario turned down a one-year offer and that Walker is contemplating retirement. Therefore, the Raiders might be in the market for a right offensive tackle because Khalif Barnes isn't coming back either."
I am not surprised either way on the bit of news about Mario. There are very few free agent left tackles on the market with starting experience, and he is likely to get a decent deal. For the Raiders part, trying to get Mario back on a one-year deal isn't a bad idea. They could do a lot worse than that for back-up, and on a one-year deal they wouldn't be investing much.
As for ol' man Walker, I had no idea. He's only 31, and he hasn't had a history of injuries. Maybe he is just telling people this to try and get more money on his next contract. But if he retires it is going to make the need to draft a tackle even more pressing.
I wasn't thrilled about the idea of having Walker start the 2011 season as right tackle, but at least he was a fairly viable option that brought some plus play to the run game. Ideally, I was hoping the Raiders would bring someone in to take his place at tackle and have Walker to start at guard and/or for depth, but Walker dangled out their like a tattered security blanket.
We can get more into free agency after the draft, but take a quick look at the list on WalterFootball.com of free agent tackles, and it paints a pretty grim picture. Given the increasing reality that the NFL is going to play under the same rules it did in 2010, there are only about four or five tackles that aren't tendered that would be an upgrade over Walker at tackle. And it is not like Walker set a high upgrade bar.
While I like quite a few linemen the Raiders will likely have a chance to draft in the second-round I don't like any of their chances as an opening day starter at RT. Expecting to land a RT in free agency is going to be an expensive roll of the dice. I really don't expect the Raiders to trade up to the first-round to take a tackle, but it may be the only way to land a capable starter.