This off-season has been handled very well by new Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie. All of the moves have been calculated, business, low-risk/high-reward deals that point towards a confidence in the roster, but also a down-to-earth acknowledgment of personnel weaknesses.
Probably very surprising to Raiders fans (with the exception of Wimbley) is the Raiders' front seven which has been almost altogether restructured and/or re-signed. This points to the fact that there is a lot of depth and talent in those players and a confidence from head coach Dennis Allen that he can put those players in a place where they can succeed.
The Raiders secondary, on the other hand, has seen a drastic overhaul especially on the outside. Raiders cut:
CB Chris Johnson
That's two starters at CB and a special teams ace Safety who played well in sub-packages on defense. However, it all seems to come full circle with the front office acquisitions at DB with Brandon Underwood, Ron Bartell, and Shawntae Spencer.
At first I thought that Brandon Underwood would be brought in to play CB but now I think he is a boom or bust prospect who can add potentially big play making ability in nickel and dime packages as a cover safety, slot corner type. I think Underwood's history with Green Bay and him being signed very quickly by McKenzie points to big potential. Of course Underwood was released by Green Bay early last season, but sometimes second chances bring the most out of a player.
Then there is the acquisition of Ron Bartell which I like a lot. Not only does Bartell pass the eyeball test to be a Raiders CB at 6'1, 205, but he also ran a 4.37 40 yard dash at the NFL combine before he was drafted.
What is most impressive is Bartell scored a 35 on the wonderlic which automatically makes him one of sharpest Raiders on the roster. Bartell's score of 35 puts him 16 points above the average NFL safety (19), 11 points above the average NFL QB (24), and 4 points above the average CHEMIST (31). In case you were wondering, a chemist isn't an NFL position, its a job for very smart people, and Bartell thinks faster and clearer than the average chemist. He has also played at a very high level in the NFL and was only available due to his having missed last year with a neck injury.
Shawntae Spencer is the last DB acquisition, and I figure he will start early before Chimdi Chekwa or DeMarcus Van Dyke supplant him. Spencer played pretty well as an NFL starter but really he played in the weakest division in football the last few years in the NFC west. I see him being a quality depth man as the year goes on, a veteran who knows playing football is about putting the hard hat on and going to work.
Both Bartell and Spencer were signed to 1-year deals. I see that as McKenzie and Allen's confidence that Chekwa or DVD or both will soon progress into starting NFL corners. One thing that CANNOT be denied is Al Davis' ability to scout corners. So I see the moves that have been made as the mark of a transition period where the current core roster will be coached to get better instead of taking the easy way out by acquiring big name free agents.
I have long believed the Raiders have the absolute most talented, athletic roster in the NFL at almost every position. The moves that have been made this off season seem like McKenzie agrees with this and wants to move forward with the players on the roster, and add veteran free agents to fill in until the younger guys can take over starting roles.