Reggie McKenzie has done a stellar job with the hand dealt him as new GM of the silver and black. Of course, the real results remain to be seen, but simply addressing the huge, "out of whack" contracts and others restructured to make moves possible, filling glaring holes with serviceable and young free agents and trades, and largely putting the team in position to truly go after best player available as indicated in multiple press conferences make it at this point a big success.
So with that, here's a look at how the moves stack up and determine if that will ultimately paint the dynamic for how Raider selections might be looking on McKenzie and staff's draft boards. We know the team is working with only five picks this time around with the initial selection coming at 95 overall. ESPN's Dennis Renno points out here how those Raider picks dealt away resulted in acquiring Palmer for the highest picks, ultimately Joseph Barksdale and Taiwan Jones for the second rounders with the Patriots, Terrelle Pryor with the 3rd, Jason Campbell in 2010 for the 4th, and last but not least, Aaron Curry for the 7th rounder. Renno says the picks "yield early treasure." They definitely provided the Raiders with some valuable players, and appear to have been well spent.
The current roster on the defensive side after the jump:
the offseason transactions since January from Raiders.com:
|04/20/2012||Signed WR Duke Calhoun|
|04/12/2012||Signed TE Andre Hardy|
|04/07/2012||Signed DE Dave Tollefson|
|04/02/2012||Waived WR Derrick Jones, Re-Signed DE
|03/27/2012||Signed DB Pat Lee|
|03/16/2012||Released LB Kamerion Wimbley|
|03/14/2012||Released G Cooper Carlisle and DT John Henderson (failed physical)|
|03/13/2012||Released TE Kevin Boss|
|03/09/2012||Released S Hiram Eugene (failed physical) and CB Chris Johnson|
|02/16/2012||Signed DB Brandon Underwood|
|02/09/2012||Released CB Stanford Routt|
|01/09/2012||Signed RB Rashawn Jackson to a Reserve/Future contract|
|01/06/2012||Signed QB Rhett Bomar, DE Hall Davis, DB Curtis Taylor to reserve/future contract|
Safeties: Tyvon Branch, Michael Huff, Mike Mitchell, Matt Giordano: This unit looks to be pretty solid, and if Allen/Tarver improve the defensive accountability and discipline as hoped, could emerge as a dominant unit.
Corner Backs: Demarcus Van Dyke, Chimdi Chekwa, Shawntae Spencer, Ron Bartell, Pat Lee, Terrail Lambert, Curtis Taylor and specialist Bryan McCann. While little is known about some of these guys, some newly acquired free agents probably for practice squad, the position many among the nation wondered most about with the departures of Stanford Routt this offseason and Nnamdi Asomugha last year and probably figured top priority in the draft might now be anything but. Though many guys were short term solutions, they'll be given opportunities to step up and earn a job, and it at least appears McKenzie attempted to mostly address the position before the draft and probably doesn't take a corner unless a significant talent falls to us. I think specialists are more likely, and that the Raiders don't look to take any with their top picks this time around.
Linebackers: OLBs: Aaron Curry, Phillip Wheeler, Carl Ihenacho. MLBs: Rolando McClain and Travis Goethel. Here's where the personnel gets interesting for more reasons than one: Before the off-season acquisition of Wheeler, the Raiders were nearly as thin at outside linebacker as they were all last off-season and even to start the year. With Goethel healthy and able to return to the lineup, the middle spot is not as thin as last year. There's also been a lot to indicate the team is looking to build personnel capable of executing a hybrid 3/4 man front and 4/3 man linebacker alignments. Regardless of how much the Raiders will actually run four backers, with only five currently signed and on our defensive roster, this looks to likely be the primary aim for the draft. Certainly, acquisition Dave Tollefson joins a group of DEs like Matt Shaughnessy who could easily be slotted as an OLB in certain fronts too, but I won't be at all surprised to see at least 2 linebackers drafted and to finally see many more UDFAs entertained, some like college DE Fugger in whom the Raiders demonstrated interest by bringing in for a workout that project to likely fit into a 3-4 in some way in addition to joining the DE rotation for the teams 4 man fronts.
Defensive Ends: Matt Shaughnessy, Lamarr Houston (potential DT), Mason Brodine, Davis Hall, Dave Tollefson. While Tollefson can fill the void left by the departure of Trevor Scott, the rush ends appear a little thin and also with Kamerion Wimbley no longer a Raider, the pass rush can use and infusion of youth and talent to bolster what looks to be a unit in need of help to have hopes to compete within the division for what really matters this season, something many who have considered this a year of flux for McKenzie and for the Raiders a pipe dream, that the team will have to do its best while rebuilding.
Defensive Tackles: Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, Desmond Bryant, Travis Ivey, Jamie Cumbie. With only the newly acquire Travis Ivey fitting the description of the zero technique NT for the 3-4 fronts, it's been speculated the team will look to fill the depth chart in the draft too. Not looking likely for McKenzie to use any early picks on defensive tackles unless there's a significant drop some key players at the position.
It's been my wish and also what I believe most likely to happen that with the wealth of linebackers available both at the inside and outside positions in the middle rounds, it's most likely that this glaring need for the team will coincide with best players available when the Raiders are on the board at 95 in the third round, and possibly in the fourth and fifth rounds as well.
There will no doubt be certain guys on the Raiders' boards not at all necessarily needs that should they fall significantly, I'll expect McKenzie to fulfill his claim he'll take the best player there, and should that happen with our first pick, could change the entire way the Raiders approach the draft.
One thing that will be clear: With only five picks to work with, expect the team to be looking to make the most of each one and continue a trend of getting at least two starters in mid rounds in recent years.