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Protecting the Raiders Draft Slot Value

This free agent period there are countless players available that could drastically improve the Raiders in 2013. While we know that Reggie McKenzie wants to build this team through the draft, he will undoubtedly be forced to look to free agency to fill some of the holes. This option comes with considerable risk, however, due to the impact it could have on the third overall pick. What players are signed prior to the draft on April 25th could drastically impact the trade value of the third pick. Analysts, fans, and presumably the front office know that trading back in a skill position weak draft would be ideal. If the Raiders unwittingly sign a player that gives away their draft strategy, though, teams will be reluctant to deal.

It has been the consensus that this draft is loaded with offensive and defensive line talent, but is weak in almost all other areas. Therefore, signing a free agent player on either the defensive of offensive line could prove detrimental to the franchise. Many have suggested signing Eric Winston for the RT position, or William Hayes for the open DE position. These decisions would be a mistake, because it would telegraph to the league that the team will be taking either Joekel/Fisher or Jones/Jordan off of their board. Any teams in hot pursuit of a franchise tackle or pass rusher will be able to get those players farther down the board.

Consequently, the best positions to target in free agency would be ones where the Raiders either have two openings, or where the draft is weak. The positions where this situation is applicable are as follows:

DT: Seymour is gone, Bryant is an expensive free agent, and Kelly is on his way out. Re-signing Bryant, or any other free agent DT does not hurt the number three pick's value. The Raiders will still need another starter come September and teams will have to call their bluff if they think a player like Sharif Floyd will slip past them.

CB: The Raiders currently have all three CB positions open, and considering there aren't many top end corners in this draft some team that covets the position may gamble with trading up to three for Milner. This FA class is loaded with CB talent, so hopefully the team will be able to sign a player like Tracy Porter for cheap.

WR: No one is going to move up to three for any of the receivers in this draft, so signing one in FA would not damage the picks value.

RB: Again, no backs in this draft are worthy of 3, so the raiders should look for some goal line backs in FA.

OG: Even with Mike Brisiel restructuring, it would not be unthinkable for the Raiders to have two new starting OG's on day one. Carlisle is almost certainly out at his age, and Brisiel and Bergtrum are both zone scheme players. Furthermore, teams rarely target guards in the top 10.

ILB: There isn't a ILB projected to go within the top 20, much less the top 5. The Raiders should pursue Rey Maualuga or Danell Ellerbe.

Positions they should avoid in FA:

OT: Everyone knows the team would like to upgrade the RT position to combat the speedy edge rushers in the AFC West. However, they already have a franchise left tackle in Jared Vedheer. Signing a guy like Eric Winston would tell teams that the Raiders do not plan to target any of the 3 franchise tackles available in this draft. Furthermore, selecting a tackle in the draft would be a much more cost effective way to handle the opening.

QB: While it is common knowledge that this draft lacks a can't miss prospect at QB, there are quite a few QB needy teams out there. The Raiders should be in no rush to sign a backup. Delaying signing another QB could fuel rumors that the team is interested in Geno Smith or Matt Barkley. A team like Arizona or Buffalo may take the bait and offer the Raiders a healthy ransom to turn over the #3 pick.

OLB: The Raiders have an intriguing young prospect in Burris and a proven veteran (assuming he resigns) in Wheeler. Singing a player like Kruger or Harrison would send warning signs to the league that the Raiders are not interested in Jarvis Jones. As the top pass rushing prospect in this draft their will most likely be a team drooling to trade up and snag Jones.

DE: This position is typically overpriced in FA. Also, the team already has a young star in Lamar Houston. The team should look for some depth players, but ovoid the marquee names like Cliff Avril.

The implosion of the "Dream Team" the last few years has demonstrated the uselessness of whole sale FA classes. Furthermore, the Raiders are strapped as usual for cap space. If McKenzie is smart he will bide his time with FA and wait to sign any OT’s, QB’s, or OLB’s. While this may make for a boring free agency period, it will be better for the long term health of the team. Acquiring a second round pick is the most important goal this team should have this offseason, with regards to player acquisition. While many of the names mentioned in this article are unrealistic based on salary cap restrictions, they can be used as an example for actual players acquired.

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