The Oakland Raiders do not have very much cap room to work with this free agent period, but despite that fact, they still have a number of pressing needs that they must address if there is any hope for an improved season in 2013. Free agency opens officially at 4:00 pm (ET) today (not including the tampering period that started last Friday), which means the signings will start rolling in all over the league soon.
Given that fact, here is a look at the players I would love to see the Raiders target in free agency in the order in which I would target them.
CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
While the Raiders have multiple positions of need, they are all but devoid of quality corner backs. Thus, while the Raiders are likely to draft a corner, they should also sign a vet to play opposite. Having two rookies starting at CB would be a disaster waiting to happen. Therefore, CB is not only what I would pursue first, it's also the position I would spend the most on.
Rodgers-Cromartie was one of the additions to the Philadelphia Eagles that led Vincy Young to dub them the dream team of the NFL. Two years later and Rodgers-Cromartie is generating little to no buzz on the free agent market. After looking like one of the best corners in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals, he has been flat out bad at times in Philly.
There is clearly a risk that Rodgers-Cromartie will never get back to playing at a high level, if he comes cheap because of his stint in Philadelphia, the risk will be worth it. He is only 27 years old and has a unique mix of speed and size. Dennis Allen is supposed to be a defensive genius, what better way to prove it than to rehab the career of a young guy like this?
The Raiders definitely have a lot of defensive needs, but after finding a CB, my next step would be to find a new RT. The Raiders offensive line needs to improve and no more so than at the RT position. It has been years since the Raiders had a legitimate starter at RT and before they do anything else on offense, they need to find a solid RT.
Bushrod is a guy who falls just below the first level of free agent tackles who are likely out of the price range of the Raiders. He has the ability to be a very solid starter who can both pass protect and run block but he won't cost nearly as much as guys like Phil Loadholt or Jake Long. He played left tackle in New Orleans giving the Raiders the option of moving him to RT or keeping him at LT and moving Jared Veldheer to RT.
LB Takeo Spikes
The Raiders are expected to cut former first round bust, Rolando McClain soon, once they do, MLB will be one of the bigger needs on defense. However, as last season showed, even a guy the Raiders picked up off of the street, Omar Gaither made the defense markedly better than it was with McClain.
Spikes is the definition of a veteran. He is a great locker room presence and the physical abilities that have diminished with age are made up for with instinct and a great first move. Spikes can play inside or outside giving the Raiders the ability to move Burris inside if they want. Meanwhile, Spikes will come dirt cheap and gives the Raiders the option of drafting a linebacker in the later rounds who can sit and learn behind Spikes for a year before stepping in as a starter.
DT Terrance Knighton
The Raiders have already said good bye to one starting DT in Richard Seymour. The other starter, Tommy Kelly, is likely going to be cut as a cap casualty. They would like to bring back Desmond Bryant but his play last season could result in him signing elsewhere for more money than the Raiders want to pay. Either way, the Raiders will need to get some new DTs on the team.
Knighton is an underperforming DT who has the potential to be really good. He has a big body and can play the space filling role alongside the thinner and more athletic Bryan (should the Raiders keep him). He is only 26 years old and has shown flashes of the ability to be great, but might need a change of scenery to get to that level. If the Raiders can get him at a decent price, he would be a nice pick up that could develop into a solid piece on their defensive line.
Now, the Raiders will certainly sign more than four guys during free agency, but most will be role players as opposed to starters. These four are guys who could come in and start for the Raiders and represent upgrades that would not break the bank. Plus, with the exception of Spikes who is a stop gap, they are all fairly young and could fill holes long term.