The 2014 offseason may be the most interesting one ever for the Oakland Raiders. With loads of cap room, a top five draft pick this May at their disposal & the support of the front office to continue their efforts Dennis Allen has as many assets available on paper than any in history. This seems to be overlooked considering the original owner of the Raiders never was one to give credit to the coaching staff but always delegated blame when things went awry. The fact he and several assistants were offered even minimum deals to be retained is a strange occurrence for the organization. This is not your dads Oakland Raiders, hell it's not even your Oakland Raiders.
Now that he has been afforded the opportunity to return, Dennis must now capitalize upon his good fortune. Without any legitimate starting QB prospects available in free agency yet, it seems this is going to be another long year regardless of the spending cash available. Or is it?
Having a defensive background may be a positive lost on most. He can build this unit in his image now. Looking at the playoff teams left, most have household names at QB however all have advanced further by being balanced in their attack & bestowing physical, yet disciplined defenses. Even the lowest seed remaining, San Diego has finally seen the fruits of their draft war room labor pay off. It's no coincidence their front three of Cam Thomas, Cory Luigett, & Kendall Reyes were drafted in the first three rounds. It allows them to use different blitz packages consistently & generate pressure at key points during their recent run.
Oakland must take an approach to free agency and the draft it almost never has. If there was a player on the defensive line that warranted a long-term contract, it was the massive Pat Sims. He stayed healthy all season & was one of the bright spots on a unit lacking those. Building through the draft on day two with big, talented linemen the likes of Penn State's Daquan Jones or UT's monstrous Daniel McCullers would be a start. Avoiding going after defensive ends commanding huge deals such as our own Lamar Houston, the Bengals' Michael Johnson, or Carolina's Greg Hardy might be a better option for a roster devoid of NFL quality depth. A player I've been high on for sometime like Seattle's Michael Bennett would be a great & versatile fit on a hybrid, ameba defense such as Allen's.
The defensive play-caller Nick Roach was arguably the teams best signing although he seemed out of place @ 4-3 middle linebacker. Looking @ free agency, a player who has experience playing middle in multiple schemes such as Brandon Spikes or a mid round pick on a troubled yet productive player like the Spartan's Max Bullough would allow the Raiders to move Roach to his natural WLB position. In turn it would allow the LB corps to be as deep as it ever has.
This brings us to the final two units where I believe Oakland may need to overspend. This team needs to hit on a top CB ala Aquib Talib or Seattle's big physical corners. They need maulers on the outside that have linebacker mentalities. They need to set the tone for the entire defense by showing this isn't the team that lost double the amount of games they've won the last two years. A free safety in the draft possibly by trading back like Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix or in free agency like Donte Whitner would be huge in settling these yearly changes in the secondary.
Finally the offensive line needs to first of all get healthy. Second they must make resigning Jared Veldheer priority number 1. The pass protection improved by leaps & bounds once he returned. Signing a top guard or center to allow Stephen Wisniewski to move to left guard may solidify this unit.
If this team is to be relevant this year they must focus on establishing this identity that I imagine Dennis Allen is looking to implement. No matter who the QB is this season needs a mauling unit to protect him & simplify the play-calling by running the ball effectively with consistency. Also a defense that will keep them in games & not lose games with stupid penalties could be the difference between a resurgence to relevance or Dennis checking his voicemail for employment prospects before 2014's end.