For what it's worth, this will be an ongoing series of what I think needs to happen, or what I think will happen. For what I think needs to happen, I will obviously put out who, what and when I see as the best moves that are available at the time; for what I think will happen, it will be what I see as the moves that the Raiders will make, although I may or may not agree with them. So, let's get started with this installment, offensive tackle...
This is a unit that was absolutely decimated by injuries, but in a very real sense, that turned out to be not as bad as it could have been, because we were able to see a lot of playing time for backups and free agents signings, which allows us to evaluate them based on play rather than assumption. I would have preferred to have seen them rotated in because we were blowing teams out, but it is what it is.
Barnes: I really shouldn't list him here, because I think that he is done on the outside, and will move inside where he won't be so vulnerable to speed rushers and can use his strength to open running lanes. But, since this is still currently his official position, here he is. Re-signing Barnes means one less immediate need, although he will not be a long-term answer. Still, as a capable player at what was the weakest part of the offensive line, he has value to us. I would bring him back.
Veldheer: I cannot believe that Veldheer will not be re-signed, one way or another; you simply don't let good left tackles walk, especially when they are still improving. There may be a price break due to his injury, but he won't break the bank either way: he will not be able to command the top dollar price of an elite LT because he hasn't yet played like one. I expect that he will become one, but he isn't there yet. He will be paid as a good, solid LT, but that is easily doable with the available cap room.
Watson: Played pretty well when he wasn't injured. Considering his level of experience, that is a very good indication of Watson's upside. If he can avoid the injury bug that bit him regularly last season, Watson should be an increasingly good player with the potential to challenge for the LT position. Having bookend tackles like that is a dream come true for both a coach and GM.
Pashos: A timely signing from the free agent scrap heap, I believe that we can and should bring Pashos back. He showed that he can still be effective on the right side, and fill in on the left side in an emergency. Not a long-term solution, but as a serviceable starter if Watson gets hurt. Unless a OT is drafted that wows immediately, dependable depth can be worth its weight in gold.
McCants: Played as though he has a future in the league; regardless of what is done with Pashos, re-signing solid young players that have proved their worth at a valuable position is generally never a bad idea. This is a kid that will only improve under Sparano's tutleage, and as we have seen the last few years, you really can't have enough effective tackles.
Cornell: Just brought back on a reserve/futures contract, he bounced back and forth from the practice squad to the active roster, which could indicate two things: first, that the staff saw something in him, and second, that nobody else in the league thought enough of him to make a claim on waivers. That second is not necessarily a knock on Cornell, it all depends on injury situations, how much room there is on any given roster, and the needs of a team. I think the fact that he was signed so early indicates that Sparano thinks he can do something with this guy; that's good enough for me at this point.
Right now, I see this position as potentially a strength of the team; we have five players that started last year, and their play for the most part was about average. Considering that most of that play was second- and third-string guys starting, and often switching from one side to the other, that isn't bad. That doesn't mean that we can't improve, but with Sparano continuing the development of Veldheer and Watson, as well as their backups, I'd say that we should be in good shape as long as we can avoid disastrous injury situations.
Still, if a decent/solid OT was taken in the draft, it would probably kick McCants inside with Barnes; that could mean that an OG would become a possible need, although we would still need to add a backup C. Hmmm...