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, safety...
This was also a position in which a lack of quality depth did not serve the team well when injuries struck. That is not a knock on McKenzie, because there is only so much one can do when so hobbled by a lack of cap space to fill roster spots. Simply put, limited funds often results in limited players. Even then, if it had only been a single injury, it might not have been so bad, but since that wasn't the case...
Woodson: Let's start with the good; Woodson played quite well, showing he still has gas left in the tank. He was a steadying influence on the defense as a whole; I think he may have been able to impart that effort isn't just an occasional thing, that to reach the top requires constant work and dedication. He may not have reached every player, and the result may not have been exactly what some wanted, but I didn't see the level of effort diminishing, although we did see some confusion and definitely some fatigue set in on the defense. Woodson's play slipped towards the end of the season, as he pressed for the big play/turnover, and that sometimes sacrificed fundamentals to do so. I will say that I find it laughable that while even a graybeard veteran can do that, some read into young players doing the same thing as some sort of indictment of scheme and staff. I absolutely expect Woodson to return, although it won't be for long until he will be ready to hang up his spikes.
Branch: Played well until he got hurt. he looked very comfortable out there with Woodson; maybe all he ever really needed to take his game to the next level was confidence in the play of others. I am definitely looking forward to having him back next year, hopefully for an extended period.
Young: A nice depth signing, he showed he was capable of capable with some decent play after Branch went down. Unfortunately, he also was injured after a nice four game run. I think that the team will make an effort to bring him back as solid depth, but may lose out if another team offers the chance to start right away.
Ross: Had what I can only describe as a brutal year. It just seemed as though he was constantly our of position, or late, or beaten by a receiver, or missing a tackle... He's young, and the team may bring him back to see if he can step it up; I hope they've seen enough, because I have.
Johnson: Essentially a camp body, may stick on the practice squad, but definitely a long shot.
Not a position of immediate need, but the time is approaching quickly. A player to groom for Woodson's upcoming departure at the hands of Father Time is necessary. If Young leaves as a free agent, it becomes a position of immediate need. If that happens, I would expect both a free agent signing and a draft pick; if not, then a draft pick and a lower level free agent for competition. The injuries here really did affect the pass defense, which hurt more and more as the season progressed, we can't afford that again next season.