This is a year in which the Raiders have, as usual lately, plenty of holes, but in a very unusual circumstance, quite a bit of money, as well as draft picks to address those holes. While I know that some people think that we can bring in everybody and their brother, and pay for every top positional free agent, it just isn't that easy. Depth needs to be addressed as well as starters, and what playmakers can be had. So, this is what I think we can realistically do, using numbers based off of current contracts in the league. It isn't all flash, but there is so much more than that in winning, although plenty of fans don't see that.
We should have some $60 million or so to sign our own free agents (we have 25) and/or to bring in new players. I will assume that Veldheer, Houston, Jennings, Pashos, McCants, Woodson, Barnes, and Young will be brought back, at approximately a cost of $26 million or so. (I previously posted contract values here - http://www.silverandblackpride.com/2014/1/10/5297740/some-2014-salary-cap-reality) So, with the $35 million or so, let's go shopping...
I will address the defense first, because it needs more starters and more depth than the offense does, to say nothing of the fact that defense still wins games when an offense sputters for whatever reason. There are some glaring needs here, which I will address in the order that I see them (you may or may not agree; that's fine).
DE - I honestly don't see the top DE's making it to free agency; the lone exception might be Bennett, because Seattle is hard against the cap at this point, and has a number of players coming up for new contracts next year. They may decide to go with other guys, such as Clemons, but it is a reach. Let's pretend Bennett comes open: he will command a salary commensurate with his production, which will be about $11-12 million per year. If we go here, we have to go smaller at some other positions. My guess is that we will have to settle for someone else; my choice would be either Justin Tuck, a productive but starting to age player, or Willie Young, a younger player that has been effective in a lesser role but that will be available. I like Young personally, and he will likely cost about $2.5 million per year, while Tuck would likely run about $6.5 million. Tuck is stating to decline, but has posted consistent numbers through his career, as well as having been a champion, while Young is hungry to show his stuff as a starter. In this situation, I go with young and hungry. There is also the possibility of Ray McDonald being a cap cut in SF; good solid player that will run about $4.1m. Likely cost: $2.5 million. (I am going to drop the 'million' here'; I'll assume that we all know that these guys aren't playing for tens or hundreds... lol) If also signing McDonald, $6.6.
DT - With Sims coming back, and a couple of promising young guys, another starter is needed, especially if a young player comes out of the draft that can be worked into the rotation, as a starter would be the bonus round! Here I would look at some guys that have a solid record of production, but still have plenty of tread on the tires, to round out depth as they get older. The first guy I look at is Paul Soliai, who I think will not be retained by Miami in favor of Randy Starks. Soliai will likely bring a contract similar to what he is earning, which is just over $6m cap hit. In the same ballpark is Broderick Bunkley, who looks to be a cap casualty in New Orleans. I prefer Soliai, also over Ahtya Rubin, who may be a cap cut in Cleveland; his number is currently $8.1m, which is too high, unless he can be signed for significantly less. Likely cost: $6.5m.
DB - Here is where I think some of the best players are currently available. I would love to see Sam Shields brought in; a solid player that will probably run about $4m (which is about top 30 money). Two others I would love to see explored are Brandon Browner (he may or may not miss a year, but offering money during that year should mean something) and Aqib Talib. Both will probably be asking for top 5 money, about $10-11m, but have proven themselves on the field, even if they are not exactly model citizens off. I can deal with that, in small doses at this time, so looking at either would be fine with me, as long as their contracts have tight restrictions if they get into more trouble. Preferred: Browner or Talib, although that means that we will have to develop another player over the next 3-4 years. Likely cost: $11m.
I would also take a look at ILB's Donald Butler and Desmond Bishop for depth and the ability to flex into a 3-4 defense.
With the defense eating up $24m for four players, we look at some solid signings for the remaining $11m.
OG - There are two very solid guards that will be free agents in Kansas City; I expect that they will keep the guy that ended up the starter, leaving Jon Asamoah to leave as a free agent. He is still a good player, certainly an upgrade to our guards, and would likely cost about $2.5m, a solid increase and practically a certainty to start. The additional plus to this is taking a player from a divisional team that will be an upgrade. The other possibility would be to find out what will happen with Carl Nicks; if he is available as a cap/injury cut, we may be able to bring him in on a short-term 'prove it' contract, for not a lot of money. If so, I'd definitely call and see what's what.
QB - This is where I see us kicking the tires on Freeman, due to his experience with Olson. A short-term 'prove it' deal for $3m.
Also worth looking into would be RB Frank Gore if San Francisco dumps on him by dumping him, and certainly OG/C Rich Ohrnberger for depth, more as C than OG, but the flexibility is nice. TE Germaine Gresham may be worth a look, depending on the cost, due less to his numbers (which ain't all that much) than because he is a better blocker (with upside) than what we seem to currently have; that would mean that Kasa would likely be practice squad material.
These moves would address glaring needs, while leaving enough to look at other free agents as well as sign our draft class. Not signing some of our free agents would leave more, signing more would leave a little less; it works out one way or another. This wouldn't mean that there wasn't still work to be done, but it would see us fielding what I would consider a much deeper, solid team across the board than we have for about a decade.
Playoffs? Maybe, but we have what looks like a brutal schedule this year. After that? I think so, with more players coming in through the draft pipeline every year, unlike years past when the draft seemed to result in one or two players, and free agency was where we bled ourselves dry...