Several grades have come out for the Raiders' free agent movement this off-season but many of them were in a race to get their grade out early while the Raiders were not done making key moves. Now with the major players off the market, including the end of the Raiders flirtation with DeSean Jackson, it is a good time to put out my grades.
Things began for the Raiders in the worst way possible. Not only was Jared Veldheer mishandled and ended up walking as a free agent, but Lamarr Houston also left for greener pastures, and Rashad Jennings followed them out the door, heading to New York. That's the top three free agents the Raiders had. That should never happen to a team sitting on $66 million under the salary cap.
To make matters worse, the Raiders attempted to overpay for injury prone offensive lineman, Rodger Saffold only to have him fail his physical and void the deal. All the while the Raiders were focusing their attentions on the Saffold signing that never happened, the first wave of free agency passed them by.
They also tried dumping a boat load of cash into the lap of 32-year-old Jared Allen even though at this point in his career Allen's priority is joining a team that gives him a shot at getting that elusive Super Bowl ring - something few believe the rebuilding Raiders will be contemplating anytime soon.
By the end of day one the Raiders didn't even have an F; they slept through their alarm and missed the test altogether.
After day one, the Raiders were scrambling for a make-up exam. They began signing players like crazy. Unfortunately, the make-up exam didn't offer full credit and a great many signings were expected. The key was to keep their own solid homegrown vets while building from there. Otherwise it's just a third straight season of overhaul.
That being said, the moves that have been made have been pretty good. This idea that all the Raiders new players are too old is very much overstated. They signed proven starters who are still quality players. They aren't meant to be long term solutions - that's what the draft is for. They're meant to make the team competitive until they can build through the draft. That's the intention anyway.
Of the 13 players the Raiders signed (including Matt Schaub who was acquired in trade), 11 of them are expected to start or play significant minutes. Just CFL running back Kory Sheets and defensive tackle C.J. Wilson are expected to be depth.
When you can come into free agency and get 11 new starters - half the starters on the team -- that's a pretty good haul.
When all was said and done the only position to downgrade was offensive tackle where Donald Penn replaces Jared Veldheer. Though, adding Penn was an absolute must and he could turn things around and be a very good addition.
The signing of Austin Howard seemed perfect when it was thought he would play right tackle. Making an average salary of $6 million per season and having started every game there the past two seasons looked like a solid move. But the team is saying he will be moving to guard. The jury is very much out on that decision. Could be a great move, could be a waste of an $8 million guaranteed salary in 2014.
The loss of Lamarr Houston is unfortunate but Justin Tuck is a very good alternative. Toss in Lamarr Woodley to replace Jason Hunter on the other side and the defensive end position is overall an upgrade.
Rashad Jennings earned the right to be the starter for the Raiders but it's hard to argue with bringing in Maurice Jones-Drew. Re-signing Darren McFadden was a strange move but his contract is such that it may be worth a shot. Then there is the wild card in Grey Cup MVP Kory Sheets. The running back position looks pretty decent.
Replacing the starting cornerbacks was inevitable. Tracy Porter didn't want to return and the Raiders didn't want Mike Jenkins back. Tarell Brown is a proven starter and is still in his 20s.
Antonio Smith is a huge upgrade over Vance Walker at defensive tackle. That move along with re-signing Pat Sims was two great decisions.
Even after the first week, this grade wouldn't have been very high. But the recent additions of Maurice Jones-Drew, Matt Schaub in trade, and the re-signings of Charles Woodson and Pat Sims gave the grade a late boost. Overall a pretty well prepared squad.