So far in Reggie McKenzie's tenure as Raiders GM, he has had to deal with some of the most extreme salary cap situations in recent history. He came into the job looking at cap hell, and through his moves the Raiders eventually came to have the most salary cap room of all time. McKenzie has cut all the fat and stocked the roster with lots of young talent, but there are certain positions which have been filled with veterans at the end of their prime and which lack a clear direction for the future. I will be tackling several of these positions in succession, but I will begin with Defensive End.
Reggie McKenzie elected to avoid making a huge splash in free agency, choosing instead to get a lot of really good players over one or two great ones. A good example of this is how he addressed defensive end, by signing two solid veterans in Justin Tuck and Lamarr Woodley who both most likely have at least two productive seasons left in them. Behind them is... not much. The Raiders certainly have no pass-rushing DEs of the future, and if the team wants to build around defense then defensive end is a crucial position to have good young talent.
There are several good options who will likely be free agents next season. These players include the Cowboys' George Selvie, Da'Quan Bowers of Tampa Bay, and Cliff Avril of Seattle. All of these guys are on the young side and excel at pass rushing. Avril made a name for himself in a Lions uniform and was a key cog in the Seahawks' defense last season. He will probably want a lot of money, but he might actually be worth it.
The next draft could also be a potential source of franchise defensive ends. The top three guys I see who will be there are Randy Gregory of Nebraska, Leonard Williams of Southern Cal, and Shilique Calhoun from Michigan State. Gregory is currently projected as a top-5 pick, while Calhoun was a major player for the Spartans' tough defense last season and looks to build on that performance for this upcoming season. Williams looks like a top-10 prospect but could really shoot up the boards by standing out amongst a Trojan defensive line stuffed with blue chip recruits.
The Raiders look to be building around their linebacking corps, with Sio Moore and Khalil Mack the future at OLB. If the team wants them to play at their potential, they will need exceptional defensive ends in front of them. The Raiders would be wise to take a long look at the future of this position.