Finally, the Oakland Raiders can actually (officially) talk to 2011 free agent targets. I don't know who these players are, but I can speculate and hope. The first area that needs to be addressed is the offensive line. The Raiders are crazy thin at the line right now, and they only have one starter from last year's team under contract.
I am hoping they add two starting quality linemen. After that I'd rate the free agency priorities as free safety, cornerback, wide receiver and then linebacker.
Unfortunately, reality interferes with this list. The Raiders are limited by the fact they are currently over the salary cap, and of course not ever position is well stocked in free agency. The Raiders are undoubtedly working on a way to clear cap space at this very moment. A couple of weeks ago I laid out a plan of how they could clear ample cap space. So, hopefully they will have some cap space to work with.
After the jump, we'll take a look at free agents the Raiders should be considering at right tackle and guard.
Offensive Line - Right Tackle
During the "dark days" we took an in-depth look at some free agent options at right tackle. Click the links to Jared Gaither, Jammal Brown, Tyson Clabo, Willie Colon, Marshal Yanda and Sean Locklear if you are looking for more info.
Of course the Raiders could also re-sign either Langston Walker, Mario Henderson or Khalif Barnes as well. We all know them. Let's look at the other possibilities for right tackle:
Of this group, Gaither is far and away the best. He is one of the best tackles in football, but he has serious injury concerns, and he wants to be a left tackle.
Clabo is a solid all around tackle. He is not great, and his value will be inflated from having made the Pro Bowl in 2010. They Falcons have a ton of free agents and may have a hard time holding onto him
Brown finished 2010 strong at right tackle for the Redskins, but he also would prefer to play left tackle.
Colon missed all of 2010 with an injury. He should be 100 percent for this season, but it will likely take a big payday to get him away from the Steelers.
Locklear should be fairly cheap. He is a stud pass blocking right tackle but a dud in the run game.
Yanda is better suited for guard than he is tackle, but he was solid playing right tackle for the Ravens in place of Gaither. The Ravens really want Yanda back.
Light has been a left tackle. He was dominant. He is slipping now. He may be hard for the Raiders to sign if they are going to relegate him to RT.
Offensive Line - Guard
Joseph is a solid all around guard. He can be punishing in the run game, but he is going to be hard to sign away from the Bucs. He shows definite bully streaks, and at 325 pounds he can wear out opponents.
Dahl is another of the Falcons free agents. He is very solid, but not spectacular guard. He plays hard and with attitude. He is a little on the small side though at 300 pounds.
Lutui is a HUGE. He is also a very solid guard. Although at times his effort has been questioned, and at close to 400 pounds you have to wonder how long his body will hold up.
Essex is a serviceable starter that shouldn't break the bank. He prefers to run block over pass block.
The guy I would really like out of this group is Marshal Yanda. He is only 26, and he is a pro bowl level guard. His versatility would make him valuable. Yanda could hold down the right tackle position until Barksdale or Campbell were ready, and then he could slide into the guard spot when one of them are ready to take over.
In theory, the loser of the Barksdale-Campbell battle could man the other guard spot. However, I am not sure the Raiders will be able to pry Yanda away from the Ravens.
Honestly, I don't see any of the other right tackle options as being extremely viable. They could land Locklear, but I don't want to rob Peter to pay Paul if Peter is run blocking and Paul is pass blocking.
That means the possibility of Henderson and/or Langston Walker will be back. I am fine with Walker coming back. Ideally this would be at guard, but they could use him much the same way I suggested they use Yanda. As for Henderson, he scares me. I'd rather have him at right tackle in week one than Campbell or Barksdale, but I still fear those plays where Mario forgets to move when the ball is snapped.
I think an addition at guard will be much more feasible. And any of the guys mentioned would be an upgrade over Carlisle and Loper. My wishlist here would go right in the order they were listed.
My guess is the Raiders cut Carlisle than either re-sign Walker or Henderson and add a guard in free agency. They would probably also add someone to a near minimum contract for "the shit has hit the fan" depth.
Oh, Khalif! I almost forgot about Khalif. I have seen murmurings that Khalif wants to start at tackle, and that the Raiders do not think he is starting material. They'd probably be happy to bring him back for cheap and use him in the same role as last year, but I imagine he is going to go someplace that promises him a better shot to crack the starting line.
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