After grading the moves made among the linebackers, I now move on to the Defensive Line. I am starting with the defense because that's where most of the focus occurred for the Raiders this off-season.
The Raiders had a steady defensive line for the past few seasons. For a couple seasons in 2010-11, they looked like a good bunch. Leading the way was Richard Seymour. He and Tommy Kelly played well together and Matt Shaughnessy benefited from the double teams Seymour received. All the while Lamarr Houston was getting improving.
Last season Lamarr Houston came into his own while the rest of the line fell off. It was officially time to rebuild the Defensive Line to get younger and less expensive.
My one disclaimer here is to consider these are not necessarily grades of how good the position is for the Raiders but merely grading the movements (or lack of) the team made with regard to options, upgrades/downgrades, and departures vs additions.
DT Richard Seymour - The Raiders had the option to void his contract due to playing time. They had restructured his contract last year and put themselves in a terrible position. Either they keep him and owe the 33-year old with chronic knee problems a lot of money in future or eat his $14 million in dead money and move on. They made the only decision they could make.
DE Dave Tollefson - The bigger mistake may have been signing him last off-season. He didn't produce anything for the team and his release was expected. He was going to carry a $1.5 million cap hit this season and his release cleared most of that from the books. Better spent elsewhere.
DT Desmond Bryant - Bryant, like Wheeler, was highly sought after as a free agent. He was signed to a nice deal with the Browns. He was the Raiders' sack leader last season. Unlike Wheeler, there was no indication the Raiders made a great effort to retain him.
DE Matt Shaughnessy - Unless Shaughnessy just wanted to leave, there is little reason for him to have left. He had a down year last season but had played at a high level for the Raiders prior to that. He signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals at just $1 million. The Raiders could easily have offered him the same, especially with a lack of other options.
DT Tommy Kelly - One of the longest tenured Raiders and stalwart defensive tackle. The team would have like to bring him back but his $11 million salary was prohibitive. This was a move that Kelly saw coming as well although his presence with the team will be missed.
Unsigned Free Agents: DE Andre Carter
DT Pat Sims - The first outside acquisition by the team. He is considered a rotational player and was signed to a 1-year deal. The team hopes he can at least partially replace the Tommy Kelly who the team was forced to release due to his $11 million cap figure next year. There were better options out there but it seems Reggie McKenzie's plan is to find the long term solution in the draft.
DE Jason Hunter - Another stopgap signing. He was brought in on a 1-year deal at veteran minimum. It is a low risk deal but the reward is not expected to be very high. He will try and replace Matt Shaughnessy who was signed to a 1-year deal himself in Arizona. The Raiders are desperate for pass rush and signing just one uproven defense end who doesn't appear to be an upgrade over Shaughnessy is not going to cut it.
DT Vance Walker -- Walker was very well-liked in Atlanta by his teammates and fans. He has played very limited and was looking for a place he could prove he is worth of more playing time. The Raiders need his services to replace the departed Desmond Bryant. Walker is a great addition but the catch is he signed just a 1-year deal which mean if he proves he is worthy of starting, the team risks losing him for big money after just one season.
Re-signed Free Agents: None
Breakdown: A lot more went out the door than has come in thus far. The Raiders have gotten younger and shed some big contracts. But there is still much work to be done to shore up this unit.
Defensive Line grade: C
More: Grading Raiders 2013 off-season moves: Linebacker