We continue on to the second half of the ten part question to explain exactly what it is the Raiders have been attempting to do this off-season.
To return to Part one, questions 1-5, click here
6. All that money and no big name free agents to show for it?
That is definitely a concern. That's one of the bigger mistakes the Raiders made. Sure, they are focused on not making the same mistakes as the old regime and building up long term debt. This approach was one that Reggie McKenzie brought from Green Bay. The problem with that approach is the Packers were never in rebuild mode while he was there. They also never had the kind of money to spend that the Raiders did this off-season. The Raiders had $61 million and needed to make at least one big splash -- probably a couple of them -- and they came up empty. Their idea of a big splash was the failed attempt at signing Rodger Saffold. Even if he had passed his physical, he was not worth the contract he was offered and wasn't what most consider to be a game changing acquisition.
The Raiders needed to make a splash like McKenzie's Packers did eight years ago when they signed Charles Woodson away from the Raiders. If they had, they would have been able to spend more of this cap money which they absolutely must spend to meet the salary cap floor (95% over the next three years). It's easy to see that they were trying to spread out the spending because they knew they would need a lot of players. But in the process, they missed out on all the young, top flight free agents (including their own) and still have nearly $10 million of their cap money unspent. The best place they can spend that money now is on extensions for Stefen Wisniewski and Rod Streater to avoid the possibility of losing them next off-season as well.
7. Darren McFadden can't stay healthy and even when he is he averages 3.3 yards per carry. Why bring him back?
I was completely shocked at this revelation. Every sign pointed to him moving on. He was allowed to test the market just as Reggie McKenzie said and yet he's back. All the while Rashad Jennings, who outplayed him, was allowed to leave. Go figure.
Once McFadden tested the market, he found there was little to no interest in him so he gave the Raiders a very favorable, non-guaranteed one-year deal to return. He is hoping to use this season to prove he can stay healthy and earn a better deal next off-season.
For the first time since he was drafted, he will not be handed the starting job. If he is ineffective or injured, he will be demoted or cut. The Raiders backfield is now very crowded. The only problem I foresee with this re-sign is McFadden always looks good in practice but it hasn't translated to the field. He could take a roster spot over someone more deserving and then be ineffective again.
8. Why waste a draft pick in a trade for Matt Schaub aka Mr. "pick six" from last year with the Texans?
What else was out there at quarterback? I'll tell you: Former Raiders QB and career backup, Josh McCown, head case Josh Freeman, and aging-oft-injured-yet-never-really-very-good Mike Vick. The Raiders needed to make sure they brought in a proven veteran and Schaub was the best/only option. He had a terrible year last year but it is worth the chance to see if he can be more like he had been during his career before that. And all it cost was a sixth round pick and an $8 million salary out of their ungodly amount of cap money. They redid his contract to make it a clean break if he doesn't work out. They are hoping he can be the starter until Derek Carr is ready. If he can't, Matt McGloin showed last year that he is capable of stepping in and leading the team.
9. And who exactly do the Raiders expect to catch Schaub's or McGloin's or Carr's passes?
Good question. The Raiders receivers have been inconsistent and mediocre. They have been in need of a number one receiver for a while now. The free agent market at receiver was downright awful this year. The top name to come available was DeSean Jackson. The Raiders were interested but Jackson never even gave them a sniff. He made one visit to Washington and signed there. The Raiders signed James Jones who may not be the number one receiver they needed but he is very reliable. They weren't going to do much better in this market.
They had a chance to get a quality receiver in a very deep receiver draft class. But when they picked at 36, Derek Carr was still on the board and adding his immense potential to a team in need of finding a long term answer at quarterback was too good to pass up. The Raiders would have taken Sammy Watkins with the fifth overall pick but the Bills traded ahead of them to get him. And taking Khalil Mack at that point was a no-brainer decision.
Tight end is still very shaky. This is a position they could have made a move in free agency and didn't. Then again, the tight end free agent market was about as sparse as the wide receiver market. They had much bigger needs to focus on in the draft and had spent two sixth round picks on tight ends last year - Mychal Rivera and Nick Kasa. All they can do now is hope David Ausberry stays healthy and puts the potential he showed last training camp on display this year.
10. Don't these signings just leave the Raiders in the same situation next year?
Very similar in many ways, but not exactly. The Raiders are currently set up to have nearly $55 million in cap space next off-season. And with some one-year deals and the age/contract status of some of these veteran free agent signings, there will again be many positions in need of filling. Sounds very much like this off-season, right?
What the Raiders are hoping to do is keep chipping away at the number of glaring needs. Outside of the nine core young players listed in part one, there were needs for upgrades at nearly every other position this off-season. That's 14 need positions between the offense and defense.
Austin Howard was the main young addition the Raiders made in free agency. He fills one of those spots either at right guard or right tackle. Then in the draft they added two starters in linebacker Khalil Mack and offensive guard, Gabe Jackson, along with potential starting defensive tackle Justin Ellis and future starting quarterback, Derek Carr.
That's five positions filled, bringing the number of needs down to nine. Whether they become what the team hopes is not the point. They were drafted/signed to fill those slots which means this time next year, the team will look elsewhere. With fewer needs, the cap money won't need to be spread out as it was this off-season.
They signed a lot of veterans this off-season and it stands to reason a few of them will pan out and show they still have something left to contribute to bridge the gap. The others can be cut without future cap ramifications.
Nine positions in need of a long term solution is still quite a lot and the team could have done a better job of filling those needs this off-season, but it's better than the 14 glaring needs they had this off-season. Nine needs is at least more manageable, especially for a team that will have over $50 million to spend and another full draft with which to work.
Things haven't worked perfectly according to plan and mistakes have been made. But right or wrong, with questionable execution, there is a plan. Hopefully I have helped to alleviate some of the head scratching that has been going on.