Defensive tackle is one of those positions on the Raiders that could use a long term solution but isn't desperate for attention right at the moment should the team be unable to find a suitable free agent. Antonio Smith played well last season and actually got stronger as the season went on. He is expected back for a second season, though if the Raiders were to go big in free agency, they could release him with not dead money left behind.
Beside Smith last season was rookie Justin Ellis who played well enough to earn the starting job, though there are upgrades out there. Here are a few names who are likely to receive considerable interest from the Raiders.
This one falls squarely into the ‘wish' part of wish list. He is arguably the most dominant defensive tackles in the NFL. His price tag will reflect that and it could end up not long after this posting the Lions slap him with the franchise tag. But for now that's is yet to be determined so let's go on that.
The Portland Oregon native is said to be looking to join a contender on the west coast. The Seahawks fit that ideally, but they don't have the money to be able to afford adding Suh. The 49ers and Chargers were both contending last season right up until the last few weeks. The 49ers will also be cap strapped and the Chargers run a 3-4 (Suh is a best fit at 4-3 DT, though he would also make for a fine 3-4 DE).
Recently Justin Tuck was lobbying for Suh to come to Oakland. The Raiders may not be contenders right now, but they may ultimately have more cash than any other team in the NFL, so it would seem there is a chance.
Here is what Pride of Detroit had to say about Suh:
There's really not much that needs to be said about Suh as a player. He's quite dominant in stopping the run, and he is extremely disruptive as a pass rusher. Perhaps his best attribute is that opposing teams have to constantly double-team him or risk letting him go wild in one-on-one matchups.
Suh's main weaknesses revolve around his tendency to sometimes cross the line when it comes to his aggression on the field. That has gotten him into trouble at times, and now he's in a situation where even the slightest misstep can result in a massive fine or even suspension. In that sense, he's still paying for mistakes he made at the beginning of his career even though he has done a much better job of keeping things under control in recent seasons.
He has made it clear he will go wherever Jack Del Rio goes. He began his career with Del Rio in Jacksonville, followed him to Denver, and as a free agent hopes to do it once again. And that should be just fine with the Raiders. Knighton is one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL and is a top ten run stopper. He would instantly upgrade their interior defensive line considerably.
It's possible he and Justin Ellis play side by side, though it seems more likely Knighton would take over as the starter at the zero technique and Ellis would rotate in and out. Though Knighton has played both DT positions, the 6-3, 317-pounder has done his best work in recent seasons at the nose.
Talk about versatility. Since becoming the Dolphins' first round pick in the 2010 draft, the Dolphins have made sure Odrick was on the field every game regardless of the position. The 6-5, 304-pounder has played everything from nose tackle to linebacker. After missing all but one game as a rookie, he played mostly defensive end the next two seasons, and has lined up at both defensive tackle spots over the past two seasons.
What's great about Odrick is the Raiders can put him and Antonio Smith on the field together in the short term and move pieces around to find the best combination. Or he and Smith can rotate in and out, keeping both of them fresh. Then when Smith is done - most likely after next season - Odrick can take over full time at the 3-tech.
After struggling some as an edge rusher early in his career, he has thrived as a three-technique defensive tackle, both as a pass rusher and a run stopper. His 2014 sack numbers (1) won't show it - much like Khalil Mack most of last season - but he did get consistent pressure. He had five sacks in 2013 and has been among the top defensive tackles in the league the past two seasons.
Here is what Kevin Nogle of Phinsider had to say about Odrick:
Like most of the defense, Odrick's play seemed to slip at the end of the year, with teams able to run straight up the middle on the Dolphins' formerly stout run defense. It is hard to say that Odrick fell off, when the entire defense did the same - was it Odrick's play that caused the problems, or did the defense's problems cause Odrick to struggle. At only 27 years old, and with the flexibility to play 4-3 defensive end, 3-4 defensive end, and 4-3 defensive tackle, Odrick brings a long term answer to a defensive line.
After earning a starting job in his second season, he had a couple of mediocre seasons in 2012-13. Then last season he broke out to have by far his best season for the Bears since they used a 2nd round pick on him in 2011. The 6-1, 303-pounder has spent time at both defensive tackle positions with his best work done as a pass rusher.
The one question surrounding Paea now is why did it take until his contract year to have a breakout season? If he would agree to a contract without a lot of dead money after the first season, it would be worth it for the Raiders to find out.