The day has arrived. The free agent negotiating period has begun. And despite more than two months in which the Raiders were the only team allowed to negotiate with their top free agents, their agents will be talking with other teams now.
Those top free agents are middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman, cornerback TJ Carrie, and defensive lineman Denico Autry.
Two of those players are ‘home grown’ talent. Original Raiders. Carrie was a 7th round pick turned reliable nickel/slot corner and sometimes starter. Autry was signed as an undrafted free agent that year who worked his way up to be a solid contributor and who led the NFL last season in batted passes at the line (7) – something he has become well known for both on defense and special teams.
Bowman saved the Raiders bacon last season after he was released by the 49ers before week five and signed on in Oakland prior to week six. He started ten games and finished the season as the team’s leading tackler.
At different times, the Raiders have said they wanted to have these players back, but if that were really true, they would be signed. Gruden spoke recently about Bowman as if him hitting free agency were a foregone conclusion (and now for all intents and purposes he is), there has been no indication Carrie is a priority, and according to a source, there has yet to be an attempt to bring back Autry.
It’s certainly possible the team is allowing their free agents to gauge their value on the market and come back with terms. But the team’s approach would suggest at very least they’re prepared for these players to move on should they find an offer they like and at most have no intention of bringing them back.
Last year the team didn’t re-sign a single unrestricted free agent on offense or defense. Among those allowed to walk were original Raiders Latavius Murray, Stacy McGee, Mychal Rivera, Matt McGloin, DJ Hayden, and Menelik Watson as well as Brynden Trawick, Perry Riley Jr, Andre Holmes, Nate Allen, and Malcolm Smith.
I would put Bowman, Autry, and Carrie above any of last year’s free agents. We will soon find out if they are allowed to leave just the same.