I keep seeing fans tout free agency as a major success simply by listing all the positions at which the team has added a player. To be clear, that is in not how anyone should deem a free agent class a success.
Adding bodies at various positions is not success. Every team has bodies. Every team fills out a roster. Last year’s 0-16 Browns had a full 90-man roster in the offseason just like everybody else. Quantity does not equal quality.
There is no question the Raiders have the quantity part of this year’s free agency. But do they have the quality? Let’s look at the players they’ve signed so far to see.
TE Derek Carrier
RB Doug Martin
WR Jordy Nelson
FB Keith Smith
WR/KR Griff Whalen
QB Josh Johnson
OT Breno Giacomini
LB Tahir Whitehead
S Marcus Gilchrist
CB Rashaan Melvin
CB Shareece Wright
DE Tank Carradine
LB Kyle Wilber
LB Emmanuel Lamur
LS Andrew DePaola
P Colby Wadman
DT Justin Ellis
TE Lee Smith
QB EJ Manuel
CB David Amerson (cut)
CB Sean Smith (cut)
CB TJ Carrie (Browns)
DL Denico Autry (Colts)
OT Marshall Newhouse (cut)
WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson (traded)
FB Jamize Olawale (traded)
New additions: 16
Is there quality here? Sure. For that I would point to Jordy Nelson, Tahir Whitehead, and Rashaan Melvin. You could also throw in Keith Smith, who will replace the traded Jamize Olawale at fullback. The others are either depth, special teams contributors, draft insurance, or camp bodies. Many of them are sure to be among the final cuts before next season.
None of these players were a first wave signing or are sure to be the answer to the Raiders are looking for, but some are decent second wave additions.
I am averse to excuses. Saying the Raiders didn’t have the money to spend is an excuse. It doesn’t fly. And, no, they don’t need to save money to extend Khalil Mack. People need to stop saying that, because it’s simply not true. They had the money to make a couple, maybe even a few, big splash signings.
The question is, who?
First priority was finding a cornerback for their gutted secondary.
They were interested in Richard Sherman but not for the $13 million he got from the 49ers. They were in on the Trumaine Johnson sweepstakes until the Jets gave him an absolutely insane $15 million per season. That’s one of those deals that could be destined to be a big cap casualty in short order. Kyle Fuller was retained by the Bears for an also ridiculous $14 million. Malcolm Butler, who was benched for this year’s Super Bowl, got $12 million per season. Even DJ Hayden got over $6 million. So, yeah, the cornerback market was out of hand.
After all the big names got their big deals, the Raiders went with the potential of Rashaan Melvin on a one-year deal for about what Hayden got and less than half that of the first wave corners. Bargain shopping.
The additions of Melvin and Shareece Wright aren’t gonna be enough when you consider they gutted their cornerbacks this offseason, cutting Amerson and Smith and letting Carrie get signed away by the Browns.
Likewise, the wide receiver market was silly. Perhaps more so. That was always going to be the case, though, with so little talent out there and a weak wide receiver draft class. Jordy Nelson was a great get by the Raiders and they gave him essentially the same money they were giving to Crabtree, who clearly wasn’t in their plans.
What about linebacker? Whitehead’s 3-year deal is the longest of the Raiders’ quality signings. He also got the least expensive of the three on a per year basis ($6 million). He can play any linebacker spot, which opens things up for them to either bring back NaVorro Bowman or draft a middle linebacker. And with the news that Bruce Irvin, they will need a versatile linebacker so they have flexibility in the draft.
Bowman is still unsigned, leaving open the possibility he could return. Should he do so, it would make the Whitehead signing look that much better as they would fill two needs at linebacker with the duo of Cory James and Nicholas Morrow to battle for the weak side linebacker spot.
That just leaves the defensive line among the major needs. They let Denico Autry leave and Re-signing Justin Ellis doesn’t answer their issues on the interior. He is still a rotational player and there’s still little in the way of pass rush. There was a chance for them to add one in a decent looking free agent class, but they didn’t and as of now, it looks like the cupboard is pretty bare. No surprise Ndamukong Suh didn’t even consider what they offered.
It’s clear the Raiders intentions this free agency was not to find much in the way of long term answers. They approached free agency looking for temporary answers until they can fill the roster through the draft. That is often the plan, but the past three years of Raiders drafts haven’t yielded much in the way of talent, which is how they got in trouble in the first place.
Losing TJ Carrie created a hole that has yet to be seriously addressed. As of right now, Shareece Wright is penciled into that spot. The one move that I could see that would bring this grade up some would be re-signing NaVorro Bowman. As it stands, they still have needs at all the positions they had needs coming into free agency. Not something you’d expect to say after adding 16 free agents to the roster.