It seems like a rare instance in which a team can sign as many players as the Raiders did this offseason and yet not move the needle with regard to their top needs. But that’s pretty much what happened.
The Raiders signed some 22 free agents this offseason, and yet they sit pretty much in the same spot they were coming out of last season. Their top needs were cornerback, defensive tackle, linebacker, wide receiver, and offensive tackle. Those needs remain.
Each position they added starters it was to replace other starters they either let leave or cut. Cornerback they cut their top three starters and signed just Rashaan Melvin. At defensive tackle they re-signed Justin Ellis, making that the same need it was before. At linebacker they signed Tahir Whitehead, but haven’t brought back NaVorro Bowman. At wide receiver they swapped out Michael Crabtree for Jordy Nelson. And at right tackle, they cut Marshall Newhouse and signed Breno Giacomini.
“We try to just fill the roster,” McKenzie said of the Raiders additions. “If we saw a player out there that we could really go get, that’s what we did this offseason. Whether it was to patch holes… we just wanted to bring in some good competition and some good players and some leadership. And that’s what we did.”
Not adding surefire long term replacements in free agency can leave the team relying too much on the draft for improvement. On the other hand, how this affects the draft in a positive way is with regard to unpredictability. If the Raiders replace departed players with passable, potential starters, it leaves open the possibilities as to what they could do in the draft.
Whether that was their plan is hard to say. They had a lot of needs. Combine that with Gruden looking to remake the team to fit him and his preferences meant signing a LOT of players. And when you sign that many players, you can’t really break the bank on any one of them. The natural result is what we have now.
“Going into this draft that will play a part only from the standpoint of competition,” McKenzie continued. “We’re not gonna not get a position player because we signed a certain guy. If this player on our board that we really like, we’re still gonna try to go get them.”
Much of this is spinning the inevitable into a positive and saying what he always says about getting the best player available. But combining this year’s draft class, the Raiders draft position at 10, and the Raiders plethora of needs, it may actually hold true.