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Free agency is a time of hope. That’s at least the case with every team going in. Coming out of it, however, that isn’t always the case. Some teams end up watching more free agents leave than they add, which can be frustrating for fans who always come into it thinking their team will retain their good players and make a play for the big names on the market.
Even with there being no way every team can improve in free agency, it’s a rare thing that fans don’t find enough positives to have them saying they think their team got better.
How do we know this? I mean, aside from ‘Gee, no shit, they’re fans’? Each NFL team blog on SB Nation put out a poll asking the fans if they thought their team improved this free agency. All but THREE had a majority say yes. And one of them was the Super Bowl champions, so there wasn’t really anywhere they could improve.
The only two team blogs other than Pats Pulpit whose fans didn’t think their team improved in free agency were The Daily Norseman (Vikings) and Phinsider (Dolphins), when mathematically speaking, it’s more likely 50% of them didn’t improve. So, I guess, I’m saying take fan polling with a bit a grain of salt.
Unfortunately, the polling doesn’t have a way to keep their opinion of trades affecting their opinion of free agency, so they tend to get lumped together. No doubt the unanimous feelings that Browns and Raiders fans have derive from the trades each team made to acquire top receivers Odell Beckham Jr and Antonio Brown respectively.
Even without including Antonio Brown in opinions of free agency, you can say the Raiders got better — even though for a 4-12 team, that may not be saying much.
New holes the team have opened up at guard with the trade of Kelechi Osemele and tight end with Jared Cook signing with the Saints. Those are significant losses, make no mistake. But the additions outweigh them.
There were had holes to fill all over the roster, most notably edge rusher, wide receiver, linebacker, offensive tackle, and defensive back.
The only position that did not receive an infusion of talent was edge rusher. While that puts a bit of a dark cloud over the Raiders free agency as a whole, other need positions did get some attention.
Along with Antonio Brown, the team added Tyrell Williams. That’s improvement over Jordy Nelson, who has retired.
The Raiders signed a couple veteran linebackers in Vontaze Burfict and Brandon Marshall. Both may or may not play major roles or even make the team, but the odds are good one of them will upgrade a lackluster unit.
There is of course tackle Trent Brown, who helps out one of the worst tackle duos in the NFL last season. For that they made Brown the highest paid offensive lineman in history.
The only long term deal handed out on defense went to Lamarcus Joyner who will play primarily nickel corner, but will at times line up at safety as well.
So, which of these free agent signings will prove to be the most impactful? There was a fampulse poll for that too! And the answer overwhelmingly was Trent Brown, taking 70% of the vote.
Burfict was second with 17% of the vote (Marshall had not been signed at the time of the survey), Tyrell Williams was third with 10.6% and somehow the least voted upon was Joyner with just 6.4% of the vote.
While I don’t at all understand how Joyner could be so disrespected for what he brings to the team, I understand why Trent Brown would be considered the most impactful.
The fans watched Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker give up some 30 sacks last season, so replacing either or both of them and potentially giving Derek Carr — who was sacked 51 times — much needed protection was crucial. If Brown’s addition could cut down that number by 10-15 sacks it would make a significant impact.