Mark March 14 on your calendars. That’s when the legal tampering period when teams and free agents can agree to deals. Will the Las Vegas Raiders be amongst the teams engaging in the initial flurry of agreed-upon-deals?
With 50 total players under contract right now and just slightly north of $19.79 million in cap space (according to Over The Cap), the Silver & Black are highly likely to dabble in the free agent market waters. Be it the initial wave to sign big-name, big-ticket free agents or the ensuing waves, new Raiders general manager Dave Zeigler has holes to fill. With how tight he is with new Vegas head coach Josh McDaniels, it’s difficult to fathom the new personnel man not giving the new El Capitan a stocked roster to play with.
Extensions may whittle down Vegas’ available cap space — namely new deals for quarterback Derek Carr, pass rusher Maxx Crosby and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow — so spending wisely is the prudent move. With that in mind, here’s some value free agents that wouldn’t bust the Raiders’ wallet:
Quarterback: Brian Hoyer. Backups Marcus Mariota and Nathan Peterman may be on the move in free agency leaving Vegas without a backup to Carr. That’s where Hoyer comes in. He maybe 37, but he knows the McDaniels offense well spending a bulk of his career as a Patriot. His base salary last season was $1.075 million. He’d be a value signing as a veteran quarterback who knows the scheme. And with Carr an iron man who rarely misses games, it would be an inexpensive addition.
Wide receiver: Sammy Watkins. The Raiders need a fleet-footed outside wide receiver and here’s a veteran option. Watkins inked a one-year, $5 million deal with Baltimore last offseason and put up 394 yards and a touchdown on 27 catches (a healthy 14.6 yards per reception average). He did miss three games due to injury and at 29, isn’t the the dynamic threat he was coming out of Clemson. But he’s still got deep speed that make defenders wary.
Offensive line: Quinton Spain. A savvy veteran who can come in, compete and potentially start, the 31-year-old is a stout presence at guard. Playing on a $987,500 cap number for the Bengals this past season, Spain is likely headed for a much richer pay day and likley a return to Cincy. But with Vegas lacking depth on the offensive line and likely installing a more power-based scheme, giving Spain a look-see doesn’t hurt Raiders personnel men or the Raider wallet.
Defensive line: Tim Settle. Vegas is lacking a large defensive tackle and this 6-foot-3, 335-pound 25-year-old fits the bill. Carving out playing time on Washington’s stacked interior defensive line was difficult for Settle so a change a scenery would do him wonders. Vegas is installing a new defense and depth is severely lacking at defensive tackle. Settle’s four-year rookie deal ended and he’ll be on the market — and not for an absurd amount of coin, either.
Linebacker: Jermaine Carter Jr. A versatile defender who can play both inside at middle or on the outside, Carter hits the open market after racking up 88 total tackles in Carolina this past season. He’s coming off the four-year rookie deal he had and won’t be an expensive signing, especially for a Raiders team in need of more talent and depth at the linebacker position. Carter has good range and speed at the position but is lighter at 6-foot-1, 225 pounds.
Cornerback: Donte Jackson. Equipped with 4.32 speed and soft hands, Jackson picked off 12 passes during his initial four years in the league with Carolina. He’s also shown a fiery willingness to get his nose dirty and is a good tackler. He’s a speedy cover perimeter cornerback the Raiders could use and likely is the most expensive name on the list, but there are numerous corners hitting the market. Perhaps Vegas landing former Carolina secondary coach Jason Simmons helps bring Jackson to the desert?
Safety: Xavier Woods. An excellent value-signing by Minnesota (one-year, $1.735-plus million), Woods showed off his hard-hitting with cover skills racking up 108 total tackles, three interceptions and 10 passes defensed. Woods is set earn quite a bump in pay, especially since he played 100 percent of the Vikings’ snaps, but it’s also a deep free agent market at safety.