Nearly every writer, including yours truly, buried the Oakland Raiders for their early free agency struggles. However, after a flurry of eleventh hour moves, including a hot pursuit of DeSean Jackson they may be in prime position to turn the tables on their doubters.
Lamarr Houston and Jared Veldheer losses hurt them early
Really the head shaking started early for the Raiders in free agency. Their two most important free agents, defensive end Lamarr Houston and left tackle Jared Veldheer shunned their former team in favor of deals elsewhere despite the fact Oakland had more money to offer. Obviously only the players and front office people know the details, but in the end the Raiders couldn’t hang on to them, leaving two gaping holes at two key positions for the team before free agency was barely underway. Not a good start for a team that went 4-12 two years in a row.
Roger Saffold fiasco started the “here we go again” chants
The doubting and laughter then reached a fever pitch when one of their biggest signings of the opening period, guard/tackle Roger Saffold came in from St. Louis and reportedly failed his physical. As a result ownership voided the deal and Saffold quickly signed a five-year contract to return to the Rams, leaving the Oakland Raiders fan base in a brief state of shock. More than few certain chanted “here we go again” given the sour luck the team has had in acquiring talent the past few years.
Justin Tuck and Matt Schaub highlight solid veteran additions
Finally things began to come together for them. It really started with the addition of defensive end Justin Tuck. The two-time Pro Bowler is on the downside of his career at age 31 but comes off a season in which he had 11.5 sacks. Together with fellow discarded pass rusher LaMarr Woodley, it seemed the Raiders finally had some legitimate disruptive potential up front. Fellow veteran lineman Antonio Smith and cornerback Tarell Brown soon came in to help. Meanwhile the offensive got some helpful experience up front with guard Kevin Booth and tackle Austin Howard, polished off by signing three-time Pro Bowl running back Maurice Jones-Drew and a trade for two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Schaub.
Jackson could push the Raiders towards Mike Evans in NFL draft
Adding such a wealth of experience, winning experience at that should allow the Oakland Raiders to seek the best players possible in the draft, but that doesn’t mean they have to stop shopping in free agency. Ironically their biggest splash may come weeks after the initial first wave of signings. DeSean Jackson, unlike the other additions is in his prime at age 27. He has his personality quirks but the former Eagles receiver is a legitimate speed threat and dangerous with the ball in his hands. Putting him on the offense would cap a series of solid move by the team, and perhaps entice GM Reggie McKenzie to eye wide receiver Mike Evans in the first round, giving his team the perfect balance of speed and size.
Either way, landing Jackson would do what the Raiders intended to all along when the rollercoaster started: get better.