If you were to poll Raider Nation on what position the team needs to improve in order to get better, most would probably say that it’s the quarterback position. Wide receiver might give the quarterback answer a run for the money. After that, you’d probably have the stalwarts choosing offensive line and some still hoping for some more defensive help.
For any of that to happen, Al Davis is going to have to work some good old fashioned draft magic or find some underrated diamonds in the rough–because it’s highly unlikely that he’ll want to outbid anyone for the unrestricted free agents in 2010.When the top free agent quarterback is Chad Pennington, the top offensive lineman is 38-year old Kevin Mawae, and the top free agent on the market is 36-year old team destroyer Terrell Owens, it’s time to start open tryouts. Sure, if the price is right–like the league minimum–either of those players would be an added benefit to your team, but anything much more than a cheap one-year contract would be reckless.
I won’t go into all of the details of how this uncapped year affects the league, but if you want to read up on it a bit, you can check out NFL.com’s Jason La Canfora’s breakdown by clicking here. The gist of it is, teams won’t be bidding gazillions of dollars on high-profile free agents this year.
So, where does that leave the Raiders in their quest for improvement? To improve, they are probably going to have to promote from within.
On defense, the Raiders’ biggest issue is their linebacking corps. The defensive line has talent, and barring injury to Greg Ellis or Richard Seymour (who says he wants to be a Raider in 2010), that group should only get better. While the secondary could use another talented corner, what secondary in the NFL couldn’t?
At linebacker, it’s hard to say what the Raiders need. There were some games where the linebackers were utilized in a way that seemed to emphasize what talents they had, but too often this group wasn’t used that way. Most likely, the Raiders need to figure out what sort of defense they want to run on a weekly basis and put players in those spots that can get the job done.
On offense, there are so many things that the Raiders need to do, and some of it is on Tom Cable. Cornell Green needs to ride the pine in favor of someone who doesn’t need to false start to get the job done and Cooper Carlisle’s best days may be behind him. Replacing those two is the sole responsibility of the head coach, then he’ll have to make some sort of commitment to whoever he inserts in those two spots so they can get the chance to fortify the line.
Much of the rest of the offense is the same as the right side of the offensive line. Forcing Darrius Heyward-Bey on the offense for most of the season was a tragic mistake on Cable’s part, especially when he had experienced players such as Johnnie Lee Higgins, Todd Watkins, and Javon Walker watching from the sidelines. As much as Darren McFadden is supposed to be a ‘featured back’, he just isn’t cut out for it. I don’t even think I have to talk about JaMarcus Russell, do I? When you have your best quarterback (Charlie Frye) as your third string for most of the season, and your worst (Russell) as your starter, you have nobody to blame but yourself…that is, if you are the head coach.
The best thing for the Raiders, and the most likely, is that they’ll re-sign all of their restricted and unrestricted free agents that they still want, find a few underrated guys to throw into the mix, and attempt to have a good draft. Hopefully for Raider Nation, that’s all it will take to have their first winning season in ages.
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