Cleat Geeks

On The Clock: Oakland Raiders 2016 Offseason Preview

In his “On the Clock” series, NFL analyst Brett Casella (@NFL_iQ on Twitter) will take an in-depth look at all 20 teams that failed to make the playoffs as they head into the 2016 offseason. He will conduct a thorough examination of each roster and make recommendations on whom to cut and re-sign, as well as which players to target through free agency and the draft.

This article will focus on the Oakland Raiders.

Team: Oakland Raiders
2015 Record: 7-9
Draft Pick: #14


Season Summary

After years of suffering, Raiders fans finally have something to feel good about. Seven wins doesn’t seem that impressive, but it’s only the third time Oakland has reached that mark since their last playoff appearance in 2002. General Manager Reggie McKenzie has done a great job turning this organization around, and they now have young talent on both sides of the ball.

In only his second season as a pro, Khalil Mack became the first player in NFL history to earn first team All-Pro honors at two positions. The defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid finished the season with 15 sacks, second to only J.J. Watt.CarrCooper

On the offensive side of the ball, the Raiders might have the best young passing tandem in the league with quarterback Derek Carr and wide receiver Amari Cooper. After tossing 31 touchdowns this year, Derek Carr has the second-most touchdowns in NFL history through his first two seasons. If both he and Amari Cooper continue to grow and develop in Oakland, they should have no problem setting a franchise record for most touchdowns between a quarterback and wide receiver duo (the current record is 44).

Re-Signings & Cuts

When it comes to Raiders with expiring contracts, there is no one that they need to re-sign, per se, but there are a few players that it would be nice to bring back for the 2016 season.

DonaldPennOne of these players is offensive tackle Donald Penn. Penn is a reliable left tackle that finished in PFF’s top ten in each of the last two seasons. With Derek Carr looking like a franchise quarterback, you want to do everything you can to keep him protected.

Oakland’s secondary was less than spectacular last season, and with safety Charles Woodson retiring, the Raiders should attempt to bring back either Larry Asante or Taylor Mays. Neither one of these players is an elite-level talent, but if they lose both of them, they will need to worry about replacing two safeties instead of one.

Aldon Smith is another player the Raiders should try to bring back. He is a big-time gamble, as he is currently serving a one-year suspension and can’t even apply for reinstatement until halfway through next season. But if he turns his life around and is able to keep clean, him and Khalil Mack could wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks for years to come.

Two players to keep an eye on are running back Roy Helu and linebacker Curtis Lofton. Helu was signed from Washington this past offseason, but couldn’t carve out a role in the Oakland offense and will undergo hip surgery this offseason. Releasing him would clear up $2 million in cap space. Curtis Lofton is another likely candidate to be cut, as his salary far exceeds his abilities. Releasing him would save the Raiders $5.5 million.

Free Agency Needs

With nearly $70 million in cap space, the Raiders have more money to spend this offseason than any team except the Jacksonville Jaguars. This bodes well for them, as they have a lot of needs to fill; particularly on the offensive line and the defensive back seven.

San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle (32) celebrates after a win against the Oakland Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers won 26-13. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle (32) celebrates after a win against the Oakland Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers won 26-13. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Starting with the secondary, there are plenty of names that should draw Oakland’s interest. One of those names is Eric Weddle. After his relationship with the San Diego Chargers deteriorated this past season, he could sign with Oakland out of spite for their division rival. Even at the age of 31, he is still a top safety and the Raiders won’t be afraid to pay him like one. If the Raiders don’t land Weddle, expect them to aggressively pursue Tashaun Gipson, Reggie Nelson, or George Iloka.

Don’t be surprised if the Raiders try to sign one, if not two cornerbacks. They are in dire need of an upgrade at that position, and the free agency class runs deep with good players. Names such as Sean Smith, Janoris Jenkins, Casey Hayward, Pacman Jones, Prince Amukamara, and Leon Hall all come to mind.

If they are looking to upgrade at their linebacker core, Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman are two names to keep an eye on. Both bring the unique ability to cover against the pass – something the Raiders are in desperate need of.

Buffalo Bills offensive guard Richie Incognito (64). Photo by; Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Bills offensive guard Richie Incognito (64). Photo by; Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

If either Malik Jackson or Damon Harrison makes it to free agency, don’t expect Oakland to be shy about signing them. Both players bring big-time talent to the defensive line, and either would pair perfectly with Mario Edwards Jr. and Khalil Mack.

On the other side of the ball, the Raiders could use some help along their offensive line. Richie Incognito is coming off of his best season as a pro; he performed as one of the league’s top guards last year. Seattle’s Russell Okung is also a viable option, as is Baltimore’s Kelechi Osemele, who can play either guard or tackle.

Potential Draft Picks

The one player I would love to see the Oakland Raiders draft at #14 is Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott. While Latavius Murray is a very good player, Elliott can step in and be a top-five running back from day one.

Jack Conklin Michigan State University.

Jack Conklin Michigan State University.

If they don’t choose Elliott, they could look to fortify their offensive line by drafting a tackle such as Jack Conklin or Taylor Decker. Options on the defensive side of the ball include edge rushers Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd, as well as interior linemen Sheldon Rankins, A’Shawn Robinson, and Jarran Reed.

There will still be plenty of talent available for the Raiders in the second round. Guards Cody Whitehair, Vadal Alexander, and Joshua Garnett come to mind, especially if Oakland can’t fill the position in free agency. Cornerback Kendall Fuller and defensive tackles Maliek Collins and Vernon Butler would all be great values, and wide receiver Sterling Shepard would be the perfect slot receiver to boost an already potent aerial attack.

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