Free agency is edging towards its third week and a lot of big names are now signed. However, there are still bargains to be had, and some good players still available. Raiders fans are itching for Reggie McKenzie to sign some help for his defense, so who are the best bargain free agents for the Oakland Raiders?
Best Bargain Free Agents for the Oakland Raiders
McKenzie has already shown he won’t overspend, sending Zach Brown packing without a deal. But hopefully McKenzie has his eye on two or three bargains to help strengthen the defense in key positions.
Stacy McGee might be the biggest loss to the Raiders in free agency this year. When healthy, the 310lb defensive tackle looked explosive and dangerous. He might well be missed. With Jack Del Rio asking for an increase in interior pass rush, finding free agency help here should clearly be investigated.
If Money Was No Object: Jonathan Hankins
Whilst Hankins isn’t an explosive pass rusher, he would serve some help as a two-down run stuffer. Dan Williams was a disappointment last season, managing on 17 tackles in 11 starts. Hankins, who managed 43 tackles and three sacks over 16 starts, would be an upgrade. This would also mean the Raiders could part ways with Williams, saving about $6 million against the cap. That would be handy space to have with Derek Carr’s mega-contract surely on the way. But Hankins will likely want big money, particularly given the size of the contracts given out to defensive tackles so far. He’s probably not going to be a Raider.
The Bargain: Sen’Derrick Marks
How about a player disgruntled and with a point to prove? Marks was Jacksonville’s star signing four short years ago, now jettisoned to make space for Calious Campbell. In his first two seasons with Jacksonville, Marks weighed in with 12 sacks. Towards the end of 2014 he tore his ACL, but he played enough snaps last year to suggest he’s fit again. When healthy, he’s a 3-technique defensive tackle that could provide the boost to the interior pass rush that Del Rio so craves.
The Raiders linebackers were poor last year. Malcolm Smith under-performed, whilst Ben Heeney and Cory James flashed potential between injuries. Perry Riley arrived in October and was solid but certainly not spectacular. The Raiders should be looking for help here.
If money wasn’t an option: Zach Brown
Despite Brown leaving town without a deal, he’s not signed anywhere else. Brown is easily the best available inside linebacker in free agency, so if another team won’t meet his demands, could the Raiders swoop in and pick him up? However, even if they did, would Raider Nation accept him after the way he left town last time? It’s good to remember that “best available” isn’t the same as “brilliant”. Perhaps there is another option.
The Bargain: Keenan Robinson
A free agent who played last season with the Giants, Robinson is rangy and fast. He’s a good coverage linebacker who could really help the Raiders problems with tight ends. So far, he’s only visited with the Bengals, which suggests a weaker market than Brown. If you need convincing, watch this video reviewing a few of his plays from last season. His closing speed and coverage ability are both clear to see. Sure, there’s a reason why the Giants haven’t already re-signed him, but perhaps the Raiders could sign a bargain here?
Whatever your opinion of Reggie Nelson’s play last season, he’s definitely not getting any younger. Getting some support for the Raider’s secondary would certainly be a sensible move. And there are a few players who could still add value.
If Money Wasn’t An Option: T.J. McDonald
The knock on McDonald is that he gives up too many big plays. But last season he produced 64 tackles, a sack, 6 passes defensed and two interceptions. This seems a solid return for a player who at 26 is seven years younger than Nelson. But McDonald’s age means he likely won’t come cheap. On top of this, Raiders fans have had enough of watching their single high safety get beat deep, so bringing in a younger version of the same thing might not be the smartest move.
The Bargain: Jarius Byrd
So, how about instead a player who just three seasons ago was the biggest free agent on the market? Byrd had a torrid time in New Orleans, but that might be more because he’s unsuited to the type of defense that Rob Ryan was trying to run. Ryan himself is on record as saying that the Byrd signing basically cost him his job. But if the Raiders want to run a defense with a single high safety, why not go get a player that was one of the best in the business just three years ago? Byrd might not have the talents of an Earl Thomas, but he has other skills that could make him an effective addition to the Raiders roster.
An Improved Defense
Whilst Marks, Robinson and Byrd might raise quite a few eyebrows, they could definitely help the Raiders. An interior pass rusher, a nickle coverage linebacker and a defensive back who has experience playing single high safety would be three assets that would help improve the defense in 2017.