While the focus has been on the big names in 2017 NFL free agency, the Oakland Raiders could look to sign these bargain-bin players to fill the depth chart.
Leading up 2017 NFL free agency, much of the talk surrounding the Oakland Raiders has been about the big names they could potentially sign. To an extent, it makes sense considering the sizable cap space the team has available at this moment.
However, not every free agent signing can be a splash. NFL rosters are made up of more than just superstars. Teams also have to worry about filling out the depth chart and securing talent capable of stepping up when the starters get hurt. That’s where the bargain-bin free agents come into play. As luck would have it, there are several of these cheap options the Raiders could take advantage of in 2017.
Many of the guys on this list are either nearing the ends of their careers, or simply aren’t valued all that highly for one reason or another. That, however, doesn’t mean they couldn’t bring something to the table for the Raiders.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at five free agents who would not only address Oakland’s needs, but would also come with a relatively cheap price tag. It’s all about making the most of your salary cap, as the Raiders know all too well from past experiences.
In the near future, the Raiders could undergo significant changes at the right tackle position. And realistically, that may not be the worst thing in the world. In 2016, Oakland dealt with a lot of instability on the right end of the offensive line. Austin Howard, the starter, was often injured and it showed when he was actually on the field. Backup Menelik Watson also battled injuries and was relatively ineffective.
Now, Watson is scheduled for free agency this offseason. As for Howard, there’s a significant chance the Raiders cut him loose with a cap figure that clearly doesn’t match the output. Even if Howard is retained, Oakland will still need to add some depth at right tackle considering Howard’s health history.
That’s where a player like Marshall Newhouse could come into the picture. Although he’s had his fair share of injuries as well, he’s a cheap option with considerable starting experience.
Newhouse made only $1.5 million a season ago, a small price to pay for a quality right tackle. Even if that number increases a bit in 2017, the Raiders could easily afford it. If it meant adding an experienced starter who can support Howard and step in if needed, I think Oakland would be wise to pull the trigger.
Are you done laughing yet? Okay good, now try to hear me out on this one.
I know Mark Sanchez is not a good quarterback. Although he’s seen some success during his NFL career, the former first-round pick is most known for the infamous Butt Fumble. People tend to overlook the fact that he’s isn’t nearly as bad as some of the other backup options out there, though.
With Matt McGloin likely leaving via free agency, the Raiders need a veteran option behind Derek Carr. Sure, they have 2016 fourth-round pick Connor Cook, but I’m still not sold on him as a dependable No. 2. He flashed some potential in his playoff start, but he’s clearly got a long way to go.
So instead of hoping Cook can take a big step forward in 2017, Oakland should target someone like Sanchez. He’s cheap, has starting experience, and may even offer some mentorship value for the Raiders’ young gunslingers. Look past his goofs and give Sanchez a shot. He probably wouldn’t ever see the field, but he’d provide a solid insurance policy at a major discount.
We all know how awesome the Raiders’ starting duo of wide receivers is. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree can dominate NFL secondaries on a weekly basis, but that doesn’t mean they should be forced to bear the entire burden.
Oakland needs more depth at receiver heading into 2017. Seth Roberts is a solid-yet-inconsistent No. 3, and fourth option Andre Holmes is set to be a free agent. Even if he is re-signed, the Raiders need a more reliable target to throw to out of three- and four-receiver sets. Hence, the inclusion of Anquan Boldin.
Yes, he’s an old NFL player at 36 years of age. However, as we saw this past season, Boldin is more than capable of being an asset in the passing game. He hauled in eight touchdowns for the Detroit Lions, proving to be a dependable option on third downs and in the red zone.
Boldin may not have the speed or quickness of years passed, but he’s still got the football IQ and toughness. He catches anything that comes within his reach, and is still adept at using his big body to shield defenders from the football. If the Lions let him walk, the Raiders could easily scoop him up for somewhere just north of $2 million.
With it looking like he’ll test the market in 2017, it’s still to be determined how much money he could haul in. Teams could see his status as a former Day 2 selection and overpay, or they could see his lack of production in Denver and force him to prove himself before receiving a significant payday down the road. I’m guessing the latter of the two options makes the most sense for Webster. That’s why I think he’d be an intriguing bargain-bin target for the Raiders.
Right now, Oakland’s secondary needs an influx of depth in the worst of ways. The two starting cornerbacks are strong, but the talent behind them is far from comforting. Especially with D.J. Hayden unlikely to be re-signed, T.J. Carrie will be left as the only decent, experienced backup cornerback on the roster.
Signing Webster, though, would provide the Raiders with some serious upside. The former USF star has the tools to be a difference-maker in coverage, but is still waiting for his opportunity to shine. If Oakland were to give it to him, my guess is he’d reward them for rolling the dice.
If you’re looking for a star defensive tackle in this free agency class, chances are you won’t find one without paying big bucks. While the Raiders have the cap space to make said move, I wouldn’t be surprised if they targeted a fiscally responsible option instead. Enter Terrell McClain, one of the Cowboys’ starting defensive tackles this past season.
It’s easy to understand why you may not have heard of McClain. He’s a bit of a journeyman, having spent seven years in the NFL with four different teams. Now set to enter free agency, he could make it five teams in eight years. If that’s the case, the Raiders may be interested in giving his agent a call.
McClain will never be a standout starter. He makes plays here and there, occasionally notching a sack or a forced fumble. He did manage to rack up 40 tackles a season ago, but it was also his first year as a starter. Despite all of these apparent deficiencies, McClain got the job done. You really can’t ask for much more than that from a guy that made just over $1 million on the year.
While I don’t even necessarily envision him as a starter, I think he’d provide quality depth for the Oakland defense. Based on how their defensive tackles played in 2016, McClain would likely be a welcomed addition. He’s capable of getting after the quarterback, and holds his own against the run. It’s that consistency that would make spending $2 million on him an easy decision.