Oct 19, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders tackle Menelik Watson (71) reacts before the game against the Arizona Cardinals at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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The Oakland Raiders have a bakers dozen of unrestricted free agents. Who should stay, and who should go?
With an unceremonious ending to a season that started so beautifully, it’s back to the drawing board for the Oakland Raiders.
Injuries to stars like quarterback Derek Carr and left tackle Donald Penn were metaphors to a season gone sour. But the show must go on, and Oakland must look to capitalize on the offseason to get better.
General Manager Reggie McKenzie’s top priority will be to re-sign franchise quarterback Derek Carr, and possibly pass rusher Khalil Mack — although there is a fifth-year option for Mack. But outside of the two star players, McKenzie has 13 unrestricted free agents that he can negotiate with or let go.
Here is a look at the guys set to be free this offseason, and an assessment of who should stay or go.
Dec 18, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders linebacker Malcolm Smith (53) celebrates after a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter against the San Diego Chargers during a NFL football game at Qualcomm Stadium. The Raiders defeated the Chargers 19-16. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
In his second year in Oakland, Malcolm Smith registered 103 tackles, 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles and 3 pass deflections in 2016.
Even though Smith led the Raiders in most categories statistically, his play on the field shows different. Game in and game out, Smith struggled in coverage, being abused by tight ends and taking bad angles. If not lapses in coverage, Smith racked up penalties, totaling 8 for 82 yards.
Despite being just 27, Smith has been struggling with his flaws since coming into the league. Fortunately for Reggie McKenzie and the Raiders, there are more qualified interior backers in free agency and the draft.
Aug 12, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Oakland Raiders safety Nate Allen (20) reacts against the Arizona Cardinals during a preseason game at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Veteran safety Nate Allen did more than what was asked of him in 2016, starting in place of injured rookie Karl Joseph for the final four games of the year. He recorded 26 tackles and 1 interception as a starter.
Allen saw the majority of his playing time in the second half of the season, logging 33 tackles and 2 interceptions. Allen’s coverage needs work, but to his credit, he did show some improvement in this regard. He was also a factor in run support.
If the Raiders can keep Allen for around the $3 million they initially signed him for, then he shall stay in Silver and Black.
Oct 25, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders cornerback D.J. Hayden (25) looks on during the first quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Many will say Hayden is a first-round bust, as he has shown inconsistencies since being drafted by 13th overall by Oakland in 2013.
In 2016, Hayden showed some improvement, but he failed to record a single interception, and he also led the team with 12 penalties.
Since going down with an injury in Week 12 that ended his season, and possibly his career in Silver and Black, cornerback T.J. Carrie easily outperformed Hayden in the Nickel.
Oakland needs to count its losses with Hayden, and graciously move on.
Jan 1, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin (14) leaves the field in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Matt McGloin was given the perfect opportunity to finally creep from out the shadows of Derek Carr, when Oakland’s franchise quarterback went down for the season on Christmas Eve.
After escaping with a narrow win against Indianapolis, McGloin was the named the starter for the season finale, and he completely folded in that game against the Denver Broncos. With even a decent performance, McGloin could have increased interest in his services.
In regard to his time with the Raiders, while third-string quarterback Connor Cook is flawed, he is young, with poise and potential. Cook will be the backup next season.
But there are teams out there in need of a QB, and McGloin should be free to test the waters. Maybe someone will bite.
August 14, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Andre Holmes (18) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the St. Louis Rams during the second quarter in a preseason NFL football game at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Veteran wide receiver Andre Holmes excelled in 2016, considering limited playing time. Sure, 14 catches for 126 yards and 3 touchdowns aren’t worth gawking over, but Holmes was at least reliable — whereas Seth Roberts constantly hurt Oakland with his drops.
Not to mention, Holmes was a stud on Special Teams, serving as gunner. Holmes 7 tackles was a career-high, along with a fumble recovery. At 28, there is still plenty in the tank for Holmes, and his price tag is low enough to keep around for exceptional production.
Dec 18, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders tackle Menelik Watson (71) celebrates as he runs off the field after a 19-16 win over the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
When Mike Tice and the Raiders moved Menelik Watson from right to left tackle in the Wild Card matchup against the Houston Texans, to put it simply, he was abused.
Fortunately, Oakland won’t need him to play left tackle next year, so he can stay where he is comfortable. With potential studs available in both free agency and the draft, there is no guarantee Watson will be the starting right tackle season. But if he is called upon, Raider Nation should take solace in that fact that he is at least is serviceable.
When not injured, Watson can perform, receiving a 69.1 rating from Pro Football Focus on the year. While that’s not great, it’s acceptable, considering starter Austin Howard was terrible.
The best thing about Watson is his price tag, making just over $1.5 million in 2016. Considering the concerns surrounding his ability to stay healthy, he shouldn’t be expensive for Reggie McKenzie to re-sign.
Oct 30, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Jacquizz Rodgers (32) runs with the ball as Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Perry Riley (54) defends during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Oakland Raiders defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-24 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
General Manager Reggie McKenzie found a diamond in the rough when he signed linebacker Perry Riley Jr. “off the street” midseason. Riley hadn’t appeared in an NFL game since Week 12 of the 2016 season, and made his Raiders debut in Week 5.
Riley was Oakland’s saving grace in the interior, compiling 48 tackles and forcing 2 forced fumbles. At times, Riley looked inept in coverage, but his play against the run was good enough to suffice. PFF ranked him the 11th best linebacker on the season, great considering when he was picked up.
A full season in silver and black, along with a better supporting cast, would do Riley plenty of good.
Oct 4, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; St. Louis Rams linebacker Daren Bates (53) celebrates after recovering a fumble on the opening kickoff against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Bates is part of a phenomenal cast of special teams players that showed up and showed out for Oakland in 2016.
Bates made his 12 tackles count, with 9 coming as individual tackles at gunner. In the punt game, Bates weekly downed punter Marquette King’s kicks within the 20, forcing team’s deep in their own territory.
Special Team’s players make the difference, and Bates is a valuable asset.
Oct 2, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Oakland Raiders safety Brynden Trawick (41) reacts after a tackle in the fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
It’s no debate that Trawick is Oakland’s most valuable special teams gunner, as he ranked 4th in the league with 15 special teams tackles.
On the season, Trawick logged 24 tackles, making them count. Late in the season, Trawick was asked to play his natural position of Safety, and he delivered. In two games, Trawick logged 13 tackles and an interception.
It’ll be interesting to see how much play Trawick gets at Safety if he’s resigned, which he definitely should be. In 2016, Trawick made $825 thousand dollars, a massive bargain for his play.
December 4, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray (28) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills during the third quarter at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the Bills 38-24. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Latavius Murray will be the player to watch for the Raiders in free agency.
In 2015, Murray was a Pro Bowl alternate, hitting the 1000-yard mark. In 2016, Murray notched 788 yards and 12 touchdowns while sharing carries with rookies Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington.
Murray isn’t a fan favorite, with many complaining about his inability to create more yards or make more people miss. But Murray is who he is, and the reduced touches didn’t bring about complaints.
But simply put, it’s on Murray if he stays or goes. As long as he doesn’t demand a ridiculous amount of money, it’s reasonable to say he will be back. But GM Reggie Mckenzie may decide that their are other fish in the sea.
Dec 6, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders tight end Mychal Rivera (81) carries the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second quarter at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Veteran tight end Mychal Rivera stepped up in 2016, considering reduced playing time. Although production wise, Rivera regressed, with 18 receptions for 192 yards and 1 touchdown.
But Rivera presents depth in a talented Oakland tight end core at a reasonable price. With the return of Lee Smith from injury, Rivera probably won’t start, but his ability and size make him a valuable asset.
October 9, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Stacy McGee (92) celebrates after a defensive stop against the San Diego Chargers during the third quarter at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
In an interior defense that has been abysmal in 2016, Stacy Mcgee is a bright spot.
McGee made 17 tackles, along with 2.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. When healthy, McGee is a force in the trenches, and he’s only 26 years old.
Sep 27, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Oakland Raiders long snapper Jon Condo (59) during the third quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
A punter is only good as his long snapper, and fortunately for Marquette King, he has Jon Condo.
Condo is a two-time Pro Bowler, who performed extremely well in 2016. Condo is coming off a 3-year $3,000,000 deal, certainly not a pocket breaker considering his value.