A breakdown of the first week of free agency for the Oakland Raiders:
Most significant signing: The Raiders have made only two signings -- offensive lineman Marshall Newhouse and receiver/returner Cordarrelle Patterson -- so let's go with the splashier of the two. Sure, the Raiders have rebuilt themselves through the trenches, and Newhouse will compete for the starting right tackle spot. But Patterson is the most electrifying return man in the game, a two-time All-Pro with five career returns for TDs, including a 93-yarder in Oakland in 2015. He dramatically improves the Raiders' return game -- he led the NFL last season with a 31.7 yards per return average, while the Raiders averaged 20.5 yards per return as a team. Plus, Patterson, with his 4.42 speed, will get coached up in the receiving game a year after catching a career-high 52 passes, for 452 yards and two touchdowns, and complement Seth Roberts in the slot. "It's a blessing from the sky," Patterson said when asked about the opportunity to join a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.
Most significant loss: Let's see, the Raiders have either (a) lost or (b) allowed eight (nine, if you count receiver/special-teams ace Andre Holmes, who claimed he had yet to sign with Buffalo, even if a contract was turned in for him) of their 13 free agents to walk because they got big contracts, or more money than the Raiders were going to pay them. And sure, linebacker Malcolm Smith started 30 games over the past two seasons, but once the San Francisco 49ers threw a five-year, $26.5 million contract at him, well, adios. Same with defensive tackle Stacy McGee, who was seen as a pass-rushing defensive tackle on the rise ... when healthy. But he missed seven games last season and Washington gave him a five-year, $26 million deal. And Latavius Murray and his 12 rushing TDs leaving for Minnesota is a punch in the gut, especially if Oakland does not immediately address the hole at running back. But in the first wave of free agency, you could say the biggest loss Oakland suffered was special-teams standout Brynden Trawick, who also showed he could pinch hit at safety, making him especially valuable with a relatively low base salary of $825,000 last season. But the Tennessee Titans gave him a two-year, $4.75 million deal to be the highest-paid special-teamer in the league.
Player they should have signed: Imagine this -- imagine the Raiders going all in with a 3-4 defense, with NFL defensive player of the year Khalil Mack on one end and Calais Campbell at the other end, with Bruce Irvin at one outside linebacker and Aldon Smith at the other. Sure, Campbell would have been nice, but not at $15 million a year, which is what the Jacksonville Jaguars are paying him, and not when the Raiders still have to work out extensions for Mack and Derek Carr. Not only did the Raiders lose out on Campbell, who was being wooed by the Denver Broncos at a reported $13 million per year, they may have lost the services of Smith, who was detained last week for public intoxication by the San Francisco Police Department after a car in which he was a passenger crashed into an unmarked police cruiser. Smith was purportedly in line to be reinstated this month, but had to stay on the straight and narrow. Stay tuned.
What's next: The Raiders still have needs at inside linebacker and defensive tackle, and the big names at those positions still available are Zach Brown, who is visiting the Raiders, and Dontari Poe. Brown would be a solid, and presumably more affordable, option at middle linebacker (as would the Raiders' own UFA, Perry Riley Jr.), and keep an eye on Manti Te'o, who played for new Raiders assistant head coach/defense John Pagano with the Chargers. And when it comes to a pass-rushing 3-technique, keep Raiders legacy Chris Long in mind after he had four sacks for the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots last season, rushing mostly from the inside. Plus, running back Adrian Peterson remains a possibility, especially with Murray now gone to Minnesota and the Raiders needing a big-bodied back to pair with 5-feet-8 Mighty Mites Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. Tight end Jared Cook is also visiting the Raiders and would be an upgrade at tight end, giving Carr another weapon.
Overall grade: B ... though an incomplete may be more appropriate given that Oakland has lost seven of its own free agents while only signing two, with more needs having to be addressed. So how do we get to a B? By averaging the C I gave the Raiders for the Newhouse signing and the A I afforded Oakland for the Patterson signing. And while Patterson is a flashy acquisition, given how he is such a weapon on special teams, Newhouse, actually, may be more deserving of a higher grade, given that his Pro Football Focus grade of 69.4 last season was higher than the grades of Austin Howard (56.1) and Menelik Watson (49.4).