A breakdown of the initial wave of free agency for the Oakland Raiders:
Overall grade: B. Rather than add, as Jon Gruden said, “household names” or centerpieces in free agency, the Raiders have gone the complementary-piece route. And they’ve addressed specific needs with numbers ... as in 16 signees since free agency opened. “I just like guys who love to play,” Gruden said. “Guys that will compete. Guys that will play for nothing. We ... have brought in guys that are going to be consistent, everyday grinders, man. Guys that are going to compete their ass off and fight for inches and know what to do and set a tone.” The Raiders have also re-signed four of their own free agents in DT Justin Ellis, TE Lee Smith, QB EJ Manuel and FS Reggie Nelson and tendered all five of their exclusive rights free agents in LB Shilique Calhoun, DE James Cower, S Erik Harris, OL Denver Kirkland and PK Giorgio Tavecchio.
Most significant signing: Jordy Nelson has accomplished something that only three others have done, producing three seasons of at least 1,250 receiving yards and at least 13 TD catches -- and Jerry Rice (6 seasons), Randy Moss (5) and Terrell Owens (4) are in the Hall of Fame. Sure, White Lightning had a down year last season in Green Bay with 53 catches for 482 yards and 6 TDs, and he turns 33 on May 31, but Gruden believes Nelson will be reinvigorated with a change of scenery. “He brings a lot of the 'it’ factor that we need,” Gruden said. “Work ethic. Unselfishness. He’ll block. He’s excellent uncovering in scramble drills. ... He’s one of the free agents that is going to play a huge role for us.”
Player they should have signed: Consider this with a caveat. The Raiders still have a huge need at inside pass-rusher and Ndamukong Suh would have filled that bill with aplomb. Alas, Suh cancelled his visit and signed with the Los Angeles Rams for a reported one-year, $14 million contract. The Raiders were not about to be used as a bargaining chip any more than they were going to overpay for a missing piece when they still have to sign edge rusher Khalil Mack to a contract extension. Perhaps with Bruce Irvin moving from outside linebacker to defensive end, the Raiders simply look in-house and move Mario Edwards Jr. to tackle.
Additions: Griff Whalen, WR/KR (signed before the new league year began); Doug Martin RB; Derek Carrier TE; Jordy Nelson, WR; Keith Smith, FB; Tahir Whitehead, LB; Marcus Gilchrist, FS; Andrew DePaola, LS; Rashaan Melvin, CB; Colby Wadman, P; Kyle Wilber, LB; Tank Carradine, DL; Josh Johnson, QB; Shareece Wright, CB; Emmanuel Lamur, LB; Breno Giacomini, RT; Leon Hall, CB.
Subtractions: TJ Carrie, CB (Browns); Denico Autry, DL (Colts); Michael Crabtree, WR (released-Ravens); Clive Walford, TE (released); Cordarrelle Patterson, WR/KR (traded to Patriots); Jamize Olawale (traded to Cowboys); David Amerson, CB (released before the new league year began-Chiefs); Aldon Smith, OLB (released before the new league year began); Sean Smith, CB (released before the new league year began); Marshall Newhouse, RT (released before the new league year began); Sebastian Janikowski, PK (told by team he will not return); Jon Condo, LS (told by team he will not return).
What’s next: Gruden wants to re-sign middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman. So, too, does general manager Reggie McKenzie. So, what’s the holdup? The Raiders have presented an offer to Bowman, who joined the Raiders in Week 7 last season and was a settling influence but have also spent a lot of money and roster spots on other linebackers, such as Whitehead, who could play the Mike, and still have Marquel Lee, who was the starter there before Bowman’s arrival. Plus, Gruden acknowledged the Raiders still have needs at defensive tackle and receiver. The lack of an impact coming from Oakland’s last three drafts was a prime reason for the Raiders being so busy in free agency.