ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Kelechi Osemele gave up just one sack last season.
As a mauling run blocker who played left guard and left tackle for the Baltimore Ravens, he is considered one of, if not the most physical and versatile young offensive linemen to hit the free-agent market.
So the Oakland Raiders reportedly striking a deal in principal to sign Osemele shows they are serious about being players in the NFL’s free-agency frenzy, though the move can’t be made official until 4 p.m. ET Wednesday, when the new league year begins.
And why shouldn't they be?
Entering Tuesday, the Raiders had the second-most salary cap space in the NFL at more than $65.3 million and by getting the sought-after Osemele to agree to a reported five-year deal worth as much as $60 million, Oakland also addressed a need.
The Raiders apparently see the 6-feet-5, 333-pound Osemele as their new left tackle, what with the 6-4, 315-pound Donald Penn, who has started his last 140 straight games, about to hit the market.
Penn, who joined the Raiders in 2014, could conceivably be re-signed, though left guard is the domain of Gabe Jackson, a third-round draft pick in 2014 who started all 16 games last season.
And not only is Osemele, a second-round pick of the Ravens in 2012 out of Iowa State who started at right tackle in Super Bowl XLVII, bigger than Penn, he is also, at 26, six years younger than Penn.
So yeah, it does appear as though Osemele is penciled in by the Raiders at left tackle, where he started the Ravens’ final four games last year.
In any event, the Raiders offensive line not only needs to continue to protect quarterback Derek Carr’s blindside, but also elevate the running game. Last season, Oakland had just the No. 28-ranked rushing attack, averaging 91.1 yards per game.
Per Pro Football Focus, Osemele has been a top-5 run-blocking guard the past two seasons.
And an elevated run game would make Carr all the more dangerous.
Still, as noted by PFF, pass-blocking has not been Osemele’s strength, despite the relative lack of charged sacks, and putting him on the outside as the left tackle would expose his key weakness. Perhaps the Raiders move him to the right side of the line, though that is a lot of money to pay for a right guard.