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Wednesday, January 22, 2014
The next big thing: Raiders

By Paul Gutierrez

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Now that the Oakland Raiders have answered any questions about who will be their head coach next season -- Dennis Allen is returning for his third season after consecutive 4-12 campaigns -- and we know that all but three of Allen’s top-tier assistants will return, the team’s focus turns to its own roster.

It is a three-step process for the Raiders, really, as they must decide which of their pending 18 unrestricted free agents they want to keep. General manager Reggie McKenzie has already publicly identified four in left tackle Jared Veldheer, running back Rashad Jennings, defensive end Lamarr Houston and free safety Charles Woodson.

Depending upon who they retain, the Raiders will then make runs at free agents to not fill holes, but be frontline starters. McKenzie intimated he could go after a quarterback (Josh Freeman? Josh McCown? Mark Sanchez, if and when he’s cut?) while adding that a prototypical edge rusher (Greg Hardy? Justin Tuck? Jared Allen?) is also atop Oakland’s needs. Still, McKenzie says he will not spend the Raiders’ $60 million in cap space foolishly.

Then comes the draft as the Raiders hold the No. 5 overall pick. McKenzie may have spoken too soon in evaluating Texas A&M junior quarterback Johnny Manziel, but he did call him a playmaker and the Raiders do need playmakers. Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins also fits that description, no?