Expect more change in store in Oakland as the second year of the Reggie McKenzie era is about to commence.
McKenzie made several big personnel decisions last year and began to seriously transform the roster. It will continue again this offseason. While precise salary cap figures are not yet available, the Raiders should be in better shape than last year’s miserable plight, but they will still have some tough decisions to make.
With many free agents and some other high-priced players, McKenzie will be faced with more tough decisions this year. Here is a look at some players who may not be on the team in training camp:
Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey: The No. 7 overall pick of the 2009 draft had a nice third season when he caught 64 passes after a slow start to his career. But he regressed in 2012 withjust 41 catches. Heyward-Bey is entering the final year of his contract and I think he is worth keeping around. He will likely never become a star, but is a decent threat. I could see the Raiders looking to tweak his contract for this season though to try to get some relief for the salary cap.
Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly: Kelly, 32, was up and down this season. He is still a decent player, but he misses a lot of plays. He has two years remaining on a seven-year, $50.5 million deal. If the Raiders bring him back, they will likely ask him to take a pay cut. Defensive tackle Desmond Bryant is a free agent and Oakland may sign him instead and shed Kelly.
Punter Shane Lechler: The 36-year-old free agent could be gone next season. Oakland has young punter Marquette King on the injured reserve. King has a big leg, but he is still raw and inexperience. While Lechler didn’t have a great year in 2012, he is still an upper-level punter. If he doesn’t get a great deal elsewhere, I could see him coming back.
Linebacker Rolando McClain: I don't see him coming back. He has burnt too many bridges. There have been reports that the Raiders may get a salary cap break because he was suspended by the team. Either way, he’s gone.
Running back Darren McFadden: McFadden is entering the final season of his contract. His play diminished this season and his injury issues continued. McFadden has missed at least three games due to injury in all five of his NFL seasons. I think Oakland -- which doesn’t have a second and fifth round pick in the April draft -- should consider dealing McFadden if it got a second or third-round pick in return. There really isn’t a huge market for an injury-prone near free agent tailback, however, so McFadden could easily play his contract year in Oakland. He too could be a candidate for a pay cut.
Tight end Brandon Myers: Myers had a breakout year this season. He had 79 catches for 804 yards and is a free agent. The Raiders don’t have any great options and they need to keep Myers. He opened eyes around the league and if he hits free agency, someone could pay him big.
Quarterback Carson Palmer: I think Palmer stays. I don’t think he is the answer for the long haul, but for 2013, the 33-year-old will be Oakland’s quarterback. He is due a huge contract and he will likely restructure his deal. Terrelle Pryor showed some promise in his Week 17 start, but I think the Raiders will feel more comfortable with Palmer’s experience for at least another season. I think we could be talking about Palmer’s departure this time next year.
Defensive tackle Richard Seymour: Seymour’s time in Oakland is up. His contract is voided and he is a free agent. The team will take a $5.26 million cap hit, but Seymour is 33 and has missed half the season with a hamstring injury. He is on the decline and Oakland needs to get younger.
Linebacker Philip Wheeler: Wheeler is a free agent. He signed a one-year deal with Oakland and he was one of its best defensive players. Wheeler will be more viable on the open market. Oakland needs all the quality players it can get on defense. He must be a priority re-sign.