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Thursday, January 9, 2014
Will Allen draw free agents to Oakland?

By Paul Gutierrez

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Now that it's been established publicly that coach Dennis Allen will return for his third year as the Oakland Raiders' head coach in 2014, you have to wonder what, if any, effect that will have on free-agent targets this offseason.

Especially with the Raiders primed to open the bidding with some $60 million in salary-cap space when free agency begins on March 11.

Because in the past, when the cap meant next to nothing to Al Davis, the draw to the Raiders for free agents (besides being handsomely paid) was the mystique of the franchise in general, the aura of the iconic Davis in particular.

Oakland's Dennis Allen
Why should free agents go to Oakland? "Because they have an opportunity to be a part of building something special," Dennis Allen said.
Now? What, exactly, will be the draw?

“Because they have an opportunity to be a part of building something special,” Allen said in his end-of-year media conference last week.

“That's the belief that we have and hopefully that's something that we can convince these free agents that are out there. We believe that we can build something special here. That's what we get up every day with the anticipation of doing. That's what brings us back to work every day. We're not ever going to stop doing that. We'll be able to find guys that we feel like can come in, fit in and be part of what we're trying to build here.”

But how will the notion that Allen is on a short leash and his staff will most likely be on one-year deals factor into free agents' thinking?

Let's check back in on that one once free agency begins.

Meanwhile, the Raiders themselves are scheduled to have 17 unrestricted free agents and need to initially address the likes of left tackle Jared Veldheer, defensive end Lamarr Houston, running back Rashad Jennings and, potentially, cornerback Tracy Porter.

Still, there is a young nucleus, primarily made of up undrafted players, in place. Granted, for a team coming off consecutive 4-12 seasons and having lost eight of its last nine games in each of Allen's first two years.

So I asked Allen if there were already building blocks in place.

“I think some of the building blocks are in place,” he said. “I don't think we have everything that we need. There's some other pieces to the puzzle that we need. Obviously some of that will come through the draft. Obviously some of that will come through free agency.

“But yeah I believe there's some building blocks in place.”

Blocks that need veteran pieces, through free agency, particularly on both the offensive and defensive lines. A prototypical edge rusher, perhaps?

“I think this is a team, when you look at some of the young players that have improved on this football team, I think this is a team that's going to improve,” Allen said. “I think as some of these young players continue to develop and we're able to add a few pieces to the puzzle, along with some of the guys that we have, to me I look at it as this is the beginning. This is the beginning of being able to build and create the things that we want to create here.

“I'm not looking at this as the end; I'm looking at this as the start, as the beginning, and this is where we have an opportunity to really create here. This is where we should be judged. We should be judged on this point moving forward.”