Oakland Raiders: Jared Veldheer

Raiders offseason wrap-up

May, 23, 2014
May 23
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» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple of months away, we assess the Oakland Raiders' offseason moves.

[+] EnlargeKhalil Mack
AP Photo/Michael ConroThe Raiders were happy to land versatile linebacker Khalil Mack in the first round.
Best move: Letting the NFL draft come to them. By sitting tight in the first round, the Raiders saw playmaking linebacker Khalil Mack fall into their laps at No. 5 overall. By sitting tight in the second round, the Raiders saw their quarterback of the future fall into their laps at No. 36 overall. General manager Reggie McKenzie gets high marks for not overthinking things and staying true to his gut and drafting for need as well as snagging the best player available a year after trading down and taking injured cornerback D.J. Hayden.

Riskiest move: Call it semantics or claim that someone -- either McKenzie or the player’s mom -- was not telling the whole truth as to whether the Raiders presented a respectable offer, but the Raiders allowing left tackle Jared Veldheer to leave and reunite with quarterback Carson Palmer in Arizona was not a good way to begin free agency. In Veldheer, the Raiders had a known commodity. In his wake Oakland had to rebuild the offensive line. Replacing Veldheer was seemingly an unnecessary distraction, and though Donald Penn seems a suitable replacement, left tackle will be a need again soon enough.

Most surprising move: Getting an established, respected and accomplished veteran like two-time Super Bowl-winning defensive end Justin Tuck to buy in early and sign with a rebuilding team in the Raiders. The signing of Tuck, who put pen to paper a day after Austin Howard was signed, gave legitimacy to Oakland’s efforts in free agency and opened the doors for the likes of other vets LaMarr Woodley, Antonio Smith, James Jones and Maurice Jones-Drew to also choose Oakland as their destination ... without Oakland overpaying. They are all on the back ends of their careers, but they should have enough left in the tank.

About face? Early in his tenure, McKenzie spoke of signing “high character” players with little to no baggage. So it was a surprise when he spent the third day of the draft taking players with questionable pasts, be it legal spats or getting kicked out of school or off a team. It reached a crescendo with this week’s signing of oft-troubled receiver Greg Little. But McKenzie believes he has built a strong enough locker room to withstand a wild card or two. Besides, if a guy can contribute and has convinced McKenzie he has changed, he deserves another shot, right?
Now that the dust has settled over the ESPN NFL Nation mock draft and, playing the part of Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, I was able to select Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins at No. 5 overall, let’s take a look at other possibilities.

I have suggested that if both Watkins and Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack are gone by the Raiders’ turn, as well as consensus No. 1 selection Jadeveon Clowney, the Raiders look at trading back and targeting the likes of Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald or Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans.

But what if there are no takers in such a trade scenario?

There should still be value in one of the top three offensive tackles, and if the Raiders had re-signed Jared Veldheer, there would most likely be no need for this discussion. But I digress.

Auburn’s Greg Robinson is considered the top tackle prospect in the draft and is followed closely by Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews, while Michigan’s Taylor Lewan may have more upside than either of them, provided he clears up any legal issues.

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter Pat Yasinskas, using STATS, broke down the threesome in terms of pass protection.

Lewan allowed two sacks and 10 pressures on 371 pass plays for the Wolverines last season.

Robinson, meanwhile, surrendered four sacks and eight pressures on 273 Tigers passes.

And Matthews, with his strong NFL lineage, gave up six sacks and 21 pressures for the pass-happy Aggies, who threw the ball 473 times, or 52.7 percent of their time with Johnny Manziel at quarterback. Matthews’ father, Bruce, is a Hall of Fame guard, his uncle, Clay, a four-time Pro Bowl linebacker and his cousin, Clay, a standout linebacker with the Green Bay Packers

Heading into the draft, the Raiders’ starting offensive line looks like this: LT Donald Penn, LG Kevin Boothe, C Stefen Wisniewski, RG Austin Howard, RT Menelik Watson, with reserves Khalif Barnes, Tony Bergstrom, Matt McCants and Lamar Mady.

Should the Raiders sit tight and take a tackle at No. 5, especially if Clowney, Mack and Watkins are all gone?
Fans and media types alike wondered why Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie was suffering from what seemed like paralysis by analysis at the onset of free agency.

Why was McKenzie, with close to $65 million in salary-cap room, seemingly sitting out the first day or so of the frenzy, allowing the likes of division rival Denver to swoop in and sign players with aplomb, while his two best young players -- left tackle Jared Veldheer and defensive end Lamarr Houston -- walked?

[+] EnlargeJared Allen
Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesJared Allen signed a deal with Chicago that could be worth up to $32 million.
It was, the harsher critics suggested, as if McKenzie was fiddling while Silver and Blackdom burned.

But all the while there was a thought that no one wearing silver-and-black-colored glasses wanted to face: What if, no matter how financially enticing an offer, a prime free agent simply did not want to come to Oakland?

Heresy or reality?

The Raiders got a dose of that Wednesday when NFL Network reported that veteran defensive end Jared Allen passed on the largest offer he received -- a $9 million per year bid from the Raiders -- and chose instead to go to the Chicago Bears, which, ironically enough, is where Houston went.

Early in the offseason, I suggested the Raiders re-sign Houston and make a run at Allen to play on the right side, while flipping Houston back to the left, his more natural position. Seems like the two will team up after all ... just in the NFC North.

Allen chose the four-year, $32 million deal offered by the Bears, in part because he was reportedly turned off by the Raiders not having a quarterback in place at the time, though Matt Schaub was acquired shortly thereafter.

Also, McKenzie has been saying this week that Veldheer and Houston simply did not want to return to Oakland. McKenzie told the San Francisco Chronicle that he struggled with the notion.

Of course, many will say that McKenzie could have simply slapped a franchise tag on either player if he wanted them back that badly or, on the other end of the spectrum, that he low-balled the two.

None of that really matters now, though. Not when McKenzie accomplished what he set out to do by getting high-character, veteran locker room leaders who are still productive such as defensive ends Justin Tuck and Antonio Smith, linebacker LaMarr Woodley, receiver James Jones and left tackle Donald Penn.

Besides, they all did want to be in Oakland.

Raiders Twitter mailbag

March, 15, 2014
Mar 15
1:00
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We are knee-deep in free agency, so let’s wade in with an offensive line-themed Twitter mailbag…

 

The Rodger Saffold fiasco paints two pictures of Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, neither one of which is very flattering.

Saffold
No. 1 – In over his head?

McKenzie targeted an injured Saffold and was ready to overpay for the offensive lineman’s services -– a five-year, $42.5 million deal, with $21 million guaranteed –- to the point of allowing left tackle Jared Veldheer, whow many saw as the Raiders’ best player, regardless of position, to walk in free agency. Veldheer signed with the Arizona Cardinals on Tuesday.

No. 2 – Experiencing buyer’s remorse?

Perhaps McKenzie, a day after coming to terms with the, ahem, terms of the massive deal for Saffold, realized what a bad deal it was and found a way out by “failing” Saffold in his physical.

As ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported, there was a “strong disagreement” between the Raiders and St. Louis Rams, with whom Saffold spent his first four seasons. Basically, the Raiders had issues with Saffold’s shoulder and failed him in his physical; the Rams had no issues, and Saffold went back to St. Louis on a new five-year deal.

So sure, since Saffold never signed his contract, the Raiders aren’t out that money or cap space and have dollars to spend. But McKenzie is back to square one when it comes to Oakland’s left tackle situation, even if Saffold had been earmarked for right guard with left tackle money.

Menelik Watson endured an injury-ravaged rookie season at right tackle (he was penciled in to start the year on the left side after Veldheer went down with a triceps injury) and Khalif Barnes is probably more of a “flex” situational player now on the line.

On the free-agent market, Charles Brown is still out there, as is Anthony Collins and Michael Oher, though Oher is primarily a right tackle now. Plus, the Raiders do have the No. 5 overall pick in May’s draft and could perhaps now target Auburn left tackle Greg Robinson. But that takes away from McKenzie’s stated goal to get a “playmaker” with his first pick.

Then again, he also said then he wanted to retain Veldheer, defensive end Lamarr Houston and running back Rashad Jennings and expected oft-injured running back Darren McFadden to test free agency.

Of course, there are two sides to every story, and McKenzie has yet to speak publicly. Still, questions about the team’s offseason plan and overall direction are beginning to bubble up within the Raiders’ compound.

An NFL Network report had Saffold needing surgery that would have still had him ready for the season. But Raiders owner Mark Davis, perhaps already gun-shy with last season’s acquisitions of injured players D.J. Hayden and Matt Flynn, quashed the deal.

Davis did not immediately respond to a text.

Double Coverage: Jared Veldheer

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12
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One team's loss is another team's gain in free agency.


On Tuesday, just a few minutes after the new league year began, left tackle Jared Veldheer left the Oakland Raiders for the Arizona Cardinals, reportedly signing a five-year contract worth $35 million.

ESPN.com Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez and Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss discuss the move, diving into Veldheer's decision, how he got to Arizona and what's awaiting him in the desert.

Weinfuss: How healthy is his left triceps? Were there any lingering issues associated to the injury and him missing 11 games last season?

[+] EnlargeJared Veldheer
AP Photo/ Bill NicholsJared Veldheer will be reunited with Carson Palmer in Arizona.
Gutierrez: Rust, really, seemed more of an issue than his triceps when he came back to play the final five games of the season. He insisted the strength was coming back and the season simply ended too soon for him. If anything, he told me near the end of the year that he was still working on getting the strength back in the arm and was not wearing a brace on it, so he should be at full strength come training camp. It is interesting, though, that he reunites with Carson Palmer, who praised Veldheer after he shut out Jared Allen in 2011. "Do you realize what you just did?" Palmer asked him. I imagine Palmer recruited him pretty heavily to come to the desert. You get that sense, and if so, what do you think the hooks were?

Weinfuss: I've heard that Palmer was definitely part of the recruiting process, including telling the Cardinals what Veldheer can bring to the table. I bet Palmer went to Veldheer and said, "Hey, we finished the season 6-2 all because our offense finally figured it out and with you at left tackle, I'll have more time to spin it, which means more touchdowns and fewer interceptions." Sounds like a solid argument. Arizona turned a corner under coach Bruce Arians and Palmer midway through the season and there's no reason why it won't continue in 2014. Palmer has seen both sides of the table -- he knew what life was like in Oakland and he knows what it's like to play for the Cardinals and a coach like Arians. Arizona is close and with some better protection early in the season, 10-6 could've been 12-4 or better.

What does Veldheer specialize in? Is it blocking for the run, pass protection or both?

Gutierrez: He's a beast, at 6-feet-8, 322 pounds, he is actually better at pass blocking, as noted earlier with his shutout of Jared Allen in '11. And that was on the artificial turf of the Metrodome, where Allen got more push and thus, speed. Still, he was improving at run blocking. Imagine this: His first-ever NFL start came at center. Yes, in Tennessee in 2010. It was a baptism by fire and he was immediately switched to tackle, where he thrived.

The Raiders actually will actually pay Rodger Saffold more than the Cardinals will Veldheer, who stated from Day 1 that he wanted to return to Oakland. So what about Arizona, do you think, appealed to Veldheer?

Weinfuss: I think a few things -- the idea that he can have a significant impact on a winning team, playing with Palmer again and getting paid. His reported salary of $7 million a year is a bump of more than $5 million a year. And with Palmer, Veldheer knows his tendencies which could eliminate that learning curve during training camp. And who doesn't like winning? He's coming off back-to-back four-win seasons and hasn't won more than eight games in a year. The Cardinals won 10 last year and made a splash in the vaunted NFC West.

Why didn't Veldheer want to stay in Oakland? And how is he at handling the spotlight when times get tough?

Gutierrez: And with that, you just endeared yourself to Raider Nation by saying Arizona was more of a winning organization than that in Oakland. But, as the man said, facts is facts, right? Honestly, I always got the impression that he wanted to stay in Oakland. He went on the record several times as saying he wanted a long-term deal and expressed frustration with the lack of talks and said he did NOT want to be franchise tagged because that would have been counter-intuitive to the message the Raiders were giving about him being a building block. Maybe that's why he decided to walk ... unless the Raiders low-balled him and gave him no choice. Early in his career, he shied away from reporters but last year especially he was readily available at his locker and became a team spokesman, so to speak.

Would this be the biggest splash the Cardinals make on offense this offseason and could it vault them into that second wild-card spot next year (yes, I realize it's March)?

Weinfuss: Short answers? Yes and yes. Arizona doesn't need much on offense. They have two very good wide receivers, two running backs of the future and a quarterback for at least 2014. The only move that could top this would be getting a big-name receiver to take a pay cut for the third spot or a known tight end. Other than that, Veldheer is the biggest splash. And yes, this move could vault the Cardinals into the second wild-card spot (it's never too early to talk playoffs) because protecting the edge was the difference between a couple of wins and losses -- and the difference between watching the playoffs and being in them.
The Oakland Raiders have lost what many saw as their top three unrestricted free agents in left tackle Jared Veldheer, who is headed to the Arizona Cardinals, defensive end Lamarr Houston, who is going to the Chicago Bears, and running back Rashad Jennings, who Tweeted he was in line to play for the New York Giants.

Plus, the Raiders are set to pay oft-injured offensive lineman Rodger Saffold a contract worth $42.5 million, with $21 million guaranteed, over five years, and they re-signed oft-injured running back Darren McFadden to a one-year deal worth up to $4 million.

Fans are scratching their heads. Especially in light of comments made by general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen this offseason.

Asked in January if he felt “good” about the chances of both Houston and Veldheer returning, McKenzie said simply, “Yes, I do.”

Allen was more expansive about Houston at the NFL combine, saying, “He’s certainly one of the guys we would like to have back. Anytime you have a young player that has the potential to continue to get better, and there were some things he was able to do this year ... he’s really a multi-dimensional player. He plays the run really well and he also has the ability to affect the passer, although he hasn’t had huge sack numbers throughout his career, he has been up there as far as pressuring the quarterback and being able to get hits on the quarterback. He’s certainly one of the guys that we want to try and get back.”

Asked if Jennings was somebody he wanted to retain, McKenzie said, “Yes.”

But when asked about McFadden, McKenzie gave the impression the Raiders were done with him. “Darren’s going to be a free agent and there’s been communication with his agent, [who’s] going to see what his market is,” McKenzie said. “And that’s the thing, when you’re talking about the games that he’s missed. He has no idea ... what his market value will be and I couldn’t tell you what the other 31 teams think, and his agent is leaning toward trying to figure out what that its. So, we’ll see.”

McKenzie, who entered free agency with nearly $65 million in salary cap space, has seemingly gone against everything he’s said on the record regarding his key free agents.

Of course, no personnel person worth their salt is going to let you know exactly what they’re thinking. That affects bargaining power, right? Then again, with the Raiders’ moves on the first day of free agency, it’s hard to figure out exactly what McKenzie is thinking ... unless, of course, Veldheer, Houston and Jennings simply wanted to move on.

But Veldheer’s mother Tweeted out the following to inquisitive fans:



and this:



and this:



and finally, this:



Oh, and keep in mind what McKenzie said about Charles Woodson, who has also made it clear he wants to return to Oakland: “I thought he was very solid and could contribute and I told him so. And I told him I would like to talk about getting him back here.”

Stay tuned.
Jared Veldheer will be 27 years old by the start of next season. The 6-foot-8, 322-pound left tackle was limited to five games for the Oakland Raiders this past season after undergoing surgery on his left triceps in training camp and agreed to a five-year, $35-million deal with the Arizona Cardinals.

Rodger Saffold turns 26 this summer. The 6-4, 312-pounder was originally drafted by the St. Louis Rams to be their cornerstone left tackle, but injuries – knee, pectoral, shoulder, head – have contributed to him being used at right tackle and guard in his career. He agreed to a five-year, $42.5-million deal, with $21 million guaranteed, to come to Oakland.

On the surface, it does not seem like an even swap, given Saffold’s injury history and being seen more as a versatile piece to the offensive line than as a building block, and the Raiders paying Saffold more than Veldheer will receive in Arizona

But, as ESPN.com Rams reporter Nick Wagoner wrote, “Last season, Saffold's greatest value came in his versatility as he began the season at right tackle but stepped in on the left side when Jake Long suffered a knee injury and also started six games at right guard. While Saffold played well at tackle, he flashed Pro Bowl promise at guard.”

Saffold has not played a full season since his rookie year in 2010 and has missed 17 games over the past three seasons. He's started 44 of the 47 games in which he’s played.

Veldheer tweeted the following:
The Oakland Raiders letting their two best free agents walk says many things. The biggest message to glean? General manager Reggie McKenzie did not believe left tackle Jared Veldheer and defensive end Lamarr Houston were as indispensable as you did and, obviously, not worth the money they were commanding.

And yet, McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen’s claims that each was a building block for the future of the franchise ring hollow now, no?

Veldheer, who played the final five games last season after undergoing left triceps surgery in training camp, agreed to a reported five-year, $35-million contract with the Arizona Cardinals and will reunite with quarterback Carson Palmer.

Houston moved to the right side last year and responded with a career-high six sacks, though only two after Week 7, and is seen as more of a run-stuffer than a pass-rusher. He agreed to a reported five-year, $35-million deal with the Chicago Bears.

The Raiders, with almost $65 million in cap space, have holes to fill and are set to replace Veldheer with Rodger Saffold, who agreed to a five-year, $42.5-millin deal with $21 million guaranteed.
It’s New Year’s Day, Black Friday and the season premiere of "The Price is Right," all wrapped in one silver and black package, with Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie channeling his inner Bob Barker.

Even if the Raiderettes were Barker’s Beauties and Oakland’s 17 scheduled unrestricted free agents were mixed and matched as the prizes in a showcase showdown, McKenzie has yet to show his hand as he sits with close to $65 million in salary-cap space. Even as Pro Bowl fullback Marcel Reece implored his general manager to eschew “safe moves” in favor of “smart, calculated, fearless, Raider-ass moves” when free agency begins today at 1 p.m. PT.

Thus far, the Raiders’ two biggest free agents, left tackle Jared Veldheer and defensive end Lamarr Houston, have been linked to the Arizona Cardinals and Chicago Bears, respectively. Oakland, meanwhile, has been reportedly kicking the tires on St. Louis Rams offensive lineman Rodger Saffold and Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, while many see the Raiders as being interested in picking up cornerback Darrelle Revis if and when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cut him.

McKenzie, meanwhile, maintained his position: “What I want to do is make this team better. And that’s what we’re going to set out to do this Tuesday and really, not waiting until Tuesday but, just with our own team, just trying to get things done. We want to upgrade this football team and we intend to do that.”

Speaking at the Commitment to Excellence Dinner, which honored Reece on Saturday night, McKenzie pointed to the re-signing of offensive lineman Khalif Barnes and re-upping special-teams ace Taiwan Jones as steps in that direction.

“That’s why it’s important to keep those good players,” McKenzie said. “Khalif, the worker he is, Taiwan is here to support Marcel, and, of course, Marcel. Those are the type of guys, they know the whole Raider [way], the direction we want to go. So we want the guys to be positive for everybody in that locker room.”

True, but which guys, exactly? McKenzie’s patient approach the past two seasons was exacerbated by the Raiders needing to shed salary. Now? These are unchartered waters for the third-year GM, what with so much cap space.

But keep this in mind: He said two years ago that, even with so much cap space, that did not mean he would be shopping at Macy’s. And in January he said, “Just because I have $5 in my pocket, that doesn’t mean I have to spend all of it ... on junk.”

Reggie McKenzie, come on down ...

Top free-agent roundup: AFC West

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
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The AFC West produced three playoff teams and the eventual AFC title winner in the Denver Broncos, so it should come as no surprise that many top free agents come from the division. Oakland Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez, Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold, Kansas City Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and San Diego Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams break down the top 15:

1. Branden Albert, Chiefs offensive tackle: Kansas City won’t franchise him this year. Albert will get a nice contract elsewhere.

2. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Broncos cornerback: He’s not yet 30 and still a top-tier athlete.

3. Eric Decker, Broncos wide receiver: Productive in scoring zone, will be one of the biggest wide receivers on open market, but rarely faced opponents’ top cornerback in Broncos offense.

4. Lamarr Houston, Raiders defensive end: Better suited to the left side because he’s not the prototypical speed-rusher.

Moreno
5. Knowshon Moreno, Broncos running back: Has had multiple knee surgeries, including one on a torn ACL in 2011, but he runs with passion, is solid in pass protection and a productive receiver.

6. Jared Veldheer, Raiders offensive tackle: Didn’t have a very good season in 2013 but would attract some attention as a free agent.

7. Geoff Schwartz, Chiefs guard: Was a free-agent find for Kansas City last season. Can play right tackle if needed.

8. Jon Asamoah, Chiefs guard: A better pass-protector than run-blocker. He will be only 26 in July.

9. Shaun Phillips, Broncos linebacker: He’ll be 33 in May but showed last season that he can still be an effective situational pass-rusher.

10. Zane Beadles, Broncos guard: For a movement-based front, he’s a smart, durable option who played in every game while with Denver.

McCluster
McCluster
11. Dexter McCluster, Chiefs wide receiver/punt returner: Hasn’t had a huge impact on the offense in Kansas City, but he will be only 26 in August.

12. Robert Ayers, Broncos defensive end: Had his best season in 2013, so maybe he’s a late bloomer.

13. Tyson Jackson, Chiefs defensive end: Like Ayers, he had his best season in 2013, so maybe he’s figuring it out as well.

14. Tracy Porter, Raiders cornerback: He’s versatile enough to cover the slot receiver, and he had one of his better seasons in 2013.

15. Kendrick Lewis, Chiefs safety: He’s only 25 but was a better player earlier in his career. He hasn’t been the same since a shoulder injury in 2012.
While both Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen have said they want to retain left tackle Jared Veldheer, they are not the only ones interested in his services.

According to several reports, the Arizona Cardinals have made a big push for Veldheer, which would reunite him with former Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer. And while it is believed the Raiders have presented a preliminary offer to Veldheer and he was going over it over the weekend, the Baltimore Sun reported that Veldheer was “expected” to sign with Arizona for between “$7 million and $7.5 million” when free agency officially opens at 1 p.m. PT Tuesday.

This past weekend marked the window in which agents and teams could discuss potential contracts.

Several other reports have the Raiders kicking the tires on other tackles, including Eugene Monroe, considered the top left tackle on the market after four years in Jacksonville and last season in Baltimore, and Rodger Saffold, who spent last season playing right tackle and right guard in St. Louis. The Sun reported the Raiders were “expected” to sign Saffold for “roughly $8 million,” though he was still talking with Tampa Bay.

The Raiders have 17 of their own unrestricted free agents but also have close to $65 million in salary-cap space. Nothing, though, becomes official until Tuesday.

Losing Veldheer would seem to be a P.R. fail for the Raiders, who chose not to use the franchise tag on him that would have paid him $11.654 million this season. Unless, of course, they sign someone considered an upgrade, and to a more fiscally responsible contract.

Raiders Twitter Mailbag

March, 8, 2014
Mar 8
12:00
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Here we are, on the cusp of free agency, which opens Tuesday. As such, let’s get this Raiders mailbag rolling…

Free-agency primer: Raiders

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
11:00
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» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: LT Jared Veldheer, DE Lamarr Houston, RB Rashad Jennings, FS Charles Woodson, CB Tracy Porter, RB Darren McFadden

Where they stand: With 17 remaining unrestricted free agents -- Oakland re-signed offensive tackle Khalif Barnes last week -- the Raiders chose not to use the franchise tag on Veldheer or Houston. That should not surprise anyone; general manager Reggie McKenzie said he wanted to avoid using it, and Veldheer said he did not want to be tagged. With nearly $65 million in cap space, the Raiders are primed to be players during free agency. They need help especially on the defensive line -- all four starters are free agents -- and in the secondary, and ditto with both cornerbacks and the free safety. The primary need on defense is a prototypical edge rusher.

What to expect: As McKenzie said last year, just because he has money to spend does not mean he’s going shopping at Macy’s. And as he restated this year, just because he has money does not mean he’s going to spend it on junk. True, it’s time for McKenzie to make like Macklemore and “pop some tags,” but don’t expect him to break the bank. He’ll use the money judiciously, and although the Raiders have the most cap space, they also have the most needs. It makes sense for Oakland to find a veteran quarterback to serve as a bridge, of sorts, while McKenzie strengthens to team around said quarterback, someone the staff trusts and already knows. Targets could include Josh Freeman, Josh McCown and Mark Sanchez (if and when the Jets cut him). Defensively, Jared Allen could fit the bill at defensive end.

Raiders stay away from tags

March, 3, 2014
Mar 3
7:35
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The Oakland Raiders didn't utilize the franchise tag, or even the transition tag, on either left tackle Jared Veldheer or defensive end Lamarr Houston, which should not be seen as a shortcoming by general manager Reggie McKenzie … though it is easy to see why fans might be frustrated by the Raiders not locking up either player. Especially since they have some $65 million in cap space with which to play.

But remember: McKenzie said he did not want to use the franchise tag -- which is $13.1 million for defensive ends, $11.7 million -- and would rather work out long-term deals with the free agents he wants to retain. And yes, McKenzie said he wants to keep both players.

Plus, Veldheer said he does not want to be tagged anyway.

Free agency does not begin until March 11, so McKenzie still has time to work out deals with either one or both before they hit the open market.

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