It is that time folks. The NFL is back and the first item on the agenda is free agency. Under the new CBA, any player with four or more years of service in the NFL will become an unrestricted free agent. For the Oakland Raiders, this means 17 players that were on last year’s roster will be unrestricted free agents.
Given the cap space issue and the obvious need to sign other players in free agency as well as sign our rookie class, that number appears to be rather daunting, so lets take a closer look.
First, there are four names that can be taken off the list, as they will not be back in Oakland next season. J.T. O’Sullivan and Jarvis Moss were signed late in the season due to injury issues, and will not be re-signed. Robert Gallery and the Raiders have both made it known that he will not be in Silver and Black next season. And finally, fearing another quarterback controversy, Davis is also not going to re-sign fan favorite Bruce Gradkowski.
Then there are those players who are expected to walk because they would draw more on the free agent market than the Raiders are willing to pay.
Nnamdi Asomugha is going to be the prize of the 2011 free agency period. Asomugha will draw a lot of attention and cost a lot of money to sign. In all likelihood, unless Nnamdi agrees to take a home town discount the Raiders will not be able to bring him back.
Michael Huff had the best year of his career last season. The problem is, the Raiders also saw him play the previous four seasons. The fact of the matter is that either Huff made an incredible leap between year four and year five, or he simply played his butt off because it was a contract year. Either way, it is not worth it for the Raiders to pay him as much as he will likely command in free agency.
That leaves us with two groups of free agents left. The important, must sign free agents, and the no big deal if they walk free agents.
The list of important must sign free agents is rather small, in fact it is only one. Zach Miller. The pass catching tight end out of Arizona State is the Raiders most consistent pass catching threat and is a leader on the team. On top of that, Raiders offensive coordinator Al Saunders loves him some tight end and there is very little depth at the position.
The remaining free agents on the list are Langston Walker, Sam Williams, Mario Henderson, Ricky Brown, Samson Satele, Johnny Lee-Higginns, Jon Condo, Thomas Howard, Charlie Frye and Khalif Barnes.
Among those names, Samson Satele, Mario Henderson and Jon Condo are the only ones that might surprise anyone. However, with the drafting of the new Wisniewski, Satele became expendable. Similarly, with Jared Veldheer having a respectable rookie season, Mario Henderson was suddenly a man without a role. Unless both of these players are willing to sign for small salaries, their days with the Raiders are all but over.
Jon Condo on the other hand is a different question. Condo was a pro-bowl special teams player, but in the end, he is expendable if the Raiders cannot afford to sign him. It would be great if they could keep him, but it is by no means the end of the world.
Ricky Brown, Sam Williams and Langston Walker will command rather small salaries and I expect the Raiders to re-sign all of them.
Johnny Lee-Higgins, and Thomas Howard will both want to test the free agent market if for no other reason than the fact that they have seen their roles in Oakland diminish greatly. Unless they get absolutely not interest from other teams, I don’t see either one wearing the Silver and Black this season.
Finally, Charlie Frye is any ones guess. The journeyman quarterback is looking at a third string role with the Raiders, and they might not even be interested in re-signing him. Don’t be surprised if the Raiders pass on Frye in favor of signing an undrafted rookie quarterback like Pat Devine out of Delaware. Jason Campbell’s position as leader of the team is not even close to being set in stone, so the Raiders would be wise to get some young, untested blood on the roster.
Its definitely going to be an exciting few weeks as the NFL scrambles to prepare itself for the season and I do not expect the Raiders to be any less exciting than they are every off season.