Latavius Murray headlines crop of 13 Raiders free agents

Latavius Murray headlines crop of 13 Raiders free agents

The group of Raiders unrestricted free agents sits at a baker’s dozen. That’s a healthy sum that includes prominent members of the 2013 NFL draft class. It’s the first time a full slate of general manager Reggie McKenzie’s selections reached this point – his 2012 class started in the third round, and didn’t last long – and leaves some interesting decisions ahead as the offseason progresses.

Unrestricted free agency starts March 9, but the Raiders can sign their own before then. How often that happens remains uncertain, considering the open market will help settle valuations for players and clubs alike.

There are some interesting players to follow among these 13 players, with running back Latavius Murray notable among them. He had two strong seasons to conclude his four-year contract, including a 1,000-yard season as a feature back in 2015 and 788 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns as the lead dog in a rushing rotation.

Murray has said he wants to return, though he might receive better offers on the open market. Running backs don’t get many chances at unrestricted free agency, and another team might want to pay more to get the Central Florida product.

Cornerback DJ Hayden and right tackle Menelik Watson are also ready to hit free agency, as are a few key veterans on shorter deals. Let’s take a look at the players close to hitting unrestricted free agency...

RB Latavius Murray: As we mentioned above, Murray wants to come back. He was an early part of this Raiders' rise, and wants to see it through. He undoubtedly wants fair market value as well. His 12 rushing touchdowns and size and speed in open space could create value the Raiders won’t match. The Raiders like Murray and his skill set, but the open market could dictate whether or not he returns.

LB Malcolm Smith: Smith has been a mainstay at interior linebacker since signing with the Raiders two offseasons ago in free agency. He earned the right to make 30 starts and play virtually every snap, though it will interesting to see if he is retained in that role or if the Raiders will look for upgrades at his position.

LB Perry Riley Jr.: Riley brought stability to the team’s interior linebacker corps after signing in Week 5. His veteran presence and steady tackling helped against the run and pass. He may want to turn solid play into a longer-term deal. Riley would be valuable as a returner for the right price, and could help maintain order inside if the team decides to use a high-round draft pick on an interior linebacker.

S Nate Allen: The veteran was willing to take a one-year contract after getting released, and proved to be a quality backup behind Reggie Nelson and Karl Joseph. The Raiders don’t have a solid option there, so a return on a salary commiserate to that role would likely be welcome. If Allen wants a real chance to start -- he did so during his first five NFL seasons -- he’ll have to look elsewhere.

CB DJ Hayden: The 2013 first-round pick was eligible to get a fifth-round option for the 2017 season, but the Raiders didn’t offer one. His play and issues with injury didn’t warrant one last offseason, but he had a stronger 2016 mostly playing in the slot. Hayden’s effectiveness and confidence grew inside, before he suffered a season-ending hamstring tear. He’s well liked in Alameda could be back at the right price.

OT Menelik Watson: Injury problems defined his entire rookie contract, and prohibited the type of experience and development that could’ve landed Watson a big-money deal following his rookie contract. He still has potential as a starting offensive tackle.

WR Andre Holmes: Holmes increased his value to the Raiders (or any team, for that matter) by becoming a standout cover man on special teams. He was a quality No. 4 receiver with steady hands and an ability to make plays downfield. Holmes said he wants to remain a Raider.

QB Matt McGloin: The Raiders backup quarterback didn’t show well after Derek Carr got hurt and before he suffered a shoulder injury. He’s looking for a place to fight for a starting gig. That isn’t here.

LS Jon Condo: Steady long snappers are hard to find. That’s why Condo has been around so long. The 35-year old made seven figures last year, though they’ve never minded paying specialists well.

DT Stacy McGee: The 2013 sixth-round pick proved that he belonged this year and improved throughout his rookie year, but a strong start to the 2016 season flamed out due to ankle and groin injuries.

TE Mychal Rivera: Rivera made some nice catches down the stretch, but he was a healthy scratch when Clive Walford and Lee Smith were healthy. Gabe Holmes is also floating out there on the mend. Rivera might want to find a place where he’d be higher up the depth chart.

LB Daren Bates: Bates signed a one-year deal last offseason to contribute on special teams. He did that well.

S Brynden Trawick: Like Bates, Trawick was brought in to be a special teams leader. He certainly was and made impact plays in the kicking game. He looked good when forced into action on defense, and could be a backup at strong safety.

Reports: Marshawn Lynch to remain with Raiders in 2018


Reports: Marshawn Lynch to remain with Raiders in 2018

The Raiders signed veteran running back Doug Martin on Thursday, prompting many to believe the move meant the end of Marshawn Lynch's time in Oakland.

But as it has been expected, Martin is just another piece to go along with Lynch in the Raiders' backfield. According to multiple national reports, Lynch will remain in Silver and Black this upcoming season. 

The news will become official when the Raiders pay Lynch his $1 million roster bonus on Sunday. 

“One of the reasons I’m excited to be with the Raiders is to join forces with Lynch. We’ll see what happens," Jon Gruden told Insider Scott Bair at the NFL Scouting Combine. “We have to take a look at the entire roster, but I’m counting on him. I’m counting on him being a big part of this football team.”

Lynch, 31, rushed for 891 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per carry, and scored seven touchdowns for the Raiders in 2017. 

New Raiders cornerback supremely confident, 'here to dominate the league'


New Raiders cornerback supremely confident, 'here to dominate the league'

Rashaan Melvin has the supreme confidence of a No. 1 cornerback, with none of the pedigree. Top cover men are often drafted high, paid well or both, with a steady ascent to elite status.

This undrafted talent bounced around the league without job security, trying and often failing to find NFL footing.

Melvin spent time with Tampa Bay, Miami, Baltimore, New England and Miami again before establishing himself in Indianapolis. The Colts gave him a real shot and he took advantage, evolving into the team’s top cornerback. Last year was Melvin’s best, but it didn’t provide a long-term contract despite a bull market for cover men.

Melvin signed a one-year, $6.5 million deal with the Raiders on Friday, the type of prove-it deal that could establish a big payday down this time next year. The 28-year old doesn’t consider that pressure. Melvin knowns another big year's on the way, one that proves he's an elite cornerback

"I’m here to dominate the league," Melvin said Friday in a conference call. "It might be time for some new faces at the cornerback position. That’s my take on that. I’m excited for it.”

Melvin wouldn’t trade his long road for a conventional path, and believes experience both good and bad has prepared him for a pivotal season.

“I’ve been cut four times,” Melvin said. “I’ve been in four different locker rooms, and I was able to gain my teammates’ trust, my coaches’ trust and the organization’s trust as well. My confidence just grows over time. There are not a lot of players that can say they’ve been cut four times and end up in a situation where I’m at today. Like I said, it’s perfect timing. My work ethic, my style of play and the way I approach the game and the way I approach my job, my business, it speaks for itself.”

Melvin’s work ethic is unquestioned. His reputation as a grinder is well documented, especially after establishing himself in Indianapolis. Commitment to a craft has created a player with consistent coverage and ball skills.

Melvin was excellent last year. According to Pro Football Focus, Melvin created an incomplete pass (combining passes defensed and interceptions) on 23.6 percent of his targets.

Passers had a 60.3 passer rating against him in 2017, with just 29 completions for 328 yards on 55 targets. The passer rating was 86.6 in 2016, his only other season as a regular starter.

The Raiders need that type of player on the outside. They’ve had inconsistent cornerback play (that’s being kind) in recent seasons, and are hoping Melvin provides stability at a key position. The Northern Illinois alum has loftier aspirations, individually and as the leader of a young position group.

“The goal is to be the best player I can be, first-team All-Pro,” Melvin said. “I’m going to show my leadership, help these young guys out this year. They have tons of potential to be successful in their own careers. For me coming in here and being the leader and showing that, hey, this is what it takes to be successful in this football league, that’s what I’m willing to do. That’s what I’m willing to bring to the table. On the football field, but outside as well.”

Paying $6.5 million for all that would be a bargain. Melvin’s the key acquisition in a secondary built around 2016 first-round safety Karl Joseph and 2017 first-round cornerback Gareon Conley. This secondary can be solid if those guys can realize potential and Melvin’s a true No. 1 cornerback.

He considers that title appropriate, and is ready to show he’s more that a one-year wonder. The Raiders have great confidence in Melvin, something clear after targeting him early in the free-agent process. Financing’s always a big factor, but Friday’s meeting with head coach Jon Gruden, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and secondary coach Derrick Ansley convinced Melvin that Oakland’s a proper fit.

“I can relate to these guys,” Melvin said. “They have big plans for me, big plans for the organization. I was born to be a part of something special; that’s happening in Oakland. It was a good thing. We were able to get everything done, a deal done. I’m just excited to be here and I’m excited to see what the future holds for us as a team and me as a player.”