A look at Raiders options heading into free agency signing period

A look at Raiders options heading into free agency signing period

NFL teams have been talking to free agents -- their representatives, anyway – for a few days now. Talk turns to action on Thursday afternoon, when players can start signing on the dotted line.

This time last year, the Raiders were spending heavy. As reported Tuesday morning, the Raiders won’t be following a similar tact. Nothing over the last few days has altered that expectation.

The Raiders have needs to fill this offseason, and will use free agency to help fortify an already talented roster.

Fans were hoping for top defensive tackle Calais Campbell. He’s reportedly headed to Jacksonville. They were thirsting for top safety Tony Jefferson. He’s reportedly headed to Baltimore.

The Raiders have $43 million in salary cap space heading into the formal signing period.

They’d like to spend some on an inside linebacker, though top option Dont’a Hightower might too expensive a target. Zach Brown, Kevin Minter and Gerald Hodges are options, though don’t sleep on last year’s middle linebacker Perry Riley. The veteran made an immediate impact after signing in Week 5, and had a solid season in the Raiders defensive system. He could come back, as the San Francisco Chronicle reports the Raiders are trying to lock him down. The Raiders were willing to let Malcolm Smith walk, and he was talking contract with the 49ers on Wednesday.

The Raiders could still look to a veteran interior pass rusher to pair with Mario Edwards Jr. Denico Autry was given an original round tender as a restricted free agent. The Raiders like Stacy McGee, though he has long looked forward to hitting a free agent market he’s expected to explore.

The Raiders hope to keep Andre Holmes in town, sources say. He offers solid receiver depth and excellent kick and punt coverage. He has reportedly attractive attention from other teams.

The Raiders have a need at running back. While that’s a sexy position, it may take some time to develop. There’s an excellent draft class ripe for picking in April, with several veteran options looking for teams.

Incumbent Latavius Murray has hit the market, and while it’s distinctly possible, maybe probable, that he finds another team, the Raiders haven’t eliminated the prospect of re-signing him. Should the Raiders choose a veteran running back with the size they’re looking for not named Murray, Eddie Lacy or LeGarrette Blount could be options. Adrian Peterson’s camp keeps mentioning the Raiders as a possible landing spot, it’s uncertain what type of deal would prompt a match.

The Raiders need a slot cornerback or versatile defensive back to add to the mix. Green Bay’s Micah Hyde seems to fit that bill perfectly, though it’s uncertain whether the Raiders have interest. They could look to other slot options, return to DJ Hayden or find one early in the NFL draft.

There’s plenty the Raiders can do in free agency, even if they don’t do quite as many big deals as years past.

Report: Raiders trade FB Jamize Olawale to Cowboys


Report: Raiders trade FB Jamize Olawale to Cowboys

The Raiders lured fullback Keith Smith away from Dallas in free agency. The Cowboys suddenly had a need at the position, and called a Raiders team with a surplus.

They wanted Jamize Olawale, a tough, faster-than-you-think blocking back with receiving skill.

A draft pick swap got it done.

The Raiders traded Olawale and the No. 192 overall pick to Dallas for the No. 173 overall selection. NFL Network first reported the news. The Dallas Morning News revealed trade details.

The Raiders didn’t have a fifth-round pick this year, but now have two after trading Olawale and WR Cordarrelle Patterson in combination with a glut of sixth-round selections. They still have four remaining.

Smith is more of a true blocking fullback Gruden sought. Olawale doesn’t fit that old school mold, but is a versatile player who can produce if used correctly. He has dealt with injuries in the recent past, which also may have been a knock against him.

This thins the running back room a bit, but more ball carriers will be jettisoned before the season starts.

The trade also saved $1.6 million in salary cap space, important for a team where every little bit counts this offseason.

Olawale returns to the team that originally signed him as an 2012 undrafted free agent. He was cut at preseason’s end, and picked up by Oakland. He enjoyed a productive tenure in silver and black, though he wasn’t used much by 2016 offensive coordinator Todd Downing.

The Raiders aren’t necessarily done in free agency. They have a little cap space left, and could look for another receiver or defensive lineman. Middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman remains on the open market, and the Raiders hope to have him back.

Quarterback drafted by Jon Gruden in 2008 signs with Raiders


Quarterback drafted by Jon Gruden in 2008 signs with Raiders

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden had a hand in drafting Josh Johnson a decade ago. The agile quarterback and Oakland native was a Tampa Bay’s fifth-round pick in 2008, Gruden’s last year as Buccaneers coach.

The pair will reunite in Johnson’s hometown. The well-traveled quarterback signed with the Raiders on Monday, the team announced.

Johnson will compete with Connor Cook to backup starter Derek Carr, and brings a veteran’s influence to the position group. It likely spells the end of EJ Manuel’s short tenure in silver and black. The strong-armed former first-round pick, who started one game last season, remains a free agent after a year with the Raiders.

This move should make Marshawn Lynch happy. He and Johnson are extremely close and together run the Family First Foundation, a charitable organization that does significant work for East Bay kids. Johnson and Lynch also played football together at Oakland Tech High.

Johnson has played 10 NFL teams prior to this Raiders stop, but hasn’t played in a regular-season game for some time.