The Raiders had four exclusive rights free agents heading into the 2017 league year. On Thursday, Oakland offered contract tenders to three of them.
Receiver Seth Roberts, offensive lineman Denver Kirkland and tight end Gabe Holmes were tendered, a source told CSN Bay Area on Thursday. Defensive back SaQwan Edwards, who was on injured reserve starting with last season’s offseason program, was not.
Exclusive rights free agents, players with two years or fewer NFL experience, offered tenders are essentially bound to their NFL team. They can’t negotiate with other teams, and must sign the contract offer or sit out the season.
All three tendered players will sign in time. All three were slam-dunks.
Roberts is the Raiders’ primary slot receiver. He has 70 catches for 877 yards and 10 touchdowns over the past two seasons. The Raiders love him, and hope to develop him further and steady occasionally unsure hands.
Kirkland is a versatile offensive lineman who can play guard or tackle, and frequently operated as a sixth offensive lineman after he was signed off the practice squad.
The Raiders have high hopes for Holmes, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury during 2016 training camp. He spent 2015 on the practice squad, with a few games on the active roster.
As the Raiders overhaul their receiving corps, they are meeting with a versatile veteran on Tuesday.
Eric Decker, who spent the 2017 season with the Titans, is visiting the Raiders, according to The Athletic and ESPN.
A third-round pick out of Minnesota in 2010, the 31-year-old Decker spent the first four seasons of his career with the Broncos. He put up huge numbers in 2012 and 2013 with 2,352 receiving yards and 24 total touchdowns over those two seasons.
He turned his success with the Broncos into a five-year, $36 million contract with the Jets. He lived up to the contract the first two seasons, but after playing in just three games in 2016, the Jets released him.
So far this offseason, the Raiders have added veteran Jordy Nelson and Griff Whalen while releasing Michael Crabtree and trading Cordarrelle Patterson to New England.
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.