Taking stock of Raiders' free agents


Taking stock of Raiders' free agents

Culling different sources and reports, it appears the Raiders have 21 contracts expiring, with 16 unrestricted free agents, two restricted free agents and three exclusive rights free agents.The NFL's franchise tag deadline date is Feb. 20, with free agency beginning March 13.A look, then, at the purported 21 contracts expiring for the Raiders

SS Tyvon Branch -- A focal point on being retained, especially with new coach Dennis Allen's defensive mindset that could make Branch more of a playmaker in the secondary.RB Michael Bush -- A likely Franchise Tag candidate, what with Darren McFadden's health an issue every season and Bush showing he can carry the load.QB Jason Campbell -- Likely gone to sign elsewhere, even if his skill set is more geared towards a West Coast offense than that of Carson Palmer.LB Quentin Groves -- He predicted he had already played his last game as a Raider, but might he be more useful with a combo of 4-3 and 3-4 packages?OL Stephon Heyer -- Valuable cog on the O-line, but can he play in the zone-blocking scheme coming down the pike?DE Jarvis Moss -- Another 'tweener' at end and linebacker who might be useful in a hybrid defense championed by Allen and new D.C. Jason Tarver.C Samson Satele -- Thought to be too small for last year's power blocking scheme, Satele actually came to Oakland to play in Tom Cable's zone-blocking scheme.WR Chaz Schilens -- Potential can only get you so far before consistent results validate it. Raiders seem set on WR corps sans Schilens.DE Trevor Scott -- Has not been his sack-happy self since blowing out a knee on special teams at Pittsburgh in 2010. Could add depth though, especially since he has played both DE and LB.S Matt Giordano -- The only member of the roster to have actually played for Allen, in New Orleans. What he lacked in speed he made up for in guile.CB Lito Sheppard -- His best days are behind him, as evidenced by the clinic San Diego's receivers gave him in the season finale.RT Khalif Barnes -- Had a better season than expected at RT and might come back if the Raiders don't think Joseph Barksdale is ready.QB Kyle Boller -- Tied too closely to Hue Jackson to bring back in a backup role.WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh -- See above.RB Rock Cartwright -- Two-time Commitment to Excellence Award winner is a soothing locker room presence that could help with coaching transition.LB Darryl Blackstock -- Tied too closely to former D.C. Chuck Bresnahan to bring back, though he did do work on special teams.RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
DL Desmond Bryant -- Undrafted Ivy Leaguer continues to impress, and could thrive as an end in a 3-4 variation.FB Marcel Reece -- The most dynamic fullback in the league thrived in Jackson's offense. What about in Greg Knapp's?EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
S Jerome Boyd -- Practice squad refugee had a tough season after a good camp.DL Mason Brodine -- Practice squad refugee is young and cheap and might provide depth, or head back to the practice squad.CBKR Bryan McCann -- Made more of a mark as a returner, but is expendable with a healthy Jacoby Ford.

Norton looks at his Seahawks days to slow down Brady: 'I have a good feel'


Norton looks at his Seahawks days to slow down Brady: 'I have a good feel'

ALAMEDA – Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. has a good feel for Tom Brady. He faced New England’s legendary quarterback three times as Seattle’s linebackers coach, with some positive results. The Seahawks won two regular-season games and lost the Super Bowl at the last second.

He knows what worked then, and believes that should help prepare the Raiders defense for what’s coming Sunday in Mexico City.

“I played Brady a couple years ago in the Super Bowl with Seattle. We played very well against him,” Norton said Thursday afternoon. “I’ve had some success against him so I have a good feel for what can be done and what cannot be done. It’s just a matter of having the right emphasis and the ability to make the plays.

“Having a guy like (Brady) on the team who’s capable at any point of throwing a deep ball, capable at any point of getting it to the right players at the right time. He understands who is around him. He understands how to get the ball to the guys. He’s got a long resume of doing it well.”

Having success against Brady, however, is a relative term. He still produced against a loaded Seattle defense far better than this year’s Raiders unit. He will produce again Sunday, even if most goes right. Limitation, however, if key.

Norton believes certain things are essential when facing a Patriots team. Sure tackling. Impacting the quarterback.

The first is vital, something the Raiders have done well save a Week 9 win over Miami. The Raiders have to limit explosives and keep the ball in front of them, especially with the way Brady likes to play.

“The Patriots do a really good job of underneath coverage,” Norton said. “They have guys that catch and run really well. The backs, the tight ends, the matchups underneath, they catch and make people miss. They try to match up with your linebackers and safeties. They feel like their guys are pretty good. Tackling is something we’ve been really outstanding with all year but this last game against Miami we didn’t do so well and it kind of stands out, especially when it’s something we’ve taken a lot of pride in.

“I really feel like our emphasis and what we do well matches up well with that they try to do.”

There are some problem spots. One is limiting deep shots, something Brady has unleashed with startling efficiency. He’s 19-for47 for 410 yards and four touchdowns on passes of 20-plus yards, with speedsters Brandin Cooks and Phillip Dorsett able to haul them in. The Raiders have proven vulnerable to track-star receivers. 

Impacting Brady is mandatory, but also difficult given his excellent pocket presence. He’s especially good at feeling pressure off the edge, where reigning defensive player of the year Khalil Mack typically lines up opposite Bruce Irvin.

Brady has proven vulnerable to interior pressure, which is why Mario Edwards Jr. will be an X-factor on passing downs. He has four sacks this season and needs to break free in the backfield to force difficult decisions or, at the very lest, disrupt New England’s timing.

Brady gets rid of the ball fast at times. Raiders rushers can’t get frustrated by that, especially Mack.

“If the quarterback is going to throw the ball in less than two seconds, it’s going to be tough to get there,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “So when the quarterback is throwing the ball quick like that, we’ve got to tackle and have their punt team come out. They’ll get tired of punting or turning the ball over and they’ll sit and hold the ball a little bit and Khalil can get there. If they’re throwing the ball in two seconds or less, it’s going to be hard to get sacks.”

The Raiders only have 13 sacks this season, second worst in the NFL. Getting a few could swing a tight game. Norton’s Raiders believe they have a solid plan to mitigate somewhat the Patriots ferocious attack, that features versatile tight ends allowing them to do different things from one personnel package.

Don’t expect a shutout, or anything close. The Raiders understand that, but believe they can mitigate some damage.

“If you go back to the New England Patriots five, six, eight years ago they’re doing similar things,” Norton said. “They do what they do really well. They’re a fine-tuned machine. Everybody knows exactly what their role is. Guys know exactly what’s expected of them. Obviously the quarterback is the heart and soul and the one that makes that train run. Really, really good players that really understand what their role is and play well against leverage, run after catch, tough and they make plays.”

Khalil Mack wants to be Raider for life: 'That’s a no-brainer for me'


Khalil Mack wants to be Raider for life: 'That’s a no-brainer for me'

The Raiders gave quarterback Derek Carr a massive contract extension last June. Right guard Gabe Jackson got paid later that month.

Khalil Mack’s big deal is coming, likely this offseason. Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie anticipates a deal getting done, and hopes Mack’s agent feels the same way.

Mack’s rep and Raiders contract folks will work out details of a massive contract extension. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year doesn’t have interest in all that. He has one preference above all.

Mack doesn’t want to go anywhere. He wants to stay with the Raiders long term.

“Of course. That’s not even a question,” Mack said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Bay Area’s Fallon Smith, which airs in this week's episode of "Raiders Central." “That’s a no-brainer for me, especially when you think about coming into this organization and try to build something special, that’s something you want to be a part of for a lifetime”

Mack has plenty of money, top-5 overall draft picks often do. The No. 5 selection in 2014 considered that first deal life-changing money, enough to help his family.

“That has been a treat for me so far,” Mack said.

He doesn’t daydream about signing a nine-figure contract. He doesn’t long to be the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player (although that might be in the cards, anyway).

“I’m not really even thinking about that,” Mack said. “I’m thinking about the Patriots, that’s just my focus that’s just my mindset – anybody who talked to me about that matter, whether it be my best friend, my mom, my dad, I tell them the same thing. I’m thinking about the Patriots and sacking Tom Brady.”

That, unlike signing a record contract, was a career a goal. Mack said in a post-draft press conference he wanted to sack legends. Peyton Manning and Brady topped the list.

Manning retired before Mack could check his box. Mack will have a second chance at Brady Sunday when the Raiders play New England in Mexico City. He had eight tackles and two quarterback hits against Brady’s Patriots in 2014, but didn’t bring the quarterback down.

Mack considered his third regular season game a welcome-to-the-NFL moment.

The University of Buffalo alum has accomplished a ton since then, with 34.5 sacks and last year’s top defensive honor to his credit. He’ll need a Herculean performance against the Patriots to help the Raiders win a pivotal game. A sack would certainly help, but Mack isn’t calling his shot.

“Yeah, I’m not one to talk,” Mack said. “I’ll express that when I get on the field, but I can’t wait, I can’t wait to play against him.”