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What's next at right tackle after Raiders release Marshall Newhouse

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AP

What's next at right tackle after Raiders release Marshall Newhouse

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden didn’t like what he saw from the right tackle spot while watching last year’s game tape. Marshall Newhouse didn’t hold up well, and Gruden said as much at the NFL combine.

That’s why it came as no surprise Newhouse was released on Monday, as the Raiders try to increase salary-cap space.

Newhouse could’ve earned up to $1.75 million next season, and the Raiders will avoid that cap charge.

Newhouse started 14 games last year, and played 841 offensive snaps. He struggled in pass protection, allowing eight sacks, three quarterback hits and 27 other pressures. He was an inconsistent run player, as the Raiders often struggled rushing to the right.

“We had some inconsistency at right tackle,” Gruden said the combine. “(Marshall Newhouse) had his moments where he played well, and moments where he obviously struggled.”

The Silver and Black relied heavily on him last year, especially when Donald Penn was holding out for a better contract. He played left tackle then, and move back to right tackle when Penn returned. He was a valued member of the locker room and a smart football mind who played through injury.

"There's a lot of change going on over there (in Oakland),” Newhouse told ESPN’s Josina Anderson. “Outside of Reggie, no one else familiar with me there. I'm a good pro & teammate. I have a lot of flexibility to live wherever in the country. Still young & healthy."

Jylan Ware and Vadal Alexander are in-house replacement options, but the Raiders are looking for an upgrade there, both in free agency and the NFL draft. They met with several offensive tackles at the combine, including higher profile members of the 2018 class. They need immediate help at right tackle and a left tackle of the future, with Donald Penn’s tenure over after 2019 at the latest.

It’s possible the Raiders look for an offensive tackle higher in the draft. Established veterans are often expensive in free agency. The Raiders don’t have tons of cap space, and have some pressing needs (like cornerback) they’d like to address on the open market.

They also hope to re-sign NaVorro Bowman and Denico Autry and TJ Carrie at the right price.

Raiders sign Stanford product

Receiver and return specialist Griff Whalen signed with the Silver and Black on Monday, the team announced. The Stanford product hasn’t played much in recent years and has limited stat totals, but will be allowed to compete for a job on special teams and on offense.

Raiders' exclusive negotiating window on Bowman, Autry, pending FAs closing soon

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AP

Raiders' exclusive negotiating window on Bowman, Autry, pending FAs closing soon

NFL free agency doesn’t start until Wednesday afternoon. The league’s exclusive negotiating window closes well before that.

Opponents can contact pending free agents (their representatives, anyway) starting Monday afternoon. That means the Raiders, like other teams, will soon face competition re-signing their own free agents.

Defensive tackle Justin Ellis’ deal got done beforehand. The Raiders have told Sebastian Janikowski and Jon Condo they won’t attempt to re-sign them.

That leaves seven players headed for unrestricted free agency, a group headlined by NaVorro Bowman, TJ Carrie and Denico Autry. The Raiders don’t have any restricted free agents (with three year’s service time), and therefore don’t need to tender players in that spot. They also have six exclusive rights free agents, including kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, who have to take low-cost tenders given to them. All six should get tenders and a chance to compete on the 90-man roster.

Allowing competition into the negotiating process doesn’t mean members of this free-agent class won’t return. It can often help the process. A market gets established, and the Raiders can choose to pay within that range or back off.

The Raiders, for example, have made it clear they want Bowman back. They value Autry, and Carrie could be a quality part of an upgraded cornerback corps. It’s certainly possible other teams outbid for those players.

The Raiders don’t have tons of cap space – they can easily create more by cutting veterans without guaranteed money – and could get priced out of prioritized re-signings.

Open talks could drive a market below an agent’s original asking price, providing value to a team’s proceedings.

It is believed Autry will hit Monday afternoon without a new deal. Time will tell regarding Bowman, Carrie and others. The Raiders let most of their free agents walk last year, despite a desire to retain quite a few.

The Raiders to bring some back, and will let others walk. It’s tough to tell exactly how they prioritize this year’s free agents. Jon Gruden’s influence is a bit of a wild card. Here’s a list of players with expiring contracts and whether or not the Raiders should bring them back.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

MLB NaVorro Bowman (YES) – Gruden and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther have intimated, or been express, about a desire to bring Bowman back. The dollars still have to match up.

CB TJ Carrie (YES) – Yet another productive member of the 2014 draft class could well return. Carrie proved a serviceable starter, and could be a good No. 3 with Conley and a free agent on the outside. Carrie wants to return. His market will dictate that.

DL Denico Autry (YES) – Re-signing Ellis constitutes a minor surprise, with Autry a more versatile talent. Brining him back seems logical, though he market may be higher than the Raiders hope.

TE Lee Smith (MAYBE) – Gruden made it clear the Raiders need a blocking tight end. Smith is pretty good doing that, though the coach’s opinion on the incumbent is unclear.

QB EJ Manuel (MAYBE) – Gruden was complimentary of 2016 fourth-round pick Connor Cook coming out of the draft, and could want to develop the Michigan State product. Manuel is a strong-armed backup with starter’s experience.

DB Keith McGill (NO) – One of a few 2014 draftees who didn’t pan out, McGill was a core special teams player who didn’t contribute much on defense.

S Reggie Nelson (NO) – The 34-year old’s tenure in Oakland may be up. He struggled at times last year.

LS Jon Condo, K Sebastian Janikowski – The Raiders will allow both veterans to leave in free agency.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

S Erik Harris, DE/LB Shilique Calhoun, OL Denver Kirkland, DE James Cowser, K Giorgio Tavecchio

Raiders keeping an eye on running backs market, deep draft class

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USATSI

Raiders keeping an eye on running backs market, deep draft class

Every incumbent Raiders running back remains under contract. That includes Marshawn Lynch, who is due roughly $6 million in salary and bonuses if he plays all year.

Head coach Jon Gruden said last week he’s counting on Lynch to contribute in 2018. Notice the wiggle room in there. There’s no firm commitment of a return despite the fact Gruden’s kind words last week (which you can read here).

Offensive line coach Tom Cable, especially, wants Lynch playing in silver and black next season.

Lynch is enigmatic, so uncertainty remains without a proclamation from team or player of a return. Some clarity could come soon. Lynch is due a $1 million roster bonus on March 18.

In addition to Lynch, The Raiders also have fullback Jamize Olawale in the mix. Young rushers DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard are coming off down years.

Gruden could certainly look for upgrades at the top or bottom of the depth chart. That’s why the Raiders will monitor the running back market in free agency and a deep draft class.

That’s why, according to NFL Network, Gruden met with former Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin. As a note, teams can meet and negotiate with players that get cut.

Teams can negotiate with pending free agents on Monday. Free agency formally opens Wednesday afternoon.

It’s uncertain whether Martin, who averaged 2.9 yards per carry the last two seasons, is a priority or a backup plan. Meeting with Martin and being associated with others could double as due diligence and leverage in a possible request to restructure Lynch’s contract. There are layers to all these associations. Some are real. Others are taken from the smallest scrap of information, used by agents to create a competitive market for their client. 

The Raiders are primarily focused on defense in free agency, but will explore upgrades at offensive skill positions. That includes running back, receiver and tight ends of various skill sets.

Wilkerson remains on McKenzie’s radar

General manager Reggie McKenzie has long been intrigued by defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson. Immense talent kept the New York Jets interested and the Temple grad handsomely paid over the years, but that time has passed. Wilkerson was released this week, and has started his free agent tour.

He has reportedly visited the Packers, Saints and Chiefs. ESPN reports the Raiders have interest, and could meet with Oakland in time. CBS Sports reports that Washington is next on his free-agent tour.

Wilkerson has had some dominant years, but his production has waned in recent seasons. He would be the three-down inside presence the Raiders need if he can find old form.

Raiders have “preliminary interest” in Sherman

The 49ers are putting effort into acquiring Richard Sherman, who was released Friday by Seattle. The Stanford product dined with Kyle Shanahan Friday night, the 49ers head coach told NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco, and he’ll reportedly visit the team’s Santa Clara complex on Saturday. If he leaves without a deal – it sure seems like the 49ers are pushing hard to land Sherman -- the Raiders could be a next stop.

Sherman, who represents himself, told ESPN’s Josina Anderson that he received preliminary interest from the 49ers, Raiders, Titans, Lions, Texans, Buccaneers and Packers. NFL Network reported Saturday afternoon that he'll visit the Lions next week if, of course, he leaves Santa Clara without a contract. 

Contract value (and health) could be an issue here. The Raiders don’t currently have tons of cap space, though it could be easily created with veteran cuts.

The Raiders are expected to address the cornerback position in free agency, either in the first or, more likely, second tier of the market.