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