2017 Free Agency: Names to Know and Possible Fits

Everyone’s favorite nerds, the good folks over at PFF, recently complied their list of the top 50 impending free agents:

I’ll handle the alley-oop when it’s lobbed my way, and that’s just what we’ll do with this list, as I’ve singled out a handful of names that I think could fit in Oakland. Keyword in all of this is “could”, of course.

Let’s quickly take a step back before we attempt to move forward. A brief explanation, if I may…

We know Raiders’ General Manager Reggie McKenzie spent in 2016:

…and while that was a lot of fun and the cash was plentiful, I don’t believe Reggie’s able to continue down that road again in 2017. With new deals for both Derek Carr and Khalil Mack on the horizon, along with other deserving players (Big Gabe Jackson comes to mind immediately), it’s time to be realistic as we approach March.

As of this writing, the Oakland Raiders find themselves inside the top fifteen as far as cap space is concerned with about $40 million to play with (via Over The Cap). Looking ahead, it’s all about keeping the aforementioned core intact, while (hopefully) drafting well and supplementing with a signing or two in free agency.

We can take this comment and read into it as much as we’d like I suppose:

McKenzie singles out the defense, but we know it’s all about improving across the board (happy to hear him put the onus on the defense, however). I examined the Raiders’ roster, ranked all the notable “holes”, and detailed how I’d address each of them in the draft:

For the most part, there’s a potential free agent on PFF’s list that’ll get the job done as well.

So, here we are, moving forward.

Who might the Raiders be interested in? These are the names I’d scribble down…

IDL Kawaan Short (Carolina Panthers)

Age entering the 2017 season: 28

There was plenty of discussion (rumors, even) of Short being put on the trade block during the 2016 season. Given his “down play”, contract status, and the overall state of the Panthers at the time (win/loss columns), many thought it made sense.

Now 28, Short looks destined to cash-in on the open market.

A presence on the interior is a big need for Oakland, but I imagine Short’s asking price puts Reggie and the Raiders on the outside looking in.

LB Melvin Ingram

Age entering the 2017 season: 28

Ingram’s gotten better with age, it appears.

Mel made PFF’s list in addition to this “Raiders wish list” for obvious reasons, most notably because he’s a good player. With that said, realistically, I’m not sure this one makes too much sense for Oakland.

In Madden, this is a no-brainer.

In 2017, my guess is that Los Angeles’s newest franchise slaps the tag on him and calls it a day.

Additionally, and as much as it pains me to admit it, I don’t necessarily see the fit in Oakland. While you can never have too much pressure off the edge (and with Aldon Smith’s status still up in the air), adding Ingram essentially relegates Bruce Irvin to a rotational role. We know Bruce got paid a pretty penny to bring his services for the East Bay, and my guess is that McKenzie’s more than content with what he brings to the table.

Oh, lastly: my favorite, disgruntled Chargers fan is advising fans of other franchises to proceed with caution (guarded optimism):

DL Calais Campbell

Age entering the 2017 season: 31

More help along the defensive line, and a player who’s playing the best football of his career. Who says no?

Problem is, as you could probably surmise, even at the “old age” of 31, he’ll have plenty of suitors. McKenzie’s not going to get into a bidding war with anyone, so we’ll have to go ahead and cross this name off the list as well. Watch out for Seattle to make a run for Campbell’s services:

FS Eric Berry

Age entering the 2017 season: 28

A popular name around #RaidersTwitter both this year and last, I don’t believe Kansas City has the funds to pony up and keep Berry around (back-to-back tags could be in play though, I think).

I’m interested if the cash is right, as Berry’s (quite easily) the superior player to Oakland’s current answer to the free safety question. Bolstering Oakland’s roster while weakening a division rival is an added bonus, as well.

Otherwise, I’m completely content looking for solutions via the draft, where there are a few options that should present themselves.

CB Stephon Gilmore

Age entering the 2017 season: 27

With the Sean Smith signing last offseason and the new contract thrown David Amerson’s way, I don’t expect Reggie McKenzie to scrap things so soon and start poking around for other player’s services. That’s a shame, because both players were underwhelming and suspect at times throughout the 2016 campaign.

I’ve gone on and on about completely revamping the secondary this offseason. I know I’ll have plenty of angry tweets dotting your timelines when both Smith and Amerson are starting this September.

Back to the mater at hand: Gilmore’s the cornerback you want to pay. My love for A.J. Bouye is well-documented, but my hunch is that a team will see a better return on investment with the former vs. the latter.

CB A.J. Bouye

Age entering the 2017 season: 26

Arguably the best cornerback in the league this previous season, Houston would be silly to let Bouye walk.

Unfortunately for the Texans, it feels as though we type that same sentence nearly every offseason when “premier shutdown cornerback X” is a pending free agent on “franchise Y” as said franchise watches that player chase all the pesos.

For Oakland, another player that will surely be out of McKenzie’s price range (and there’s still that annoying Sean Smith/David Amerson situation we spoke about earlier).

OT Andrew Whitworth

Age entering the 2017 season: 35

Can Andrew play right tackle? Asking for a friend.

SS Tony Jefferson

Age entering the 2017 season: 25

Much like Eric Berry, Tony Jefferson is a safety that has captured the hearts of #RaidersTwitter:

My only concern with Jefferson (other than the fact that he’s played his way to a big contract that may not be doable for the Raiders at this point) is one of position. Honestly, this could be me just overthinking things, too.

CB Trumaine Johnson

Age entering the 2017 season: 27

Johnson was an obvious target last season, high on many team’s wish list if I were to guess. The Rams’ were wise to slap the franchise tag on him and avoid any nonsense.

Fast-forward to 2017, and given the nature of his position, I’m sure the coin will still be there for Johnson this offseason.

However, big picture: Trumaine Johnson has regressed to the mean, and signing him now feels like paying Sean Smith or David Amerson all over again. Buyer beware.

WR DeSean Jackson

Age entering the 2017 season: 30

Other than Stephon Gilmore, DeSean Jackson might be my “favorite” free agent target this offseason.

We all remember the hashtag that followed DeSean around as soon as he left Philadelphia as thousands and thousands of Raiders’ fans campaigned to bring him to Oakland. Could we finally see the chapter written this offseason?

Despite the age, Jackson’s still got the burners, and he would be an incredible threat working out of the slot for Derek Carr and the already-potent Oakland offense.

Few more names to keep an eye on…

I’d also add LB Zach Brown, who was playing on a one-year deal in Buffalo.

McKenzie (and others) whiffed on Brown last offseason as he went on to be super-productive for the Bills. Chasing him in 2017 feels a little risky, as he may not pay dividends as expected. For the Raiders, regardless, he’d be an immediate upgrade. I’m not sure there’s a team in need of more help at the linebacker position than Oakland.

Catch me on Twitter: @StillRyanFive