The following is an article I had written about the Raiders 2016 offseason transactions. Originally posted for Tricycle Offense, I give a a brief description and reasoning into why they signed the players they did and why those contracts were constructed.
It’s time I step away from my Browns articles and take a look at a team on the rise, the Oakland Raiders. They’ve been able to draft well in recent years, giving the team a solid young core to build their roster around. The Raiders were able to utilize Free Agency this offseason to truly complement that core unit. The team knew they had money to spend and they definitely weren’t frugal. Here’s an overview of what Oakland has done this offseason.
The first thing the team did, which actually happened at the end of last season, was signed WR Michael Crabtree to a four-year extension. After this season, if Crabtree underperforms like he was notorious for doing in San Francisco, they can let him go without any penalties. I don’t think he will underperform, though, as I think he is the perfect Robin to the team’s WR Batman, Amari Cooper. Crabtree is in a complementary role, but is one that can step up if he needs to.
The offensive line was a weak spot for the team last year. They clearly identified that as a top priority and signed left guard Kelechi Osemele the first day of free agency to a huge five-year contract. But the beauty of the contract is it’s basically a two-year contract; once the third year hits they can release him without cap penalties.
The team was able to add depth to their WR corps by signing Andre Holmes to a one-year, show-me type contract as well.
The defense is where the team is going to see the most change, in my opinion. They signed the best CB that was on the market at the time in Sean Smith. His contract is a four-year contract, but again the team can get away from it after two seasons if they feel they need to. I liked the signing as well because it acts as an insurance policy in case they can’t get DJ Hayden signed to a contract extension before the end of the upcoming season.
To help solidify their secondary, the team also signed safety Reggie Nelson to a two-year contract. Like Andre Holmes, Nelson’s contract is more of a one-year, show-me contract as they can let him go after this season. I think Nelson was signed to provide some leadership to the secondary as well, because he’s entering his tenth season, the last six of those being with the Bengals. The Bengals have made the playoffs every season since 2011.
The last big signing that the team made was signing LB Bruce Irvin to a four-year contract. Just like all the other contracts, the Raiders can release Irvin after two seasons, if they feel they need to. Irvin has been to two Super Bowls, with one of those resulting in a championship ring. The fact that Seattle let him go doesn’t make much sense in my mind, but I’m also a little partial because Irvin is from WVU. The Raiders realized that he would also complement Kahlil Mack as a pass rusher. Mack’s rookie contract is up in two-seasons as well.
After the signings, the Raiders have a little less than $10 million in cap space. The offense was already good; the extension of Crabtree was a way for the front office to keep some continuity on that side of the ball for the upcoming season. Signing Osemele seems more like a way to say they tried working on improving what they believed to be a weakness.
The defensive side of the ball is where I believe the most progress was made. They signed two very strong secondary players that should help them to stop opposing teams passing attacks. Smith was part of a really good defense in Kansas City and Nelson has been in the playoffs since 2011. When you add to that the signing of Irvin, who’s been to the Super Bowl multiple times with a great defense, and a major contributor on that defense, and you can see the mindset of the front office. They are well aware of how close they were to the playoffs last season, and they made smart commitments with these players to show their incumbents that they are serious about becoming a playoff team.
These three signings also tell me that the defense is going to be a lot more aggressive next season. When you sign a good pass rushing linebacker to play on the opposite edge of another good pass rushing linebacker, you’re telling the rest of the league that you plan on smothering their quarterbacks.
The last point about all of these contracts are the structure of them all. They scream “our time is now.” However, when you look deeper, they were also structured in this way because of the commitments they think they may have to make to their incumbents. Both quarterback Derek Carr and Mack have two years left on their contracts. Amari Cooper has three years left. By signing all the free agents to contracts that give them freedom to release without penalties after two seasons, the front office was able to maintain a way to sign the young core (Carr, Cooper and Mack) to extensions when the time comes.
The Raiders are on the cusp of being a playoff team, and these were moves that were necessary for the team to make in order to try to propel them into the playoffs this season as well as maintain the ability to take care of their own when the time comes.
Originally posted via Tricycle Offense.