After much back and forth with potential suitors including Oakland, free agent linebacker Zach Brown reportedly signed a deal with the Washington Redskins. Brown recorded 149 tackles in 2016, good enough for second in the league. With the lost prospect, the Raiders will have to look for another option to fill gaps on the defensive side of the ball. The pickings are slim in the free agent market, so the Raiders are getting revved up for the draft.
The signing was a little out of the blue, with most sources reporting the two top contenders were the Raiders and the Miami Dolphins. Obviously, neither the Raiders nor the Dolphins were willing to lay down the money to acquire Brown. All three teams struggle in his position, but Oakland has received an adequate LB option in Jelani Jenkins. With the likely re-signing of Perry Riley, Jr., the defense is not as bad off as fans fear.
Any free agents still worth picking up? Not for the money. A couple of lackluster quarterbacks and some all-but aged out running backs, plus a few sprinklings here and there of linemen. No chance in hell that the Raiders even sniff at another QB for the next few years, so the running backs are a discussion that is feasible, given the loss of Latavius Murray to the Vikings. Before the thought occurs, a swap with the Vikings for Adrian Peterson is not a fair deal. Adrian Peterson and former KC Chief Jamaal Charles are both still in limbo, for a good reason. They carry big names with them to wherever they end up, but they also carry a lot of baggage. Baggage that the Raiders can ill afford at a time when they’re on the cusp of bringing the team back from the doldrums. Jamaal Charles is coming off a 3-game season, sidelined with his second Achilles injury, certainly not a gamble worth taking. After the last few seasons from AP, no amount of Raider money is worth the headache that he’ll likely provide both on and off the field.
LeGarrette Blount remains on the market as well, but the price tag will be much higher than the Raiders are willing to plop down. If they have an opportunity to sign someone like Marshawn Lynch, as has been rumored for the last few weeks, there won’t even be a conversation about Blount. A veteran running back might benefit young bucks Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, but that purpose will likely be served just fine with the veteran kick-returner Cordarrelle Patterson, who could easily step into a running back role.
On the defensive side of the ball, Dwight Freeney is available, but he’s in his twilight. Even for only $1 million a year, there are better places to allocate that money, like juggernaut edge rusher Khalil Mack, who’s due for a new contract. Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins from New York is still a free agent, but he’s dreaming of money that he’s not worth. His numbers last year were sad, not worth $10 million per year in any market. His former Giants’ team is still interested in bringing him back for the 2017 season, but not for that price. Eventually, he’ll probably sign with the Giants, once his agents realize that their client’s market value is not in the multi-million bracket.
If the Raiders are going to find the right piece of that defensive puzzle, the only realistic place to look is the draft. With the strength of the defensive options that this year’s draft offers, someone worthwhile will certainly be available by the Raiders’ #24 pick. Speculations are common about Caleb Brantley, Malik McDowell, Reuben Foster, Zach Cunningham, Haason Reddick, and other similar players. While not many mock drafts agree on much, most agree that Reggie McKenzie is likely to add a linebacker to his repertoire.