With the long, grueling stretch in between the draft and minicamps and 2013 NFL Preseason dragging onto another week as everyone gets ready for the 2013 season the Oakland Raiders still have work to do when it comes to building a winning roster.
Reggie McKenzie still has some very visible holes in his pass rush as the Raiders have yet to come up with an answer as to who is going to replace who on a defensive line that is only returning Lamarr Houston.
Perhaps that is a good thing as the Raiders pass rush was absolutely horrific in 2012. Of the 32 teams in the NFL, the Silver and Black placed 31st in sacks. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars had a worse pass rush last season. Howie Long is probably still throwing up right now.
Pat Sims has been brought in by Reggie McKenzie as one of the replacements for 2013, but he isn’t an impact player and has never recorded more than 2.5 sacks in any season since coming into the NFL in 2008. Vance Walker was also brought in, but like Sims his biggest asset is that he costs less money than Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour.
McKenzie also lost Desmond Bryant on the line, and waited until the sixth round to pick a defensive lineman, citing the weak talent pool for pass rushers in the 2013 Draft, but which also means that some of the Raiders $7.6 million in remaining cap room will likely need to be spent on a defensive lineman. The good news is that there is an underrated diamond in the rough just waiting for McKenzie and the Raiders to swoop in as Israel Idonije is still up for grabs for NFL teams after his contract with the Chicago Bears expired this spring.
The Canadian defensive end posted seven sacks in 2012 and has been a quietly productive player for the past half decade, filling his role in the Chicago Bears stout defense and rarely ever missing a game. Idonije has played in 95 of the past 96 Bears games, and would be an impact player if given the chance to feature as one of the best players on a weak Raiders d-line.
Playing with the likes of Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher for his NFL career, Idonije could bring a winning presence and knowledge from one of the league’s best defenses of the 00′s into Oakland and on the cheap. Idonije’s one year, $2.5 million sets the price low on the veteran defensive end and the longer he goes unsigned before training camp the more likely that he could be one of the remaining veteran bargain specials in an offseason that has seen a youth movement around the league as teams have parted ways with long serving vets across the NFL.
Still, Idonije has some good football left in him as evidenced by his seven sacks in 2012 and as said earlier, would be one of the Raiders best pass rushers automatically while helping a young Raiders defense prepare for the future. Idonije is also consistent, posting 20 sacks over the past three seasons, meaning that even if he has a drop off in production he will likely be good for a handful of big plays wherever he goes this offseason.
Rookies still need to be signed, and McKenzie has a ton of cap space projected for 2014 so he won’t be looking for a multi-year deal that put him automatically out of the running for Desmond Bishop, but Idonije seems like a player that would answer all of the Raiders needs. A cheap veteran that plays the position that the Raiders sorely need to add depth to that would likely be willing to take a paycut for a two year deal seems like a move that McKenzie should be seeking.
Whether or not McKenzie has the underrated Idonije on his radar remains to be seen, but the former role player on the outstanding Bears defenses of the past and present decade that won an NFC Championship is up for grabs. Hopefully McKenzie gets him on the phone before somebody else does.