Oakland Raiders Free Agency: Examining the Roster, One Week Later

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Oct 12, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders tackle Donald Penn (72) defends San Diego Chargers linebacker Dwight Freeney (93) at O.co Coliseum. The Chargers defeated the Raiders 31-28. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

5. Offensive Line

Players lost or released: Stefen Wisniewski

Players signed: Rodney Hudson

Incumbents: Donald Penn, Gabe Jackson, Austin Howard, Khalif Barnes, Menelik Watson, Kevin Boothe, Tony Bergstrom, Matt McCants, Daniel Kister, Lamar Mady

Probable starters: Donald Penn, Gabe Jackson, Rodney Hudson, Khalif Barnes, Austin Howard

Reggie McKenzie understands that NFL teams live and die by their offensive lines, and he has made the OL a priority for free agent acquisitions over the past two years. While taking flak for allowing quality young drafted talent to walk (Jared Veldheer, and now Stefen Wisniewski), McKenzie has signed a number of quality veteran players to the offensive line in an effort to protect his young quarterback and now to improve a woefully bad run game.

Last year, McKenzie let Jared Veldheer walk and signed Donald Penn, Austin Howard, and Kevin Boothe while re-signing Khalif Barnes and then drafting Gabe Jackson in the 3rd round. Penn had a remarkable season for the Raiders last season as Derek Carr’s blind-side protector, Boothe added quality veteran depth at guard and center, and Howard started most of the year at right guard, though he did struggle as a run-blocking guard. Gabe Jackson, meanwhile, took over the left guard spot as a rookie and will likely hold onto it for years to come.

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Ryan Kelly would be a fantastic center for the Arizona Cardinals
Ryan Kelly would be a fantastic center for the Arizona Cardinals /

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  • This year, McKenzie spent a ton of money to bring in free agent center Rodney Hudson, widely regarded as one of the best centers in the league, and a huge upgrade from Stefen Wisniewski, who is still looking for love on the open market. There has been noise about moving Austin Howard to right tackle for 2015, where he is a more natural fit.

    Four of the five positions on the Raider O-line now have clear-cut, quality starters: Penn at LT, Jackson at LG, Hudson at C, and Howard at RT. Khalif Barnes, normally a tackle, has played some very capable guard in the past, and with his relatively quick feet he may be a better fit as a pulling, trapping guard than Howard, and could be the starter there. Tony Bergstrom, Reggie McKenzie’s first draft pick as head coach of the Raiders, is also a potential fit for that spot, as is Kevin Boothe, the veteran.

    With four positions filled and quite a few fits for the one questionable spot, as well as a lot of second-string depth (Bergstrom, Boothe, Menelik Watson, Dan Kister, Lamar Mady) the offensive line is not a crucial need for the Raiders for 2015 season. Still, Reggie McKenzie has drafted an offensive lineman in all three drafts with the Raiders, so look for the Raiders to potentially add one more to the mix in the later rounds of the draft, and a priority UDFA as well.

    Next: Raiders Roster Breakdown: Defensive Line