Oakland Raiders Given B+ Free Agency Grade By ESPN


December 21, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie (left) and owner Mark Davis (right) before the game against the Buffalo Bills at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Failing to land a big name in 2015 NFL Free Agency, fans along with analysts were left with conflicting feelings regarding the Oakland Raiders 2015 NFL Free Agency haul. A group of players that addressed key needs for a team with one of the highest cap space numbers during the free agency sweepstakes improving the Raiders roster while not grabbing many headlines as the star players got paid handsomely by other teams while general manager Reggie McKenzie filled holes wherever possible by adding serviceable starters instead of one or two splashy additions.

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Because of that strategy from McKenzie, some felt the Raiders missed out on an opportunity to get franchise players they sorely lack, particularly proven veterans as outside of Khalil Mack the Oakland roster is devoid of a player that can be pointed to as one of the best in the league in their position. A roster that won just three games in the 2013 season to get to the point where they had massive cap space to spend and used it on modest improvements across the board, but not one signing that made the statement that the rebuilding days were being the Oakland franchise going into 2015.

Despite all of that there has been some positives done by the Raiders in filling holes at safety, defensive tackle and upgrading at center during the free agency peak period. The moves to bring in Nate Allen, Dan Williams and Rodney Hudson making the Raiders better while also keeping them cap flexible enough to make another push in 2016 after (hopefully) another draft year where they can get young starters to pair with their acquisitions.

A panel of ESPN analysts determined that shrewd spending by Reggie was enough for the Raiders to earn on of the better free agency grades of 2015, giving the team a B+ for filling some holes while not overspending for the sake of grabbing a big name. Defying the conspiracy amongst fans of the team that the national media are “Raider Haters” by giving the front office more credit than some local media gave McKenzie’s 2015 FA class with what was the fifth highest grade from ESPN’s panel.

From ESPN’s grade analysis of the Raiders Free Agency:

"“The Raiders got way stronger at the two pivots, right up the middle with their big guys, which was a huge problem,” Williamson said. “Both (center Rodney) Hudson and (defensive tackle Dan) Williams are really good players in their primes. (Middle linebacker Curtis) Lofton and (outside linebacker Malcolm) Smith are upgrades, but not great. (Safety Nate) Allen is worth the risk as a free safety. But you see Oakland in that Jaguars/Browns category with a ton of money to spend, no one to spend it on and difficulties finding guys to go there. Ideally, they would have landed a Randall Cobb or Ndamukong Suh.”"

The ESPN Insider crew echoed the positives of the Raiders free agency moves, a March haul that saw the team fill holes with players who are capable starters while maintaining future cap space that is needed for when they want to eventually make the push towards being a contender with some bigger name signings. Something that is completely fine for a team that is riding out the last year of the Peyton Manning era in Denver as a team that is firmly the fourth worst in their division presently in the AFC West, something that is unlikely to chance in 2015 even if they landed Randall Cobb or Ndamukong Suh.

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Because of the overall situation of the Raiders going into free agency the moves that were made should be viewed as positives as a still rebuilding team got better, but also kept themselves in a cap situation that will allow them to get even better in 2016 when they have a deeper pipeline of prospects through the draft. A slow and steady rebuild that has led to a poor W/L record in Oakland over recent years, but has fans feeling that a young core will eventually emerge to bring on victories.

ESPN’s insiders agree with the Oakland front office that slow and steady may be just be the best thing after a decade plus of trying to force a rise to contending that never happened. Time will tell how the patient rebuild pans out in terms of getting the franchise back to winning ways of the past, but for now the Raiders are sticking to a plan that was set forth when Reggie McKenzie was hired. A plan that is paying dividends, but without the splashy moves that used to grab the offseason headlines during the final years of Al Davis. For better or for worse, this team balances the cap situation methodically and wait for the right situations to bring in talent, something the franchise needed all along as they were mortgaging their future with bad contracts to hover around .500 or below for the decade following their AFC Championship run.