Some Raiders fans would rather clean the gutters on their house, prepare their taxes or have their wisdom teeth pulled rather than watch the New England Patriots in today’s Super Bowl. We’re here to offer you a way to watch the game in a way that will take your mind off the despised Patriots and keep the focus on your beloved Raiders.
Besides watching the game in hopes of seeing the Philadelphia Eagles upsetting the Patriots, it’s worth Raiders fans watching the game to get a detailed look at some of the potential free agents from both teams that the Raiders should target next month.
As we pointed out in an earlier story, one of the ways for the Raiders to close the gap on the league’s top teams is to sign one or more of their players. The Raiders are in a position to do just that when free agency rolls around in mid-March. Here’s a primer on the players we recommend general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Jon Gruden consider.
It’s uncertain whether Gruden wants running back Marshawn Lynch back for a second season in a Raiders uniform. Several reports painted Lynch in a negative light and as being a divisive force last season. Cutting ties with Lynch would leave a sizable void.
Gruden has no lead-back options on his roster, given Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington aren’t built to be every-down backs. However, he has plenty of options in free agency, including the 49ers’ Carlos Hyde, Dallas’ Alfred Morris and maybe even Le’Veon Bell, if the Pittsburgh Steelers deem it to expensive to re-sign him to a long-term contract.
The other attractive running back options will be featured in today’s game, though none qualifies as a bonafide every-down back. But they are players that could make the Raiders better.
For the Eagles, LeGarrette Blount and Darren Sproles are slated to be free agents. Each comes with baggage. Blount just turned 31, and he has taken a lot of hits during his eight-year career. Sproles, 34, missed most of this season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and broken arm. His value would come as a third-down back and punt returner, two things the Raiders lack.
The Patriots risk losing backs Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead, two key components to their versatile offense. Lewis is the most intriguing one here. He turns 28 in September and doesn’t have a lot of wear and tear on his body. He has the ability to carry a sizable load in the run game, as well as being a potent receiver and kick returner.
Elsewhere, the Raiders can use help at linebacker. When don’t they need help in this area? Well, signing Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham would give the Raiders a stud in the middle of their defense. He will be 29 in September but still has plenty to offer. The Eagles learned just how valuable Bradham can be when they lost Jordan Hicks for the season and Bradham seized the reins as a leader and playmaker.
Amari Cooper is the only wide receiver assured a roster spot for the Raiders in 2018. Michael Crabtree might be a cap casualty, whereas Seth Roberts, Cordarrelle Patterson and Johnny Holton all are replaceable.
Imagine Danny Amendola as Derek Carr’s new safety blanket, hot read and third-down option? Yes, Amendola is getting old, but he still knows how to get open and make plays on a consistent basis. That’s more than can be said of the Raiders receivers in 2017. Amendola, 32, is eligible for free agency.
The Raiders forced Sebastian Janikowski to take a pay cut just before the season started, then placed him on injured reserve and went with Giorgio Tavecchio the whole season. Both are free agents now.
One potential option is Eagles kicker Caleb Sturgis, who suffered a season-ending injury in the Eagles’ opener this season. He’s now looking for a job after being phased out by Jake Elliott. Sturgis is a solid kicker and can be had for less than the $3 million Janikowski earned this season.
The Raiders don’t have any legitimate starting cornerbacks, unless David Amerson regains the form he showed in 2016 or second-year player Gareon Conley overcomes his shin splints and produces right away.
Two potential replacements are in today’s game: New England’s Malcolm Butler and Philadelphia’s Patrick Robinson. Butler is younger and has played in more big games. Robinson will be 31 next season, but he showed this season that he has the ability to be counted upon in a starring role.
As we wrote about earlier, Patriots offensive tackles Nate Solder and Cameron Fleming are slated to hit free agency. Solder is younger and better than current Raiders left tackle Donald Penn, but he might ask too much for the Raiders to stomach. Fleming is younger and more inexperienced, but he responded well this season when asked to fill in for injured right tackle Marcus Cannon. He would be a nice replacement for Marshall Newhouse.
One other player worth pointing out is Patriots outside linebacker Marquis Flowers, who started two games and posted 3 ½ sacks. He is young, relatively unknown but quite intriguing.
So, don’t fixate on the Patriots and their quest to win a sixth Super Bowl title since the Tuck Game. Focus on the players in today’s game that can help the Raiders overtake the Patriots next season.