With an estimated $14,264,793 in cap space accounting for the 2016 NFL Draft pool (per Spotrac), the Oakland Raiders have the flexibility to add a few bargain veterans at key positions. To put the finishing touches on what has been a great offseason, the front office must keep pushing to set the Reggie McKenzie and Co. up for their first winning season since 2002. Here are three players that could help Oakland succeed in 2016 (plus a bonus!).
Reggie Nelson, S
The current starters at safety are very much penciled-in as Nate Allen and Tevin McDonald, so an infusion of talent and veteran savvy is badly needed. For ProFootballFocus‘ highest rated defensive free agent remaining, age (32) may be the reason Reggie Nelson’s market has been slow to develop.
Nelson has accrued 30 interceptions over a 9-year career playing Free Safety for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati Bengals. In 2015, the Raiders finished 26th in passing yards allowed and gave up 56 plays of 20 yards or more despite a resurgent season from the ageless Charles Woodson. Nelson would solidify the back-end and give Oakland’s pass rushers that much more time to wreak havoc.
Tony Jefferson, S
Recent reports have stated that the Raiders will not be pursuing Tony Jefferson, but I could see that tune changing in the coming weeks (see: Nate Allen, Tevin McDonald). Entering his 4th year in the NFL, Jefferson is only 24 and has shown the promise of being a well-rounded in-the-box safety.
A successful signing of the former Oklahoma Sooner would also allow Reggie McKenzie to move on from the bad taste of last year’s failed RFA attempt, Sean Richardson.
Karlos Dansby, ILB
Despite turning 34 this past year, Karlos Dansby showed that he can still play quality downs in the middle of the defense. Over his 12 year career, Dansby has been a model of consistency, averaging 100 tackles and over 3 sacks per season. Unlike last year’s bust signing Curtis Lofton, Dansby is skilled in coverage, garnering ProFootballFocus‘ 5th best coverage rating among linebackers.
Signing the veteran Dansby would allow Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton, Jr. to move the athletic but undersized Malcolm Smith outside in certain packages, while providing 2nd-year linebacker Ben Heeney with another year as a reserve to continue his development.
Bonus: Aldon Smith, EDGE
So why have the Raiders seemingly halted their spending after the big three additions of Smith, Osemele, and Irvin? Three words: Aldon Jacarus Smith. Smith is eligible to return from a one-year ban in November, just in time for a Raiders postseason run.
While there is strong interest from both sides, it is unlikely a signing will occur before this April’s draft, as the Oakland front office wants to ensure that Smith is getting his mind right. Any long-term deal with the talented but troubled pass rusher will likely mimic last year’s incentive laden deal ($3 million base and $5 million for sack incentives). Smith is likely the reason for the Raiders halt in spending, and he could be well worth the wait if his problems are behind him.