Things are a little quieter these days since the initial wave of free agency occurred a few weeks ago. The Oakland Raiders, like many teams, are still keeping their eyes on the free agent market looking for players who will cost much less than those who signed over the first few days. Now is a good time to review the moves made so far.
Raiders Roster Taking Shape
Ranked as the second best guard coming out in the 2011 draft, Hudson was mentioned as being moved to center due to his limited frame. Hudson was selected 55th overall in the draft, seven spots behind incumbent starting center Stefen Wisniewski. Hudson, 6-2 299 lbs., was the third ranked center in the league last year and should be a significant upgrade over Wisniewski. Hudson signed a five year, $44.5 million contract with $12.6 million guaranteed.
Regarded as the third best defensive tackle coming out of the 2010 draft behind just Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy. Suh and McCoy went second and third overall in the first round while Williams fell to the Arizona Cardinals at number 26. Williams, 6-3 314 lbs., is known as a premier run stuffer who could start beside Justin Ellis, relegating Antonio Smith to a backup role at which he could excel as a third down pass rushing specialist. Williams was signed to a four year, $25.2 million contract with $15.2 million guaranteed.
Lofton was highly regarded coming out in the 2008 NFL draft, ranking first or second amongst the inside linebackers by draft experts. A surprising cut by the cap strapped New Orleans Saints this offseason, Lofton will step right in as the Raiders new starting Middle Linebacker. Not overly big at 6-0 241 lbs., Lofton has exceeded 100 tackles each season and has led his team in stops the last six seasons. Lofton signed a three year, $18 million contract with $6.5 million guaranteed.
Allen was rated as the fifth best safety in the 2010 NFL Draft. Ranked ahead of Allen was Eric Berry (chosen fifth overall), Earl Thomas (14th overall), Taylor Mays (49th overall), and Morgan Burnett (71st overall). Nate Allen though was the third safety off the board chosen by the Philadelphia Eagles with the 37th pick. Allen, 6-1 210 lbs., is a solid free safety with ten total interceptions over his five NFL seasons. The Raiders signed Allen to a four year, $23.4 million contract with $6.9 million guaranteed.
Helu was not ranked highly coming out of college. He was however known to be a very explosive runner with great acceleration to the hole. This reputation has continued in the NFL. At 5-11 215 lbs., Helu will continue to be the third down/change of pace back that he was in Washington who drafted Helu in the fourth round of the 2011 draft. . The Raiders will find a way to incorporate him into the passing game as well. Helu signed a modest two year, $4.1 million contract with $1 million guaranteed.
Drafted in the seventh round of the 2011 draft, Smith went on to become Super Bowl XLVIII MVP. Undersized at 6-0 229 lbs., Smith should provide solid depth and insurance in case weak side linebacker Sio Moore is slow to recover from hip surgery. His knowledge of Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton Jr’s philosophy will help as well. Smith signed a two year, $7 million contract with $3.75 million guaranteed.
Smith entered the NFL after being chosen by the New England Patriots in the fifth round of the 2011 draft. Known as a strong in-line blocker, and at 6-6 265 lbs., he fits in nicely with the Raiders who look to be more successful running the ball. Smith signed a three year, $9.1 million contract with $3.1 million guaranteed.
Ranked by everyone as the premier running back, and one of the best players overall, in the 2012 draft, Richardson has struggled so far in his young NFL career. At 5-9 225 lbs., Richardson has the size, and skill, to turn around his career and be a bell cow back. Signed to a team friendly two year, $3.9 million contract, and challenged by Head Coach Jack Del Rio to just simply come in and compete, Richardson should at least push young but talented Latavius Murray for the starting spot.
Drafted higher than expected by the Minnesota Vikings in the 2011 draft at twelve overall, Ponder is expected to come in to compete with Matt McGloin to be Derek Carr’s backup now that Matt Schaub has been released. Playing under Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave with the Vikings should give him an advantage over McGloin. Ponder signed just a one year, $750,000 contract with $1.5 million bonus.
The Raiders will undoubtedly continue to search the free agent market looking to solidify their team and provide depth before turning their attention to this year’s NFL draft.