So far, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie has been The Quiet Man.
McKenzie has plenty of money to spend in free agency, but has not given any indications which way he might be leaning when the free agency signing period opens Tuesday at 1 p.m. (PDT).
Will he go for big names, or wait for the first wave of the feeding frenzy to go by and then pick up less-costly players? Or will he dive right in, immediately, and shock the NFL with some bold, big-spending moves?
McKenzie has said his team needs a quarterback, yet hasn’t tipped his hand about whether he’ll search for one in free agency. But as the free-agent season kicks off, it makes more and more sense that Josh Freeman might be the best fit in Oakland, if McKenzie decides to sign a veteran to go into the spring workouts and summer training camp as its No. 1 quarterback.
That won’t mean the Raiders won’t then go after a quarterback in the draft, but it would give them more flexibility. With a quarterback such as Freeman signed, the Raiders – if they don’t believe in using the No. 5 overall pick on any of the college QBs available – could take an impact player at another position, then wait to the second round to grab a passer who could be developed behind Freeman and compete with Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin for the No. 2 job.
Several national NFL analysts in recent days have been pointing to a Freeman-Raiders alignment.
In a commentary posted Monday on ESPN.com, Jeffri Chadiha says the Raiders make the most sense for a number of reasons.
“The most obvious (landing spot for Freeman) is Oakland, where Freeman could reconnect with current Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson, the same assistant coach who helped Freeman enjoy his best year as a pro in Tampa,” wrote Chadiha.
“Freeman has been bashed so much lately that it’s easy to forget what he did in his second season as a starter with the Bucs.”
That year, Freeman was a Pro Bowl alternate, throwing 25 touchdown passes against just six picks, putting up a 61.4 completion percentage and leading Tampa Bay to 10 wins.
“What Freeman needed then was the same thing Olson could provide in Oakland. Trust. Structure. Guidance,” wrote Chadiha. “Given the current personnel at the position … it wouldn’t be a crazy move for the Raiders to see what Freeman could offer.”
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports also connects the dots to suggest that Freeman signs with McKenzie.
Freeman, still just 26, was a first-round pick out of Kansas State in 2009, when he was the 17th overall player taken. He still has first-round tools – a strong arm and good mobility – though his 2013 season was a disaster.
As La Canfora says, the Raiders need a veteran quarterback and, “Maybe Freeman finally is fully motivated and the light has come on. He will definitely come very, very cheap – always a plus in Oakland – and if someone throws him a lifeline, I believe it will be the Raiders.”
After a strong season in 2010, when he became Tampa Bay’s starter, he went south in 2011 before rebounding in 2012 (27 TDs vs. 17 interceptions). Then in 2013 he clashed with coach Greg Schiano, lost his starting job and was picked up by the Vikings, where he played just one game and looked bad.
But he’s just a year removed from throwing for more than 4,000 yards in 2012. Oakland could be the setting that allows Freeman to regain his form – and finally give the Raiders a young playmaker.
“Freeman could benefit from being around an offensive coordinator who understands his personality,” wrote Chadiha. “Olson knew how to motivate a quarterback who is mellow in nature, and he’ll also have the personal experience that should enable him to see beyond the character questions that plagued Freeman at the end of his time in Tampa.
“Sometimes, all a player needs is somebody who knows what’s in his head and his heart.”