This is a busy time for the Oakland Raiders.
First, team evaluators have been scouting in Indianapolis the past several days to look at the players who will be available for the 2014 Draft on May 8. But GM Reggie McKenzie and his staff are also working behind the scenes on free agency, which kicks off in less than two weeks on March 8.
With a surplus of salary cap space, NFL observers are wondering how bold the Raiders will get in free agency. Though McKenzie has said he’s going to spend the franchise’s money wisely, rumors already are swirling about what, if any, big-name and big-money free-agent deals the team might make that could have instant and far-reaching impacts on the 2014 team.
Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com in recent days, for instance, suggested that Oakland might be eager to go after a defensive end such as Jared Allen of the Vikings, one of the league’s best pass rushers.
By going after Allen and re-signing Lamarr Houston, the Raiders would have a pair of pressure defenders as a foundation to re-build the defense.
In addition, Gutierrez suggests Oakland might be interested in free-agent nose tackle/defensive end B.J. Raji, who played for the Packers when McKenzie was with the organization.
Gutierrez, in taking questions from readers, wrote: “I still see the Raiders making a run at Jared Allen as a defensive end, though, rather than the likes of Justin Tuck, Michael Bennett or Greg Hardy. And if the Raiders do sign that prototypical pass-rushing defensive end and re-sign Lamarr Houston, Houston would most likely move back to the left side.”
Getting Allen might be a very expensive proposition, however. He just finished a six-year, $73 million deal that included a $14.3 million base salary in 2013. He was the fourth-highest paid defensive end in the NFL last season.
Even though he’s past 30 (he’ll turn 32 in April), Allen’s production has remained high. Some injuries slowed him in 2013, but he still had 11½ sacks – along with 38 quarterback hurries/knockdowns -- and will be just three seasons removed from a 22-sack season in 2011. Since 2004, he leads all defensive ends in sacks, tackles for loss and solo tackles, is No. 2 in passes defensed and fourth in forced fumbles.
Certainly, in a division with opposing quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning, Alex Smith and Philip Rivers, the Raiders need to upgrade their ability to get to the quarterback, and Allen would certainly fit the bill.
But there’s no guarantee Allen will be available. Said new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports: “Hopefully we can get it worked out with him (Allen). We’ll see how it goes.”