Veteran defensive lineman Tommy Kelly may be done in Oakland. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The Oakland Raiders want to get better and they want to get cheaper.
So, it’s likely the team will say goodbye to defensive tackles Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly and possibly defensive end Matt Shaughnessy.
When the Raiders begin training camp this July, it’s possible that the Raiders’ defensive line could be the most revamped unit on the entire team.
As ESPN AFC West blogger Bill Williamson noted, Seymour will be an unrestricted free agent and has likely played his final game for the Raiders after four seasons. Now 33 and on the decline in his career, the Raiders certainly will save on Seymour to invest in younger talent.
In the same boat is Kelly, 32, who is signed for two more seasons, but is expensive. The Raiders could save more than $7 million for 2013 by releasing Kelly, who had just one sack and was in on 45 tackles in 16 games in 2012.
Williamson also projects that Shaughnessy, a free agent who lost playing time to Andre Carter, could go, especially because his production declined this past season.
Defensive tackle Desmond Bryant was one of the team’s best players this past season, but is a free agent and his return status is questionable. Defensive end Lamarr Houston, the Raiders’ most dynamic defensive lineman this past season with 67 tackles and 4½ sacks, could be the lone returner.
The Raiders have the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, and if they decide to stay at that spot they are projected by many to take a defensive tackle or end with the choice. Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei is one possibility, as is Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore and Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner. The Raiders could also trade down a bit, pick up more choices and still take defensive-line help in the middle of the first round.
The departure of Seymour, Kelly, Shaughnessy and perhaps Bryant would also open the door for two 2012 draft picks, defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi (just eight tackles in 2012) and Jack Crawford (three tackles) to compete for playing time.
Though the Raiders defense often disappointed in 2012 – for most of the season it ranked No. 1 in the NFL in points allowed per game, before improving slightly over the final four games – defensive coordinator Jason Tarver will return for 2013. His defensive line, however, will need to be much better.
Oakland finished 31st in the NFL, with just 25 sacks in 2012. That will need to be much better in 2013.