Despite Missing on Stars, Raiders Improved in Free Agency

Outside analysts agree with McKenzie, Del Rio that multiple free-agent additions have made team deeper and more talented

The Raiders didn’t make the big splash in free agency that many had predicted.

They didn’t come away with defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, running back DeMarco Murray or one of several playmaking wide receivers.

Yet in the estimate of some, the Raiders made big strides forward through free agency, anyway.

A panel of NFL analysts this week awarded the Raiders a grade of B+ so far in free agency, the fifth-highest grade among all NFL teams.

Former NFL scout Matt Williamson wrote that the Raiders have used free agency to make themselves deeper and better in several areas.

Oakland has so far signed a league-high 10 players.

“The Raiders got way stronger at the two pivots, right up the middle with their big guys, which was a huge problem,” he wrote, citing the signing of former Chiefs center Rodney Hudson and former Cardinals defensive tackle Dan Williams.

He also liked the addition of middle linebacker Curtis Lofton and outside linebacker Malcolm Smith and safety Nate Allen.

Though Williamson wrote that “ideally” the Raiders would have added one of the biggest available players – such as Suh or Packers wideout Randall Cobb – he believes the Raiders are much better now with their volume of signings.

New Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio – as would be expected – also was positive this week about what the team has done in free agency in a sort of low-profile way.

“It wasn’t sexy, but it was a very effective, methodical approach to fill our needs,” Del Rio said this week, according to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Plus, the Raiders still have money to spend – they could add more players in free agency or pick up a big salary or two in trade – and have a full hand of drafts picks, including the fourth overall.

General manager Reggie McKenzie said one of the goals of this offseason was to get better and stay young, giving this roster a chance to grow and improve together. The average age of the signed free agents is only 26.2 years, Tafur reports.

In the past, the Raiders often have gone after older players with big names but perhaps past their prime.

“We wanted to get some guys (who) are in their prime and will give us a few years,” McKenzie told the Chronicle. “We felt like the leadership that we have now, we can just add to the roster to get better.”

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