Raiders free agency in focus (part two)

Raiders free agency in focus (part two)

Al Davis and his crew have some tough decisions to make. Here's a list of 16 potential free agents on the Raiders roster and S&BI's take on what the team should do with them.

Players with asterisks are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents (UFA) but would become restricted if a new CBA is not reached:

DE Richard Seymour (UFA):
Years with Raiders: 1
2009 total salary: $3.7 million
Obtained from New England via trade just before the start of the 2009 regular season, Seymour seemed disenchanted with the idea of playing in Oakland but didn't let it affect his performance on the field. He finished with 47 tackles and four sacks while playing both at end and inside at tackle.
After the season, Seymour spoke to Boston radio station WEEI and surprisingly expressed interest in returning to the Raiders.
"It's always give and take on both sides as far as contract negotiations," Seymour said. "I would like to re-sign out in Oakland because I think when you can become a foundation piece and help turn an organization around, I mean that's a challenge to me. That's something where I am willing to take on that responsibility and that challenge."
S&BI's call: The Raiders gave up their first-round pick in 2011 to get Seymour away from the Pats. There's no way they let him walk away after one season. He'll either be slapped with the franchise tag or be given a massive new deal.

LB Jon Alston (UFA*):
Years with Raiders: 3
2009 total salary: $1 million
A solid special teams player who has also started at strongside linebacker. Landed on injured reserve in 2009 after early-season injury.
S&BI's call: Oakland puts a premium on its special teams players, and with little depth behind the starting linebackers, it's worth keeping Alston around at a reasonable price.

OL Khalif Barnes (UFA*):
Years with Raiders: 1
2009 total salary: $1.2 million

Was projected to start at left tackle for Oakland but got hurt in training camp and spent the rest of the season trying to catch up. Wound up playing right guard for one game but was replaced the following week.
S&BI's call: Barnes never lived up to expectations, though to be fair the Raiders were foolish for trying to move him to guard. A better idea would have been to try Barnes at right tackle. Instead, it's likely Barnes will be allowed to search for a new home.

LB Ricky Brown (UFA*):
Years with Raiders: 4
2009 total salary: $1.5 million
Brown is one of the Raiders emotional leaders, a ball of passion and energy who at times plays above his talent level. Landed on injured reserve for the second straight year.
S&BI's call: He could be Oakland's starting middle linebacker next year. There's no way they let him walk, not unless he has a serious setback in his rehab from ankle surgery.

S Hiram Eugene (RFA):
Years with Raiders: 4
2009 total salary: $466,760
Decent backup who wound up losing his starting job to Michael Huff midway through the year after the two split time through the first half of the season.
S&BI's call: With Huff finally playing up to his potential, and with youngsters Tyvon Branch and Mike Mitchell coming on, there's no need to waste the roster spot. It's time to let Eugene go.

QB Charlie Frye (UFA*):
Years with Raiders: 1
2009 total salary: $620,000
Third-stringer was pressed into starting duty for the final two games but suffered an injury against the Ravens and was unable to finish the day. Spent the first 14 weeks as the team's emergency quarterback.
S&BI's call: The coaching staff loves him, he has good rapport in the locker room, and you're not going to find a smarter third-stringer in the NFL. It's worth bringing him to camp, but if Oakland can upgrade its quarterback position by bringing in a free agent or two, Frye is expendable.

QB Bruce Gradkowski (UFA*):
Years with Raiders: 1
2009 total salary: $541,760
Came out of nowhere to become a fan favorite in Oakland. Gradkowski injected life into the offense and, although he has his own accuracy issues, he was by far the most effective quarterback the Raiders had.
S&BI's call: With JaMarcus Russell a shaky option at best, Oakland needs to stockpile quarterbacks heading into training camp. Although Gradkowski shouldn't be handed the starting job, he should be given every chance to win it outright. Plus the Raiders can sign him at a bargain rate.

RT Cornell Green (UFA):
Years with Raiders: 3
2009 total salary: $2 million
For the second straight year Oakland's offensive line had major issues on the right side. Green is a decent player but he gets overwhelmed by quicker, stronger defensive ends and isn't very consistent.
S&BI's call: They say you never make a change unless you have someone better to step in. In this case, the Raiders don't need to wait. They can either address the position in the draft or by bringing in a veteran free agent. Either way, it has to be a better option than Green.

LB Thomas Howard (UFA*):
Years with Raiders: 1
2009 total salary: $541,760
Started at weakside linebacker at the beginning of the season but was moved to the strong side to make room for Trevor Scott. Played well after making the change but prefers to be on the weak side.
S&BI's call: Of the two linebackers up for free agency, Howard is the one worth keeping most. While he still has issues defending the run, he's better in pass coverage than Kirk Morrison and can play both outside spots.

FB Luke Lawton (RFA):,br> Years with Raiders: 2
2009 total salary: $541,760
Starting fullback for the first 14 weeks until he was suspended for violating the NFL's policy for banned substances. It was his second positive test.
S&BI's call: Strike one, strike two …who needs a third strike? Gary Russell filled the fullback position and was infinitely more productive once Lawton was suspended. He also has to miss the first two games in 2010. The Raiders would be fools to even consider bringing him back.

OL Chris Morris (RFA):
Years with Raiders: 3
2009 total salary: $541,760
Valuable versatile reserve can play left guard and is the primary backup to starting center Samson Satele. Spent time at both positions in 2009 when injuries ravaged Oakland's line.
S&BI's call: Keep him. It's tough finding guys good enough to back up at one position. Morris handles two positions with equal success. He'll also push Satele for the starting job in camp.

LB Kirk Morrison (UFA*):
Years with Raiders: 5
2009 total salary: $2.3 million
Maybe the toughest call the Raiders have to make. Morrison is routinely among the league leaders in tackles but he's far from the impact player Oakland needs him to be, which is why the team gave Ricky Brown a long look at the middle linebacker spot in training camp.
S&BI's call: If the run defense is ever going to improve, the Raiders have to get a player who can make plays behind the line of scrimmage. All too often Morrison's tackles are made 5-6 yards downfield. Great guy, great personality but just not the guy to lead the defense to the promised land.

CB Stanford Routt (UFA*):
Years with Raiders: 5
2009 total salary: $621,560
Speedy former first-round draft pick manned the nickel back position but gained his biggest notoriety when he head-butted a Cleveland player during Oakland's Week 16 loss to the Browns and was ejected.
S&BI's call: Although he has several shortcomings on the field, he still flashes at times and makes just enough plays which will probably be enough to convince Davis to keep him. His speed alone is a security blanket in Oakland, but we'd prefer to bring Routt back only if a suitable upgrade couldn't be found.

FB Gary Russell (RFA):
Years with Raiders: 1
2009 total salary: $462,600
Moved to fullback late in the season and became a factor in the passing game, both as a receiver and an extra blocker. Didn't run the ball much due to the crowded situation in the Raiders' backfield.
S&BI's call: Just scratched the surface after making the position change. Showed good hands and is versatile enough to use as a tailback to throw opposing defenses a curve. Should be the starting fullback in 2010.

OL Langston Walker (UFA):
Years with Raiders: 6 (2002-06, 2009)
2009 total salary: $900,000
Former Raider returned late in the year and was pressed into duty at left guard against Denver. Did nothing special in that game and didn't stand out for anything much other than his weight.
S&BI's call: He was a nice fill-in, and if he can drop about 40-50 pounds he could be serviceable again. That's a lot to ask for, however, so Oakland should explore its other options.

LB Sam Williams (UFA):
Years with Raiders: 7 2009 total salary: $625,200
Long-time favorite of Al Davis, Williams started two games on defense but was most effective on special teams. When he did play defense, the former Fresno State star actually did well, surprising more than a few people within the team's headquarters.
S&BI's call: Normally we'd say it's time to part ways but Williams is a key special teams player and can fill in on the strong side of the defense. He's no longer an every-game starter but the Raiders could do worse for a backup.

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