Free Agency can have one of two effects on a team. Make the right moves at the right price and a cunning General Manager can add the pieces to the jigsaw that will make all the difference. Do it wrong and you run the risk of securing players that you have overpaid for and can only ever be a short term fix to a long term problem.
Make no bones about it; the Oakland Raiders were not a good team in 2013 and, with plenty of cap room available for the 2014 season, had plenty of opportunities to improve via Free Agency. Yet whether or not they have done that is open to debate. Bringing in Justin Tuck from the Giants, Lamarr Woodley from Pittsburgh and Antonio Smith from the Texans upgrades their pass rush, but in signing these players they have offered all more than the teams that know them best were willing to offer. That must say something about their perceived effectiveness over the next couple of years and with Tuck and Smith the wrong side of 30 they are short term moves at best.
On the offensive line the Raiders let Jared Veldheer go to Arizona and picked up Austin Howard from the Jets and an underperforming Kevin Boothe from the Giants, having stumbled through an attempted move for the Rams’ Rodger Saffold. Darren McFadden was resigned despite a disappointing 2013, albeit on a reportedly significantly decreased contract whilst Rashard Jennings has left for the Giants.
But it is at quarterback that the biggest move has been made. Just a year on from their ill fated trade for Matt Flynn, the Raiders have shown their desperation to get a proven signal caller in for the 2014 season by giving up a sixth round pick to the Texans for Matt Schaub. That they feared Cleveland may step in and pinch Schaub from under their noses if he hit Free Agency says much about their desperation.
Schaub’s time with the Texans was clearly done after a season in which he threw interceptions for fun and lost his starting job to an undrafted player who had started 2013 as third on the depth chart. Oakland clearly hope that Schaub is able to recapture the form and poise that helped take the Texans to the postseason as recently as 2012, but he will need his receiving corps to up their game for that to happen.
Thus far, the Raiders off season moves strikes of an ‘improve now’ rather than a ‘win now’ mentality. Oakland will surely be better in 2014, but how much is open to question. The draft takes on added significance, with the move for Schaub suggesting that maybe the Raiders are not sold on any of the ‘big’ name quarterbacks who are slated to be taken early. But in all likelihood Dennis Allen will not be around to worry about the success of these draft picks if the Raiders do not improve on the field in 2014.
It is this philosophy that has shaped the decisions made in Oakland this season. Whether they will be successful enough to at least make the team competitive is a question that will not be answered for sure until September, but even with these experienced veterans added to the roster the task is a large one.
If the Schaub/Tuck/Woodley moves do not pay off then there could be more of the same next season come Free Agency. But after so long without success in Oakland, maybe the time has come to be radical and take a longer view in terms of effecting real change. A short term fix is never going to get the Raiders back in the mix for the postseason...