The Raiders have a penchant for re-signing a majority of their prospective free agents. Doing so this season won’t be nearly as easy, given they have 22 such players, they are $11 million over the salary cap and there is a burning need to sign a few players in free agency.
Here is a breakdown of how new coach Dennis Allen and first-year general manager Reggie McKenzie figure to approach the daunting task of what to do with the long list:
Easy calls — Two of those names can be crossed off the list simply by offering restricted free agents Marcel Reece and Desmond Bryant one-year tenders. Both players are young, productive and won’t cost much.
The Raiders can let walk quarterbacks Jason Campbell and Kyle Boller, defensive end Trevor Scott, safety Jerome Boyd, cornerback Lito Sheppard, linebackers Ricky Brown, Quentin Groves and Darryl Blackstock and wide receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chaz Schilens.
They already have a starting quarterback in Carson Palmer and a No. 3 in Terrelle Pryor. Signing someone such as David Garrard would take care of the primary backup spot.
There is no burning need to bring back for any of the eight other veterans who are eligible to become free agents March 13.
Tough calls — Running back Michael Bush wants to be a starting running back. He realizes that isn’t apt to happen in Oakland as long as Darren McFadden is on the roster.
Therefore, Bush likely won’t be interested in a long-term contract. Given that, the Raiders have to decide whether they want to use the franchise tag on Bush, to the tune of $7.7 million or so for 2012.
McKenzie has a history of working for a team that finds unheralded running backs and develops them into productive players. He also has McFadden and Taiwan Jones on the roster.
That makes it unlikely that Bush will be franchise-tagged. If so, the only other player who might get that designation is strong safety Tyvon Branch.
It’s more likely that the Raiders will try to work out a long-term contract with Branch so that they can avoid committing a ton of money to Branch for 2012, when they need to use some of that money on other players.
Center Samson Satele was re-signed last year and started all season. It’s possible that the Raiders will switch second-year player Stefen Wisniewski from left guard to center and try someone else at guard. If not, look for Satele to be re-signed.
Toss-ups — Offensive linemen Stephon Heyer and Khalif Barnes, defensive end Jarvis Moss, safety Matt Giordano and running back Rock Cartwright played key roles last season.
Re-signing any of those players likely will depend upon their willingness to return at a modest price and whether they receive better offers elsewhere.
Once Allen and McKenzie sort out this mess, then they can turn their attention toward free agents from other teams.
As of now, the Raiders are in the market for a cornerback, wide receiver, linebacker and defensive lineman. Freeing up enough cap space will be key to placing the Raiders in a position to go after some of the top-tier players expected to hit the open market next month.
That process is underway right now. The Raiders can reach cap compliance by the March 13 deadline by cutting a few more players and/or restructuring wieghty contracts of players such as Palmer, linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, cornerback Chris Johnson, defensive tackles John Henderson and Tommy Kelly and free safety Michael Huff.
Here is the entire list of Oakland’s prospective free agents:
QB Jason Campbell
QB Kyle Boller
*FB Marcel Reece
RB Michael Bush
RB Rock Cartwright
WR Chaz Schilens
WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh
C Samson Satele
OT Khalif Barnes
OT Stephon Heyer
*DE Desmond Bryant
DE Trevor Scott
DE Jarvis Moss
LB Ricky Brown
LB Quentin Groves
LB Darryl Blackstock
CB Lito Sheppard
CB Stanford Routt
FS Matt Giordano
SS Tyvon Branch
SS Jerome Boyd
DB Bryan McCann
Follow me on Twitter: @corkonthenfl