By Jerry McDonald
A look at positions of need and players the Raiders might consider when free agency opens at 1 p.m. Tuesday:
The most expensive cornerbacks figure to be Aqib Talib (Patriots) and Sean Smith (Dolphins), with Talib having the most baggage in terms of character but also the most skill. Smith’s size (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) and ability probably put him out of general manager Reggie McKenzie’s price range. Keenan Lewis (Steelers) had an excellent season and is only 26. Brent Grimes (Falcons) is 29 and coming off a torn Achilles, so the Raiders might be reluctant to go in that direction. Greg Toler (Cardinals) is a year removed from an ACL injury and is a year younger than Grimes. Cary Williams (Ravens) held up in coverage on a championship team.
If the Raiders are looking to squeeze a last double-digit sacks season out of a veteran player, John Abraham (Falcons) and Dwight Freeney (Colts) are available, although both probably will be looking to go to a contender. Some names to keep in mind: Elvis Dumervil if Denver declines to pay him the $12 million he is due, and 49ers interior linemen Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean Francois.
Paul Kruger (Ravens) is an option if the Raiders plan to play lots of 3-4 defense and surprise everyone by spending big. Erin Henderson (Vikings) is a two-down player who can stop the run. Lorenzo Alexander (Redskins) is a good locker-room guy and a special-teams standout. Shaun Phillips (Chargers) has been a thorn in the Raiders’ side for years as a pass rusher.
Phil Loadholt (Vikings) would fit nicely at right tackle in the Raiders’ gap and power blocking scheme, but he will be costly. Other players who could get snapped up quickly for big bucks include tackle Sebastian Vollmer (Patriots), tackle Jake Long (Dolphins), tackle Andre Smith (Bengals) and guard Andy Levitre (Bills). The second tier includes tackles Sam Baker (Falcons) and Jermon Bushrod (Saints). The Raiders have seen plenty of AFC West opponent Louis Vasquez (Chargers), who probably would come cheaper than fellow guard Brandon Moore (Jets).
The Raiders have needed a smart, tough, productive veteran for a few years. Greg Jennings (Packers) has a history with McKenzie.
Jared Cook (Titans) hasn’t had the kind of production to match his talent, and Tony Gonzalez (Falcons) reportedly wants to avoid training camp altogether not to mention make $7 million. Fred Davis (Redskins) is on the mend from a torn Achilles and could be had at a decent price. Delanie Walker (49ers) isn’t a move-the-chains receiver but is a punishing blocker, a special-teams player and a locker-room guy.
The Raiders need a reliable backup. Ahmad Bradshaw (Giants) has been productive in that role. Michael Turner (Falcons) is past his prime but could be a factor in a reduced role.
Presuming Carson Palmer returns, the Raiders are looking for a third quarterback to go along with Terrelle Pryor. Quarterbacks on the market include Jason Campbell (Bears), Tarvaris Jackson (Bills) and Drew Stanton (Colts).