What the Raiders have: To put it mildly, the Oakland Raiders have veterans who have enjoyed a Hall-of-Fame consideration (Warren Sapp) and a pretty solid (Ted Washington) career but have a lot to prove in 2004.
When the Raiders signed Sapp (Tampa Bay) and Washington (New England), they had visions of a defense that would stop any opponent in their tracks who tried to run the football.
Instead, the defense against the run, which was dead last in 2003, was only marginally better (No. 22 in the NFL in yards per game allowed) despite allowing a 3.7 yard per carry average (seventh best in the NFL). Numbers aside, the Raiders did not get the bang for their buck in signing Washington and Sapp to hefty contracts.
Oakland has since released John Parrella, who was a vital cog on the Raiders 2002 team but was a minimal factor last season. Tommy Kelly, on the other hand, was a pleasant surprise after making the team as an undrafted free agent. Despite not being an every down player, Kelly led the team in sacks (4.0).
What the Raiders might do: Since they invested so much in Washington and Sapp, Oakland will probably give both players at least one more shot to prove they were worth the investment.
The Raiders most pressing needs are clearly defensive end and linebacker but, unless Sapp and Washington suddenly play like they did in previous years, defensive tackle needs help too.
Again, Kelly was a nice surprise considering he was pretty much unknown last season. Can he be a starter? Who knows but at least he can bring some quality depth. The only other tackle by trade on the roster is Terdell Sands. Size (6-7, 330 pounds) is his greatest asset but nothing else.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org