It's doubtful Al Davis will do the same thing again -- heck, he's already cut several of those players he signed last year -- but that doesn't mean the Raiders can't or won't be active players in the free agent market. Unfortunately for Oakland, though, much of the talent available is at positions where the team is already strong or has solidified starters.
Nevertheless, there are several players whom the Raiders need to keep on their radar and make a serious push for when free agency begins.
We've narrowed our list down to three players who should be at the top of Oakland's list given the current state of the team and where the Raiders need the most help, though a lot could happen between now and when the market opens.
If the Raiders could get any of the three, it would be a definitive step in the right direction toward ending the team's six-year playoff drought but they can expect plenty of competition in the bidding for their services.
Name: T. J. Houshmandzadeh
Position: Wide receiver
2008 Team: Cincinnati
2008 Stats: 92 receptions, 904 yards, 4 touchdowns in 15 games
The skinny: Houshmandzadeh has developed himself into one of the elite receivers in the league and put up very respectable numbers this season despite playing on a Cincinnati team that was pretty bad in all phases. Unlike Chad Ocho Cinco, Houshmandzadeh has been consistently productive for five straight years and is averaging just over 1,000 yards in that span.
Our take: The Raiders need a playmaker and Houshmandzadeh certainly fits that bill. He's still young enough to sign to a long-term deal and has shown the maturity and production needed from a No. 1 receiver. While they probably don't have the cash to get into a bidding war for him, the Raiders would give themselves a major shot in the arm if they could entice him to Oakland. They could easily save a ton of cash by dumping Javon Walker and giving that and some more to Houshmandzadeh.
Other options: Dallas' Roy Williams and New York's Amani Toomer
Name: Rocky Bernard
Position: Defensive tackle
2008 Team: Seattle
2008 Stats: Had four sacks and 55 tackles, including 43 solos that were 13th most among all NFL defensive linemen
The skinny: Bernard had some off-field issues that clouded his time in Seattle but on the field he's been nothing but productive the past three seasons for the Seahawks. Oakland doesn't have a lot of girth in the interior of its defensive line and the 308-pound Bernard would definitely take up space and swallow blockers, which in theory should free up teammates to make plays.
Our take: Oakland's run defense or lack thereof was the biggest issue the defense struggled with in 2008 and so fixing that has to be a primary concern. The Seahawks are in a massive rebuilding mode but Jim Mora Jr. is a defensive coach who might not want to let Bernard get away but the Raiders could significantly improve the middle of that defensive line by signing a guy like him. He's big, rangy and would enable Tommy Kelly and Gerard Warren to take longer breaks, which should then keep them fresher later in games.
Other options: Chicago's Tommie Harris and Tampa Bay's Jovan Hoye
Name: Mark Tauscher
Position: Right tackle
2008 Team: Green Bay
2008 Stats: Started 13 games for the Packers but tore an ACL in his left knee and ended the season on injured reserve
The skinny: Tauscher has been a mainstay for Green Bay's offensive line ever since 2000 but there are some questions as to his health after he suffered the serious knee injury. The Packers have younger options available which is why they appear willing to let Tauscher, their long-time starter, go. There are some reports he might not even be ready for training camp, which is another reason Green Bay seems content letting him get away.
Our take: Al Davis has always been known for taking another team's discard and squeezing extra life out of them. Tauscher could be just that sort of player depending, of course, on the situation with his knee. If doctors deem him healthy and he can go, then the Raiders might be able to land him on the cheap. They need to have other options, which is tough considering the market, but Davis has rolled the dice before with situations like this and it's paid off. Tauscher is a guy at least worth keeping an eye on as the offseason moves along.
Other options: Philadelphia's Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas
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