Yesterday, we took a quick look at the offense to update the statuses there after the first several days of free agency. Tonight, it is the defense's turn.DEFENSIVE LINE:
The loss of Greg Ellis hurts from a leadership standpoint. The question is whether he had anything left in his knees to play another season. Matt Shaughnessy is expected to step into his position. On the other end, Richard Seymour was retained through the exclusive rights franchise designation. The rumored cut of Gerard Warren never materialized, and Tommy Kelly remains. Jason Richardson and Desmond Bryant provide depth. Trevor Scott tied for the team lead in sacks for his second consecutive year, and was used as a defensive end/linebacker hybrid at the end of the season.
As always, the Raiders need to strengthen their defensive tackle position. They also need some depth at the end positions.
All three starting linebackers from 2009 are currently under restricted free agent tenders. Ricky Brown is more of a special teams player than a linebacker is tagged with a second round pick. Outside linebacker Thomas Howard also has a second round tender, but he could still see some action as most of the higher ranked linebackers have prohibitive first and third tenders. Middle linebacker Kirk Morrison is under a third round tender, which is a steal for a player who has four years as a solid starter, and led the team in tackles for the last three. Their depth is paper thin with Isaiah Ekejiuba being a special teams standout, and Jon Alston an unrestricted free agent who was on the injured reserve at the end of last season due to multiple concussions. Slade Norris and David Nixon were activated from the practice squad towards the end of 09.
The starting duo of Nnamdi Asomugha and Chris Johnson return intact, despite persistent rumors of Asomugha being on the market. Stanford Routt was mediocre as a nickleback and will be back next year after being given the only top tender by the Raiders. Converted wide receiver Jonathan Holland will be given a chance to compete for the fourth corner position. The Raiders would be wise to bring in an additional corner for competition.
Tyvon Branch surprised everybody with his breakout 2009. Michael Huff showed marked improvement in 09. Former second round pick Mike Mitchell was used as a safety in goal line situations, but was kept from seeing the field more by Branch's explosion. Hiram Eugene, who surrendered the starting job back to Huff in 09 is on the team with a second round tender and Jerome Boyd was on the practice squad in 09, and has been brought back for depth. The Raiders are well stocked in this position.
The Raiders kicking tandem of Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler are both locked up for the next few years, and are going nowhere. Long snapper Jon Condo was given a second round tender.
See also reassessing the offensive needs.