The Hue Jackson era has begun in Oakland. It got off to a good start with the hiring of Al Saunders as offensive coordinator. Saunders is an outstanding coach who has previously worked with Hue Jackson. This means continuity for the Oakland Raiders.
Al Davis and Hue Jackson still have a lot of work to do in preparing for the 2011 season. Once the NFL labor issues are resolved, the Raiders need to make an all out assault on free agency, beginning with bringing back some of their own free agents.
The Raider free agents that need to be re-signed are as follows:
CB Nnamdi Asomugha
DE/DT Richard Seymour
RB Michael Bush
TE Zach Miller
OLB Kamerion Wimbley
LG Robert Gallery
CB Stanford Routt
FS Michael Huff
The unrestricted free agents who could make a major impact in silver and black that the team must take a hard run at are as follows:
DT Haloti Ngata – Coming in at a ready 6'5" 345 lbs, this two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle is an unstoppable beast on the football field. He is a double-team block waiting to happen and extremely disruptive to any offense. Ngata is a versatile, athletic lineman who can play both DT and DE. He would be key in allowing the Raiders to play both a 3-4 and 4-3 front. Ngata does an excellent job of stopping the run and getting after the passer as evidenced by his 63 combined tackles and career high 5.5 sacks. He would allow the Raiders to correct a previous error: Oakland passed on Haloti Ngata in the 2006 draft in favor of Michael Huff. I like Michael Huff and he has improved his play, but Ngata is a difference maker.
NT Cullen Jenkins – Jenkins is a talented defensive lineman whose career, like Tommy Kelly's, started as an un-drafted free agent. Jenkins is a defensive end with the size of a defensive tackle. Jenkins has 164 tackles, 29 sacks in his seven-year career. He is an excellent run stuffer, a needed commodity in silver and black.
NT Aubrayo Franklin – At 6'1" 317 lbs, Franklin is a solid run stuffing nose tackle. One of the most important aspects of running a 3-4 defense is landing a player who can play the nose tackle position. Franklin has excelled to the point that he was the 49ers franchise player. The former fifth-round pick from the 2003 draft was under paid; the franchise tag garnered him $7 million per season. Franklin is not your prototypical nose tackle. He uses technique and not girth to hold the point of attack. He would be key in allowing the Raiders to play a 3-4 front.
LG Logan Mankins – Mankins is one of the top five guards in football. Until his holdout due to his contract this year, this ironman had not missed a game in six years. Mankins is the Patriots' best lineman. Though I'm not a Pats fan, I have to acknowledge and appreciate the production. He consistently receives the highest praise a lineman can receive: he goes through games virtually anonymous. Mankins plays with nastiness and a physical demeanor. He understands blocking schemes and plays with solid technique. In the event that the Raiders lose Robert Gallery to free agency, Mankins would be a nice upgrade. The addition of Mankins as well as re-signing Gallery would significantly improve the Raider offensive line.
C Jonathan Goodwin – Centers are the quarterbacks of the offensive line, calling out blocking assignments pre-snap. Securing a center to solidify the middle of the o-line is the next step after landing a dominating left tackle. Goodwin is a good-sized center with above-average quickness and the agility and body control for inside blocking. He is a good knee-bender who can keep his pad level down to perform leverage blocks and the footwork to finish blocks. He understands blocking schemes and angles, and provides the line with both intelligence and seasoned leadership. His addition would fill an area of need in silver and black.
RT Tyson Clabo – Clabo entered the league as an un-drafted free agent in 2004. Since signing with Atlanta in 2006, this massive tackle at 6'6" 331 lbs has started all 53 games he has played in. He has above-average athleticism and more than adequate quickness. The fact that he has the versatility to play both guard and center adds to his value. He is not a natural knee-bender, but he works hard to keep his pad level down on leverage blocks. He has the mass, strength, and nasty disposition to consistently get a push when drive blocking. Clabo also has enough balance and body control to sustain and react as a pass-blocker. Perhaps playing twice a year against a certain team that plays in the state of Colorado where he spent two years on the practice squad would help land him. He has held down the right side since 2006 in Atlanta. Clabo could solidify the right side in Oakland.
C/G Scott Mruczkowski – Mruczkowski is a versatile offensive lineman who can play multiple positions. As a seventh round pick from the 2005 draft, Mruczkowski is listed on the roster as a backup guard; however, he stepped in to play 13 games at center in place of starter Nick Hardwick in 2009. Mruczkowski is a wide body coming in at 6'5" 310 lbs. He has enough mass and power to engulf a lot of defenders and the finesse to re-direct them. He understands blocking schemes and angles, does a good job of using his hands to finish blocks. His versatility would add depth to the Raider offensive line.
LB Barrett Ruud – Ruud is one of the most productive linebackers in the league as evidenced by his 120 tackles, two forced fumbles, and one interception. He is an above-average athlete who possesses good lateral quickness. Ruud is quick to locate the ball in traffic and takes good angles to the ball. He does an excellent job of wrapping up ball carriers and has the strength to finish. Ruud is efficient and doesn't have any wasted movement while reacting. He also gets good depth in his pass drops and reads the quarterback well. Ruud is an extremely durable player who combines instinct, toughness, and technique. His skill set could help improve the second level of the Raider defense.
CB Ike Taylor – Taylor is one of the most productive defenders on the league's best defense. He has an excellent combination of size, strength, and athleticism. He is a tall cornerback (6' 2" 195 lbs) with long limbs and very good physicality for the position. Taylor is a sound tackler who is at his best when the action is in front of him. He benefits from the Steelers' excellent pass rush in front of him, but he is an upper-echelon starting cornerback. If the Raiders could pair him with Nnamdi Asomugha, their cornerback tandem would be one of the league's best.
FB Le'Ron McClain – McClain (cousin to Rolando McClain) is one of the best fullbacks in the league at a somewhat dying position. He is a two-time Pro Bowl fullback. He is a good athlete with very good size (6' 260 lbs) and strength as both a run blocker and toting the football. He does a good job of taking on linebackers in the hole, and has the power to create movement and open creases. McClain takes good angles, and has the quickness, agility, and balance to secure and sustain his blocks. He is a terror to defenses on short yardage runs out of a heavy two tight end set. McClain has a desire to be more involved in the offense, and would be welcome and accommodated in Oakland.
FB Vonta Leach – Leach has prototypical dimensions for the fullback position (6' 255 lbs) and he understands his role as a blocking fullback in Houston's offense. He is a powerful lead blocker who can unload by rolling his hips to explode through contact and drive linebackers out of the hole. Leach stays in the lineup for pass protection and does an excellent job of picking up the loose rusher and squaring up to the hit. He can be productive on short swing or dump off passes out of the backfield. His skill set has been missing from Oakland since the departure of Jon Ritchie. A lead blocker would make the silver and black rushing attack better.
WR Chad Ochocinco – Ochocinco is a 10-year veteran with a good combination of size, deceptive strength, and athleticism. He is very fluid and runs crisp routes at all levels, though he was able to stretch the field more effectively in 2009 as compared to 2010. Ochocinco can make the acrobatic catch and is sure-handed, but he does not provide a lot after the catch. It also must be noted that his antics on and off the field can be very disruptive. Ochocinco had 72 receptions, 1047 yards, and nine TD's in 2009. In 2010, he had 67 receptions, 831 yards, and four TD's. There have already been rumors about Ochocinco coming to Oakland. He is a veteran wide receiver who would fill a huge need.
A receiver I would not want to see in Silver and Black is Terrell Owens. Bringing in TO would be the equivalent of rolling a hand-grenade into the Raider locker room.
The Oakland Raiders are building momentum for 2011 and adding one or more of the names on this list would help them continue to build.