The Raiders will be looking to improve their roster as they head into free agency with approximately $25 million in cap space. Teams were allowed to contact and negotiate with free agents on Monday. Players can’t officially sign until Wednesday.
Here are seven players, in reverse order, the Raiders should consider signing:
7. Jordan Matthews, WR, fourth season, Bills
The Raiders could soon be thin at wide receiver if the team decides to part ways with Michael Crabtree, who is due $7 million in salary.
Matthews won’t be able to fill Crabtree’s role on the outside, but he can be quarterback Derek Carr’s security-blanket as a slot receiver.
Matthews had a down year in Buffalo with injuries, but proved in Philadelphia he can flourish as a slot receiver after recording 225 receptions in his first three seasons.
Writer’s note: The Raiders should give their former quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, a call if they decide to cut Crabtree. He’s a big receiver who can play on the outside. But it looks like Pryor is headed back to Cleveland.
6. Jerick McKinnon, RB, fourth season, Vikings
Raiders fans on Twitter collectively groaned at the possibility of the team signing running back Doug Martin. The negative reaction isn’t a surprise for a player who has rushed for less than 425 yards the past two seasons.
McKinnon, a versatile running back, presents a better option. He can catch out of the backfield, something the Raiders didn’t have last season, and could run between the tackles.
The Vikings, Eagles, Saints and Patriots all benefited from a multifaceted running back committee in 2017.
5. Tre Boston, FS, fourth season, Chargers
There’s still a chance the Raiders bring back Reggie Nelson, who played well with interim defensive coordinator John Pagano. Nelson also knows Paul Guenther, the new Raiders’ DC, from their days together with the Bengals.
If the Raiders let the 11th-year safety walk, Boston could be an affordable option and an upgrade. Boston won’t command a contract like fellow free agents Kenny Vaccaro and Morgan Burnett. But he will make a lot more after a breakout season on a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Chargers.
4. NaVorro Bowman, MLB, eighth season, Raiders
If the Raiders are considering bringing back one of their own free agents, Bowman has to be at the top of the list.
Pagano received the bulk of the credit for the Raiders’ late-season turnaround on defense, but it was Bowman’s presence in the middle of the field that allowed the interim coach to dial up heavy blitz calls.
Bowman, who joined the Raiders from San Francisco in October, was a reliable run-stopper and allowed Bruce Irvin to rush the quarterback. The former All-Pro linebacker turned a weak position into a strength for the Raiders.
T-1. Bashaud Breeland, fourth season, Redskins/Malcolm Butler, fourth season, Patriots/Trumaine Johnson, sixth season, Rams
Take your pick here with one of these coveted cornerbacks. If the Raiders are able to land one, they’ll come out winners this free agency.
The Raiders are back on the market and find themselves again desperately needing help at cornerback. The team can’t afford to rely on the draft with Gareon Conley, the 2017 first-round pick who hardly played last season, being the only quality cornerback signed for the upcoming season.
Raiders in bad spot entering free agency. Have no choice but to be aggressive at certain positions. Top cornerbacks under contract for 2018:
Obi Melifonwu (listed on roster as safety)
*TJ Carrie an unrestricted free agent Wednesday
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) March 12, 2018
Butler is coming off a down year and was benched by the Patriots in the Super Bowl. But it wasn’t long ago that Butler was shutting down top wideouts on a weekly basis and saving Super Bowl XLIX for the Patriots.
Johnson is probably at the top of many cornerback-needy teams’ lists. The Rams placed the franchise tag on Johnson the past two seasons.
Breeland might be the biggest mystery after playing No. 2 behind shutdown corner Josh Norman in Washington. Can he play like a No. 1 corner? He’ll certainly be paid like one.