Mark Raiders as winners after first week of NFL free agency

Updated March 19, 2018 - 7:10 pm

With a week of wheeling and dealing, the Raiders have stood out as the busiest AFC West team during the free-agency frenzy.

The Raiders’ long list of free-agent additions is headlined by two former fantasy football stars, Jordy Nelson and Doug Martin, followed by less-known players to fill needs at less-strenuous positions.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden was serious when he said he wanted to turn back the clock after signing two blocking tight ends, Derek Carrier and Lee Smith, and a fullback, Keith Smith.

There’s nothing wrong with being a physical, run-first team, but for Raider Nation’s sake, Gruden still sees quarterback Derek Carr as the top priority and doesn’t just want to run a vintage-1998 offense Jeff Fisher would approve of.

The signing of Martin is a head-scratcher, especially with Marshawn Lynch reportedly scheduled to return. Lynch and Martin are both physical runners with limitations in the passing game. The difference: Lynch proved last year he can still break tackles and hit a hole. The former Bucs star hasn’t shown that since 2015.

Oakland took a big gamble guaranteeing $13 million on a two-year, $15 million contract for Nelson. It’s not a good sign when the Packers chose to keep Randall Cobb instead of Nelson to play No. 2 for Aaron Rodgers and dished out $30 million for tight end Jimmy Graham, who, like Nelson, has lost his speed to make plays downfield.

Nelson probably won’t be able to fill Michael Crabtree’s role as a top wideout on the outside, but he can be Carr’s go-to slot receiver. Most important, he can be a leader in the locker room, something the Raiders lacked in 2017.

Here’s where the Raiders come out winners. Oakland signed quality defensive backs without handing out massive contracts for the top cornerbacks on the market. Cornerback Rashaan Melvin is coming off a breakout season with the Colts.

The Raiders’ best pickup could be Tahir Whitehead, who was the Lions’ top linebacker the past two seasons.

A look at the rest of the NFL winners and losers from free agency:

AFC West

The Broncos didn’t wait around for Kirk Cousins to tell them no and quickly signed Case Keenum to start at quarterback.

The Chiefs gave second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes another target in Sammy Watkins. The Chargers have been quiet the past seven days.

■ Winners: Raiders, Broncos, Chiefs

■ Losers: Chargers

AFC North

The Browns got free agency started with trades for Tyrod Taylor and Jarvis Landry. They signed Carlos Hyde and have two top-four picks in the NFL draft.

The Ravens have many needs but only came out with Crabtree. Tyler Eifert is back with the Bengals, and the Steelers decided to skip the free-agency period.

■ Winners: Browns

■ Losers: Ravens, Steelers, Bengals

AFC East

The Patriots lost many key players, with Nate Solder, Malcolm Butler, Dion Lewis and Danny Amendola signing elsewhere.

Amendola is now with the Dolphins, who gave Albert Wilson a three-year, $24 million contract. The Jets got coveted cornerback Trumaine Johnson. The Bills chose AJ McCarron after the other top free-agent QBs chose other teams.

■ Winners: Jets

■ Losers: Patriots, Dolphins, Bills

AFC South

Tennessee brought in Lewis and Butler to play for former Patriots and Titans coach Mike Vrabel.

Houston landed Tyrann Mathieu. The Jaguars added to their offensive line with Andrew Norwell.

The Colts continue to not help Andrew Luck.

■ Winners: Titans, Texans, Jaguars

■ Losers: Colts

NFC West

The Seahawks spent free agency dumping key players like Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett.

Sherman now plays for the 49ers, who also paid Jerick McKinnon. The Cardinals threw a lot of cash at quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon.

The Rams improved their secondary via trades for Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters.

■ Winners: 49ers, Rams

■ Losers: Seahawks, Cardinals

NFC North

The Vikings got arguably the best free agent available in Cousins and still had money left over for Sheldon Richardson.

The Packers were finally active in free agency; they signed Graham and Muhammad Wilkerson. The Bears gave Mitchell Trubisky a new target in Allen Robinson.

Detroit simply failed to keep up.

■ Winners: Vikings, Bears, Packers

■ Losers: Lions

NFC East

The Giants finally got a quality lineman in Solder. The Redskins paid Paul Richardson like a Pro Bowl wideout.

The Eagles continued to add to their stout defensive line. The Cowboys haven’t signed anyone — yet.

■ Winners: Giants, Eagles

■ Losers: Redskins, Cowboys

NFC South

Drew Brees returned to New Orleans on a hometown discount. Carolina lost cornerback Bashaud Breeland to a failed physical.

The Buccaneers signed Vinny Curry, and the Falcons stayed quiet.

■ Winners: Saints

■ Losers: Panthers, Falcons, Buccaneers

More Raiders: Follow all of our Raiders coverage online at reviewjournal.com/Raiders and @NFLinVegas on Twitter.

Contact Gilbert Manzano at gmanzano@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GManzano24 on Twitter.

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