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Raiders starter ‘super happy’ to sign new deal with team

Updated April 15, 2024 - 2:53 pm

The Raiders made sure Andre James never stepped foot on the open market last month.

They locked down their starting center with a three-year contract March 11 to prevent him from going to free agency. James still experienced some anxious moments.

He wasn’t sure what the market might bear or where he might end up. He also didn’t want to leave the only organization he’s known in the NFL.

“I really didn’t want to go anywhere,” James said Monday, the first day of the Raiders offseason program. “This was the place I wanted to be.”

So yes, there was stress. But James and the Raiders ultimately agreed to terms before the NFL’s negotiating period began.

“It was hard,” James said. “Just sitting there and being like, there’s no information that you could really get, only little hints. It was stressful not knowing where you could be. (You could be) anywhere in the country within a couple of weeks’ notice.”

The Raiders kept James by giving him a contract worth $26 million, including $13 million in guarantees. That kept 60 percent of the team’s starting offensive line intact.

James joins left guard Dylan Parham and left tackle Kolton Miller as the Raiders’ returnees. Right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor signed with the Giants in free agency. Right guard Greg Van Roten remains unsigned.

“I’m super happy to be back here,” James said.

The Raiders continued to add to their offensive line Monday by signing veteran Cody Whitehair. The 31-year-old played left guard and center during his eight seasons with the Bears. He could compete with Jordan Meredith to be the Raiders’ starting right guard as the roster stands right now.

The team’s starting right tackle as the offseason begins is Thayer Munford, a 2022 seventh-round pick. The offensive line is still considered a work in progress for the Raiders given this month’s draft is considered deep in tackle and guard prospects.

“We’re gonna have some new faces,” James said.

Whitehair should provide value no matter what thanks to his experience in Luke Getsy’s offense. The Raiders’ new offensive coordinator held the same position the last two years in Chicago. Whitehair made 23 starts for the Bears in that span.

“It’s always helpful having a guy who’s familiar with the offense, familiar with the scheme and the system. Especially in the offensive line room,” James said. “Just to kind of pick his brain and just kind of get some of the keys and some of the information that he’s got for the long time he’s been there working with the Bears. So super excited to have him.”

James has also been impressed by Munford’s progress. The former Ohio State standout has played left and right tackle during his two seasons with the Raiders. He also played guard in college, giving him a lot of versatility.

“He looks really comfortable anywhere he’s playing,” James said. “Watching him work out, he’s done a lot to his body. He has really good footwork, he’s able to move really well, especially for how big of a person he is. So I’m excited to see how he grows.”

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on X.

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