With a flurry of free agency signings, the Oakland Raiders attacked the offseason with verve. Despite a slew of Top 100 draft picks, the team orchestrated a multi-leveled approach. However, as the draft sitting less than a month away, the Raiders need to emerge deeper and more talented. Joining this roundtable are FPC writers Ray Aspuria and Pete Camarillo. They will discuss the Raiders and their free agency tact.
What FA would you still like to pursue and why?
I would like Eric Berry for his leadership and knowledge of the division, but that does not really make sense given the Raiders recent defensive back additions. Therefore, I’d like to see them sign either or both of the best edge rushers available. With over $20 million in cap still available, they should sign Ziggy Ansah and/or Chris Long. Long has long been a fantasy for RaiderNation due to his father being the great Howie Long. Howie only played one season for the Oakland Raiders as most of his time was in L.A. However, wouldn’t it be great if his son closed out the tenure in Oakland? Not to mention, Long has proven ability as a situational pass rusher including stints as a standup edge and traditional end. Plus, the two Super Bowl rings matter. Maybe Arden Key can learn something?
As for Ansah, he is the best pass rusher available and off a season where his production declined due to a shoulder injury. This should drive his price down on top of the fact that his former teammate Tahir Whitehead is on the team. Ansah can anchor the strongside end spot and slide inside for pass rushing downs. That’s ideal for Paul Guenther’s scheme. I’d like to see the Raiders sign Ansah and/or Long for sure. Either player could come sign a one-year deal that wouldn’t impede the development of any draft pick the Raiders make this year too.
Ziggy Ansah. His surgically repaired shoulder is a big question mark, but Ansah has answered the bell for the Lions pass rush. The Raiders are in dire need of not only a pass rusher, but also a veteran one at that. His agent says Ansah will get more medical evaluation on his shoulder mid-April, so if the Raiders can ink him before the draft, or after to help lead a neophyte pass rush, it would only help the Raiders.
What are your reasonable expectations and fears about Vontaze Burfict?
I expect Burfict to at least get the defense lined up properly. He is the extension of Paul Guenther on the football field and he can get the four down linemen, his fellow linebackers, and the secondary in proper position pre-snap. I don’t expect him to play all 16 games, however. Even though he’s only 28, his hard-hitting physical style took its toll on his body.
My fears are he’s just duct tape to a severe need position on that Raiders defense. Oakland has long gone the patchwork route to the middle linebacker position — and for good reason. Napoleon Harris was a bust, as was Rolando McClain. Moreover, Nick Roach’s career ended via concussion. Guenther, like the former GM, prefers to mine for LBs, which is a fine path — as long as said LB is quality.
I fully expect Burfict to be better than Derrick Johnson, Nick Roach and any other stop-gap solutions we believed was the answer at middle linebacker in the post Ro McClain era. Not only will he be an enforcer, but his knowledge of Guenther’s entire scheme should make the entire defense faster as well as more robust. My biggest fear isn’t the penalties or even the concussions, I mean this is the Raiders we’re talking about so let’s not act like this is unfamiliar territory. My biggest fear is that the Raiders won’t draft a linebacker and Burfict will find himself on the field in passing situations. Obviously, Oakland has a bunch of DTs and they just signed a bunch of DBs so I expect many nickel packages. Either way, who will be the one or two Raiders on the field in those five defensive back and defensive line packages? I hope it is not Whitehead or Burfict and it is a rookie with speed like Devin White or even Devin Bush.