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Free Agents the Raiders should look at

The Oakland Raiders packed up their 2011 first round draft choice back in 2009 — just days before the season opening game — and sent it to New England in exchange for Pro Bowl defensive tackle Richard Seymour. Most of the Raider Nation has no argument about keeping Richard Seymour for a few more years and letting the Patriots have the draft pick the Raiders would have undoubtedly fumbled. But have no fear, for the lack of a Raider first round draft choice in 2011 will leave Al Davis free to snag a big fish from this year’s list of free agents, a player with first round caliber talent and a lot of gas left in the tank.

No mega rookie contract to sign this year leaves all eyes on a very talented class of free agents. So let’s get our hands dirty taking a good hard look at all who I think the Raiders should acquire — in no particular order.

Baltimore Ravens OT – Jared Gaither

Here’s a guy who the fans have been clamoring for since the arrival of Hue Jackson as offensive coordinator. Gaither is reportedly disgruntled with his former club for making him give up the starting left tackle spot to newcomer, Michael Oher, as well as the team’s inability to extend his contract before last season.

Gaither will be 26 years old this season and arguably his best years are ahead of him, however, he did miss the entire 2010 season with a back injury. That could be a serious deal, or it could be just the man’s way of taking the year off. Either way, with what the Raiders have for offensive tackles on their roster, I’d take a flier on this 6’9″ 340 pound monster.

New England Patriots OG – Logan Mankins  

Mankins will turn 27 in March and is entering the prime of his career after being battle trained by one of the best coaching staffs in the league. He was drafted with the 32nd pick of the 2005 draft and despite playing his entire collegiate career as a tackle, Mankins was moved to left guard, where he immediately stepped into the starting lineup in place of Joe Andruzzi, who departed in free agency. Mankins is also reportedly angry with his former team.

Basically, what happened was the Patriots tendered him a first- and third-round RFA contract worth $3.26 million. But Mankins wanted a long term deal. On June 15, with Mankins yet to sign the tender, the Patriots were able to lower Mankins’ tender amount to 110% of his prior year salary, or $1.54 million. The Patriots did so, and Mankins reacted by publicly by asking for a trade. Now the man is unrestricted, and I bet California is looking a lot better than cold Massachusetts right about now.

San Diego Chargers Wide Receiver – Vincent Jackson

Call it bittersweet, but there is something about taking a 6’5″ 230-plus pound wide receiver who runs a 4.46 forty in the prime of his career away from a divisional rival like San Diego. Jackson made Philip Rivers look awesome just a couple of years ago. This guy is a freak and Al Davis loves freaks of nature.

Amazingly enough, Jackson hasn’t had a season with more than 68 catches, but he is a nightmare for defenses as a deep threat. Dude averaged 17.2 yards per catch in his five year career with the Dolts. He posted back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons in 2008 and 2009 and went to Hawaii as a Pro Bowler. And then the San Diego Chargers dumped on him. Long story short (basically the same as Mankins), on October 29, 2010, Jackson ended his hold-out and signed a one-year tender for $583,000. The deadline to sign and accrue a full season, so that he would be an unrestricted free agent in 2011, was October 30, 2010. But Jackson didn’t see much field time with the team in 2010 and it’s looking as though his time with the Chargers has ended.

Washington Redskins Outside Linebacker – Rocky McIntosh

Want an indication that the Raiders are going to remain a 4-3 defense with a 4-3 line coach and a 4-3 linebackers coach? Well if they are, this guy could be a Raider in 2011. McIntosh was taken 35th overall in 2006 by Washington. In 2007, McIntosh set career highs in tackles (105), sacks (3), and forced fumbles (3). On December 16, 2007, McIntosh tore both the ACL and MCL ligaments in a 22-10 victory over the New York Giants after bending his knee awkwardly in a pile in the first quarter.

In 2008, after being put on injured reserve the previous season, McIntosh recorded 87 tackles, two sacks, an interception, and two forced fumbles. In 2009, McIntosh finished the season with 94 tackles (64 solo), two interceptions, and two forced fumbles. In 2010, McIntosh, much like teammate Albert Haynesworth, didn’t fit the Redskins new 3-4 defense… go figure.

Minnesota Vikings Outside Linebacker – Chad Greenway

Greenway will be another indication that the Raiders are sticking to the 4-3 scheme. Greenway was a first round pick by the Vikings (17th in 2006) and fits well in the scheme for newly appointed Head Coach Leslie Fraiser. There is no indication that Greenway wants to leave or that the Vikings will let him leave. But hands down money talks; if Al Davis wants him enough, he’ll be an Oakland Raider in 2011.

This guy was everywhere on the field this year for Minnesota with his 145 tackles. So far, in four years with the Vikings, he has 353 solo tackles, 6.5 sacks, and five interceptions. Imagine what he could do in Oakland, where he isn’t the only good player on defense. Minnesota could stick its franchise tag on Greenway, but that would mean Sidney Rice is an unrestricted free agent. Don’t even get me started on Sidney Rice; he’s sick. One way or another, both of these guys are going to get large amounts of money from someone in 2011.

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 Also see TFDS Contributor Jeff Little’s take on free agents the Raiders need to Pursue