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Raiders’ Free Agency needs: Defensive Line

2012 Free Agency begins next Tuesday, March 13th at 4pm.  The third in a series of looks at positions the Raiders may target.

2011 starters:
Defensive End: Lamarr Houston, Matt Shaugnessy
Defensive Tackle: Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly

Offseason Moves so far: none

On the Roster:
Defensive Tackle
Richard Seymour
Tommy Kelly
John Henderson

Defensive End:
Matt Shaughnessy
Lamarr Houston

Practice Squad:
DT: Jamie Cumbie – picked up as a UFA. Spent all of 2011 on practice squad. Signed to future/reserve contract 1/3/12
DE: Hall Davis – signed to future/reserve contact 1/6/2012
NT: Travis Ivey – signed to future/reserve contact 1/3/2012

Restricted Free Agents:
Desmond Bryant

Unrestricted Free Agents:
Jarvis Moss
Trevor Scott
Mason Brodine – exclusive rights free agent

Projected 2012 Starters:
4-3: Shaughnessy, Seymour, Kelly, Houston
3-4: Bryant, Kelly, Seymour

The first two positions of need that we’ve already discussed, Cornerback and Linebacker, are the most important simply because there are not enough bodies to even fill those positions as well as a lack of talent.  The Raiders have some talent on their roster on the defensive line but they lack a dominant force and were, at times, completely unable to collapse the pocket last season.

At tackle, Richard Seymour is a 2011 Pro-Bowler but that was more reputation than deserving.  He struggled with health issues and sloppy play throughout the season.  He disappeared in many games and was not the dominant force the Raiders were hoping he’d be.

Tommy Kelly was probably the better of the two tackles in ’11.  He has a maddening tendency to try to predict the snap count and gets more than his fair share of offsides penalties.  If the Raiders are serious about reducing penalties, he will have to play more disciplined in ’12.

At end, Matt Shaughnessy has a lot of promise but was injured most of last season.  Lamarr Houston had a very disappointing sophomore season after showing a high intensity motor as a rookie in 2010.  Both are expected to be back and probably will start when the Raiders are in 4-3 alignment.

Coach Allen wants to be “multiple” on defense, which means he’d like the Raiders to also be able to play the 3-4 defense.  None of the players on the team last season fit the mold of a space eating Nose Tackle in the 3-4. 

In New England, Seymour was a 3-4 defensive end, where he may play again in that alignment in Oakland.  Seymour could also attempt to play Nose but he’s not as big as a true NT.

Kelly has shed some weight in recent years – and it’s seemed to help his play – but he may be asked to bulk up a bit and attempt Nose Tackle.  I hope this isn’t the case, though, as Kelly really played poorly at a higher weight because his conditioning was poor.

Desmond Bryant has the makings of a really good 3-4 DE.  He played some end last season in the 4-3 where he is a stout run stopper.  He’s big enough to play 3-4 end and he showed some good conditioning – there were plays where he would be chasing a runner 10 or more yards down the field, which is rare for a tackle.

The Raiders did sign a future/reserve contract with a true NT named Travis Ivey at the beginning of the year and he has some potential, I hear.  It will be interesting to see how he fares in camp to see if he’s destined for the practice squad or if he could make a push to the actual roster and maybe even make a splash this season.

DT John Henderson’s best days are behind him and he is expected to be released any day, now.

In Free Agency, many fans are clamoring for Mario Williams.  While Williams played LB in Houston last season in the 3-4, he’s a more natural Defensive End.  I would expect a team that plays 4-3 to sign him over a 3-4 team because he’s at his best and most disruptive rushing the passer.  He’s one of the, if not the, premier player in this year’s free agency pool and I cannot imagine the Raiders signing him, I’m sorry to say.

I’m hoping the Raiders target one of the veteran Nose Tackles available this year.  A good NT is worth his (considerable) weight in gold.  There are a few that have been allowed to hit the market that would be immediate impact players – The overall consensus best is Paul Soliali from the Miami Dolphins.  He is 28, 6-4 and 355 and can be an impact player at one of the most important positions on the field.

Another impact tackle is former Jets tackle Sione Pouha.  He’s a bit older, 33, but still productive.  He is 6-3, 325 lbs.  He was a backup for much of his career so he doesn’t have as much mileage as many 33 year old players.

Another possibility is former Saints and 49ers tackle Aubrayo Franklin.  He played at a very high level in San Francisco from 2007-2010 but had a disappointing year in New Orleans last season.  He may be a good value selection for the team if they cannot land one of the top tackles.

Who do you want the Raiders to sign, if anyone, this free agency period?

Ask me questions or tell me what you think on Twitter @AsherMathews