Cowboys Sign Keith Rivers

THURSDAY, 1:53pm: The Cowboys have officially announced the signing of Rivers, via a press release.

WEDNESDAY, 5:45pm: The Cowboys have agreed to sign linebacker Keith Rivers to a one-year deal, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Rivers was let go by the Bills on February 17th.

Rivers, who previously spent time with the Bengals and Giants, played just 12 games for the Bills in 2014, starting three. Of his 192 defensive snaps, nearly all of them came in the first half — the former ninth overall pick played just 24 snaps on defense after Week 8. After seeing his role dwindle in the second half of the 2014 season, the Bills opted to save $1.7MM by letting him go ($500K in dead money).

Rivers, a seven-year vet, spent 2012 and 2013 with the Giants. In his time with Big Blue, Rivers started 14 games and registered 83 tackles.

 

Raiders Plan To Host Suh For Visit

In just two days, Ndamukong Suh‘s agent will be able to speak to teams besides the Lions, and there has been no shortage of clubs with reported interest in the star defensive lineman. The Dolphins, Colts, Giants, and Washington are among the teams who have been identified as likely suitors for Suh since the Lions opted not to franchise him on Monday.

Of course, throughout the process, the Raiders have been viewed as one of Suh’s top potential suitors, given the team’s abundance of cap space and the way the defensive tackle would fit into the team’s 4-3 scheme. According to Mike Silver of the NFL Network (via Twitter), Oakland’s interest in Suh is very real — the Raiders are planning to bring the former second overall pick in for a visit next week.

If any team is poised to overpay Suh in free agency this month, it may be the Raiders. The club has the second-most cap room in the NFL, needs to increase its spending over the next two years to reach the minimum threshold, and could badly use a difference-making player like Suh. While Oakland’s defensive tackles weren’t terrible in 2014, Pat Sims, Justin Ellis, and Antonio Smith all recorded sub-par overall grades according to Pro Football Focus’ metrics (subscription required).

Of course, the Lions still have a few days to work out an agreement with Suh before he’s eligible to sign with another team on Tuesday. However, having come this far, it seems unlikely that Suh wouldn’t take the opportunity to at least hear pitches from rival suitors, even if he ultimately decides to return to Detroit.

NFC FA Rumors: Cole, Hardy, McDonald, Hawk

The Eagles officially announced on Wednesday that they’ve released Trent Cole from his contract, and the veteran edge defender didn’t waste much time in scheduling his first free agent visit. According to Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (via Twitter), Cole is meeting with the Buccaneers, a team that runs a 4-3 system. Having played in the Eagles’ 3-4 scheme for the last two years, Cole is viewed as a better fit as a defensive end for a 4-3 club, and Tampa Bay is certainly in need of an outside pass rusher.

As we wait to see if anything comes of Cole’s visit with the Bucs, let’s check in on a few more free agent updates from around the NFC….

  • NFL spokesman Greg Aiello says there’s nothing stopping a player on the exempt list from signing a new contract, which is good news for Panthers defensive Greg Hardy (link via ESPN.com). The league has yet to announce its decision on whether or not Hardy will face discipline for alleged off-field conduct, which could diminish enthusiasm for the defensive end on the open market, but he’ll still be able to negotiate with teams and accept an offer next week.
  • In other legal news, agent Tom Condon has informed teams that the Santa Clara District Attorney won’t be pursuing charges against free agent defensive lineman Ray McDonald, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter links). According to Condon, the Santa Clara DA hasn’t fully completed the release, but McDonald’s counsel has been informed of the decision. Since McDonald was cut by the Niners in December, he’s eligible to sign a new contract anytime.
  • Linebacker A.J. Hawk may not be totally out of the picture in Green Bay, according to Bob McGinn and Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who report that the Packers left the door open for the linebacker’s possible return.
  • In addition to hosting Ted Ginn Jr. for a visit this week, the 49ers also met with former Vikings wideout Jerome Simpson, writes Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. Simpson, who was suspended at the start of the 2014 season, was cut by Minnesota and hasn’t appeared in a regular season game since 2013. The Niners, meanwhile, are on the lookout for receivers, since they could part ways with Michael Crabtree, Brandon Lloyd, and Stevie Johnson this month.
  • Appearing on SportsCenter today, cornerback Byron Maxwell suggested he would like to sign with a team that plays a Cover 3 scheme like the Seahawks do, tweets Nick Underhill of the New Orleans Advocate. Of course, if a team running another coverage scheme makes Maxwell a big offer, I would guess he’d be willing to compromise that stance.
  • Lions offensive lineman Garrett Reynolds is expected to test the free agent market next week, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN.com.

Dolphins Re-Sign Jason Fox

The Dolphins have agreed to terms with free agent offensive tackle Jason Fox, re-signing him to a new two-year deal that locks him up through the 2016 season, the team announced today (via Twitter). Per Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald (via Twitter), Fox’s new contract is worth $2.5MM in total.

Fox, who signed a one-year, minimum-salary contract last year with the Dolphins, was a reserve for the majority of the season behind Branden Albert and Ja’Wuan James, and eventually Dallas Thomas. Fox got a chance to start at right tackle for the team during its final two games of the season, and the team liked what it saw enough to give him a modest raise for the 2015 season.

Returning to Miami for the coming year, Fox figures to return to a reserve role, assuming Albert and James are good to go for Week 1. If either of those starters, or someone else on the line, goes down with an injury or fails to impress in training camp, Fox figures to be one of the first players off the bench.

Peyton Manning Officially Back With Broncos

The Broncos have finally made official (via Twitter) what we’ve known – or at least suspected – for the last several weeks: Peyton Manning will be returning to the team for the 2015 season. Manning was at the team’s facility today to sign his new contract and to take a physical.

As detailed yesterday, Manning has agreed to a deal that reduces his base salary for the coming year from $19MM to $15MM. That extra $4MM will still be available to the future Hall-of-Famer via incentives, but he’d have to reach the Super Bowl to earn any of it — he’ll reportedly receive $2MM if the Broncos win the AFC, and another $2MM if they win the Super Bowl.

Manning, who turns 39 later this month, had another excellent season for the Broncos in 2014, putting up 4,727 passing yards to go along with 39 touchdown passes. However, he was hampered by injuries late in the season and struggled down the stretch, particularly in the team’s divisional playoff loss to the Colts, in which he totaled just 211 passing yards on 46 attempts.

Given the way the season ended, plus the fact that head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase both found new jobs, there was some doubt that Manning would return for another year. However, John Elway, Gary Kubiak, and the Broncos maintained all along that they’d welcome back the former MVP.

Manning’s new deal frees up an extra $4MM in cap space for the Broncos, but that shouldn’t have a significant impact on the team’s plans for free agency. Several key players are set to the open market in a matter of days, including tight end Julius Thomas, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, safety Rahim Moore, and guard Orlando Franklin.

Extra Points: Suh, Flowers, Titans, NFLPA

The money could get silly for guys like Ndamukong Suh and Darrelle Revis since some teams will need to spend to reach the cap minimum and a lack of in-house guys to reward could push free agent prices through the roof, says Albert Breer of NFL.com (Twitter links). Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • The Dolphins and Colts are expected to make the strongest pushes for Suh, multiple league sources told Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports. Both teams have been heavily linked to the impending free agent defensive tackle in recent days.
  • Appearing today on the NFL Network, cornerback Brandon Flowers said he’d like to remain with the Chargers, and is in discussions with the club about a new deal, writes Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com. Flowers described his situation as win-win: “If I stay in San Diego, it’s a place I loved stepping in from Day 1. It’s a nice place to live, and with a quarterback like Philip Rivers, you always have a chance. And if I’m not able to go back, I’m going to the free agency market.”
  • Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean looked at the Titans‘ free agents and ran down which ones the team should look to re-sign. The top priorities, he says, should be linebacker Derrick Morgan, punter Brett Kern, and defensive lineman Karl Klug.
  • Former NFLPA staff counsel Arthur McAfee is officially on the ballot for the upcoming executive director election, tweets Getlin. Jim Acho, a Michigan attorney running for the job, has also been told he has the three nominations needed to get on the final ballot, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Additionally, sports advisor Rob London tells Tom Pelissero of USA Today (Twitter link) that he also received the necessary recommendations from player reps to qualify as a candidate. There are now eight candidates in the mix for the position.
  • In this week’s mailbag, a reader asked Mike Klis of the Denver Post if the Broncos would consider former fan favorite Peyton Hillis at fullback. If he were a bit more spry, Hillis would be close to an ideal fullback in Gary Kubiak‘s system, but even then he’s still too small for the position.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Bears Exploring Brandon Marshall Trade

11:08am: The Bears are asking for a mid-round draft pick in exchange for Marshall, tweets Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports.

10:20am: The Bears are exploring their trade options with regard to veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall, reports Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Biggs hears from one source that the team is shopping Marshall and is intent on moving him, while another source says the club is simply fielding calls on the wideout. Either way, Chicago seems prepared to move on without the former fourth-round pick in the mix.

Marshall, who turns 31 later this month, signed a three-year contract extension with the Bears last May that locks him up through the 2017 season. However, with Marc Trestman, Phil Emery, and the old regime out of the picture in Chicago, it appears that new GM Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox are more inclined to go in a different direction.

The Bears will likely have to make a decision on Marshall within the next week, as his $7.5MM base salary for 2015 is due to become fully guaranteed next Thursday. That would lock in the wideout at a $9.575MM cap number for the coming year.

Among potential suitors for Marshall, the Colts would be one interesting possibility. Jason Cole of Bleacher Report reported last week that Indianapolis has internally discussed the possibility of adding a veteran wideout, and Cole identified Marshall as one of the team’s top choices. It’s not clear what Chicago’s asking price would be, but one source suggests to Biggs that the Bears could seek a mid-round pick, which could be palatable for the Colts — they certainly have the cap space necessary to absorb Marshall’s salary.

It also remains unclear if the Bears will be willing to release Marshall if they can’t find a satisfactory deal, or if the team is open to the possibility of bringing him back for another season. With his March 12 guarantee date looming, we should have an answer to that question fairly soon.

AFC FA Rumors: Hartline, Douglas, Vereen

Facing unrestricted free agency for the first time, Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts admitted to Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports that all the losing he has experienced in Jacksonville in recent years has left him feeling frustrated. Asked about what he’ll be seeking in free agency, Shorts suggested he would prefer to join a contending team.

“I just care about winning, man,” Shorts said. “When it comes down to it, I’m kind of fed up with this losing stuff. I’d do anything I can to help this team win. But you’re going to get a reliable guy. I’m not going to be any trouble during the season or the offseason. Just a reliable guy that’s going to be there and show up on Sunday.”

Shorts is one of a handful of free agents – along with Derrick Morgan, Andrew Gachkar, and a few others – who Garafolo thinks could see their careers take off with new teams. Here’s more on free agency, from around the AFC:

  • After visiting the Browns, wide receiver Brian Hartline is on to Houston to meet with the Texans, a league source tells Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (Twitter link). According to Pro Football Talk (via Twitter), a deal with the Texans is a “real possibility” for Hartline, particularly with the club ready to move on from Andre Johnson.
  • Another free agent receiver is paying a visit to an AFC South team today, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, who tweets that ex-Falcon Harry Douglas is meeting with the Titans. As Schefter notes, Mike Mularkey, who is now Tennessee’s assistant head coach, was the Falcons’ offensive coordinator from 2008 to 2011, overlapping with Douglas’ stint in Atlanta.
  • Having reported last month that Shane Vereen may aim for $5MM per year in free agency, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald (Twitter links) now says that the running back is eyeing a $3.5MM annual salary. According to Howe, the Patriots haven’t shown a willingness to meet that price, but other teams will likely have interest at that rate.
  • While Vince Wilfork‘s statement this morning announcing his departure from the Patriots had a sense of finality to it, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com says (via Twitter) that if the defensive lineman wants to return to New England on a reduced deal, the team will leave the door open for him.
  • The Jets, who have been linked to free agent defensive linemen like Kendall Langford and Chris Canty, would like to re-sign Kenrick Ellis, but Ellis is interested in testing his value on the open market, tweets Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com.

Seahawks Eyeing Free Agent Cornerbacks

With Byron Maxwell poised to reach the open market, and almost certain to sign with a team besides the Seahawks, Seattle is considering its options for replacing the cornerback, and is looking at the free agent market for a solution. According to various reports, the club is eyeing Cary Williams and Tramon Williams as potential free agent targets.

A report from NFL Draft Diamonds indicates that the Seahawks would be hosting Cary Williams for a visit this week, several days after he was cut by the Eagles. Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun confirms as much, reporting that there’s also mutual interest between Williams and the Ravens (Twitter links). The Jets and Titans are among the other clubs with interest in the ex-Eagle, according to NFL Draft Diamonds.

If the Seahawks are outbid for that Williams, another Williams (Tramon) could be an option for the team if and when he reaches the open market. As Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel details, Seahawks general manager John Schneider was involved in signing Tramon Williams to Green Bay’s practice squad back in 2006, and the team has made it clear it will pursue the veteran corner if he becomes available.

A source tells McGinn that the Packers proposed a two-year, $8MM deal for their free-agent-to-be, but Williams turned down the offer and is seeking a three- or four-year contract averaging $5MM+ annually. McGinn’s source adds that Williams would like a deal with a sizable guarantee as protection against being released.

While the Seahawks may like to retain Maxwell, he looks poised to land perhaps the largest deal among free agent cornerbacks this month. The Eagles are viewed as the current frontrunners, but several other teams – including the Jets – are expected to be in the mix.

Offseason Outlook: Oakland Raiders

Pending free agents:

Top 10 2015 cap hits:

  1. Austin Howard, T: $6,400,000
  2. Matt Schaub, QB: $5,500,000
  3. Donald Penn, T: $5,400,000
  4. Justin Tuck, DE: $4,968,750
  5. Khalil Mack, LB: $4,244,773
  6. Charles Woodson, S: $4,200,000
  7. Antonio Smith, DT: $4,000,000
  8. Nick Roach, LB: $3,721,250
  9. Sebastian Janikowski, K: $3,610,000
  10. Marcel Reece, RB: $3,580,838

Notable coaching changes:

Draft:

  • No. 4 overall pick
  • No traded picks

Other:

Overview:

Last offseason, Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie put his team under major reconstruction to try and turn the tide. Things didn’t exactly work out as planned. The Raiders got off to an 0-4 start that had players speaking out off the record and some, like veteran Charles Woodson, speaking out on the record. After the Raiders endured a grueling flight across the pond only to get blown out by the Dolphins, head coach Dennis Allen was shown the door. Eventually, Allen’s gig was handed over to his former second in command, Tony Sparano. Sparano got more out of his players, but only got 3 wins out of his 9 at the helm, leading the team to turn things over to Jack Del Rio after the season.

The year wasn’t without its bright spots, of course, and the biggest silver lining (get it?!?) was the play of rookie quarterback Derek Carr. While other teams are scheming to get one of the top two picks in this year’s draft in order to get a capable young quarterback, Oakland has no such need and they can focus on other areas.

Coaching Changes:

The Raiders were eyeing Del Rio early on in their offseason search and he ultimately won out over the incumbent Sparano. Of course, the Broncos’ defense never got the same kind of love as the team’s offense, but the Denver defense finished fourth in DVOA in 2014 after placing in the middle of the pack in 2013 under Del Rio’s guidance. Other teams with coaching vacancies seemed to flock to the sexiest names of the bunch like flies to a bug zapper. Every other team clamored to interview guys like Dan Quinn and Rex Ryan, but the Raiders more or less went by the beat of their own drum, save for their overtures towards new Jets coach Todd Bowles. With Del Rio comes two new coordinators in Bill Musgrave (replacing Greg Olson) and Ken Norton Jr. (taking over for Jason Tarver).

Some expected that McKenzie wouldn’t return, but his job was spared in the team’s shakeup. One has to imagine that he won’t have a very long leash, however.

Key Free Agents:

The Raiders acted quickly to re-sign one of their biggest name free agents in Woodson. The veteran, who celebrates his 39th birthday in October, started all 16 games for the club, grabbing four interceptions to go along with a career-high 111 tackles. The advanced metrics didn’t love his performance as Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked him 68th out of 87 qualified safeties, thanks in large part to the 355 yards after catch he allowed. Still, the Raiders were obviously satisfied with his performance and rewarded him with another one-year deal that carries base value of $3.2MM. Ultimately, the deal will count for $4.2MM against Oakland’s cap after taking into account the likely-to-be-earned incentives.

Still, there are more free agents to go, including center Stefen Wisniewski. Wisniewski stands as Oakland’s most important free agent on their docket, but they opted not to use the franchise tag to retain him. The reasoning there is fairly straight forward: while the soon-to-be 26-year-old is highly valued, all offensive linemen are grouped together when it comes to the pricing of the tag, so keeping him that way would have meant paying him like a top-tier left tackle. At last check, the two sides are talking but there appears to be a decent-sized gulf between the two. PFR’s Luke Adams recently suggested that Wisniewski could land a deal worth between $5-7MM annually.

Last month, McKenzie divulged that will let both Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown hit the open market as the Raiders look to go younger at cornerback. That doesn’t automatically mean that they won’t be back in Oakland, however.

I’m going to let those guys hit the market and we’ll see what happens there,” McKenzie said, according to Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group. “We like what our young corners have done. I think veterans like that are here on the team to bring those young guys along. And I think they kind of did that. Carlos was a savvy veteran that they leaned on. Tarell did a good job with those guys. I think it’s their turn.

Rogers and Brown might have value as mentors, but they both graded out as below average in 2014 according to PFF, coming in at 69th and 75th amongst qualified corners, respectively. The door is open for them, but probably only slightly, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them in different uniforms in 2015.

Last offseason, the Raiders brought back running back Darren McFadden on an inexpensive one-year deal. This time around, McKenzie doesn’t sound inclined to do the same thing.

To me, this year’s a little different because Latavius [Murray], in 2013 he spent the whole season rehabbing an injury,” McKenzie said in February, according to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle. “Last year, I think he showed that he can be a player.”

McFadden began the year as the No. 2 back behind Maurice Jones-Drew, started 12 games and gained 534 yards on 155 carries. However, they eventually gave the bulk of the work to Latavius Murray and the exciting youngster is widely viewed as the team’s feature back of the future.

The Raiders have four wide receivers – Denarius Moore, Vincent Brown, Rod Streater, and Andre Holmes – all eligible for either unrestricted or restricted free agency. Moore’s burn has fluctuated over the last four years thanks to some stints in the doghouse, but he’s a solid athlete who can help round out the team’s receiving corps behind James Jones. Holmes, 27 this summer, should stick around since he’s an RFA. Streater, who led the team with 60 catches for 888 yards and four touchdowns in 2013, played just three games in 2014 due to a foot injury. Assuming he’s healthy, the Raiders will probably exercise their power to match any offer for him.

Pat Sims, a defensive tackle who is vicious against the run, could be brought back to Oakland on an affordable one-year deal.

Possible Cap Casualties:

The Raiders started their spring cleaning a bit early by letting go of safety Tyvon Branch and edge defender LaMarr Woodley.

Branch, 28, was with the Raiders for seven seasons. He started 62 out of a possible 64 games in his first four years but he missed all but five games over the past two seasons. The Raiders saved $2.9MM by releasing the strong safety but they’ll carry $7MM in dead money for the luxury of dropping his remaining three seasons on the deal. Branch was the 11th-highest-paid safety in the NFL, but his production just hasn’t matched that thanks to his injury troubles.

Days later, the Raiders decided to release Woodley. The 30-year-old spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Steelers and his first season in silver-and-black didn’t go as planned. Woodley, who went from playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 set to a 4-3 defensive end, placed 44th out of 59 qualified 4-3 DEs per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). In total, his season lasted six games before a biceps tear knocked him out for the year. Woodley had no guaranteed money coming in 2015, so Oakland was able to clear his entire cap figure off its books, saving ~$5.2MM.

Jones-Drew, once one of the league’s top rushers, was signed to be the starter in Oakland. Things didn’t go as planned, however, and MJD finished with just 96 yards off of 43 carries. As Jones-Drew approaches his 30th birthday towards the end of March, it’d be hard to see the Raiders keeping him and his $2.5MM cap number for 2015. If you’re thinking that Del Rio could show some favoritism and keep him around at that price, think again, as the coach expressed serious doubts about how much the diminutive back has left in the tank. If Jones-Drew returns, I’d expect it to be at a greatly reduced price, but there’s no guarantee that offer would even be there.

Veteran quarterback Matt Schaub isn’t expected to be back in the fold with Carr firmly entrenched as the No 1 quarterback and Matt McGloin capable of handling the duties as the No. 2 QB on the depth chart. The Raiders won’t hesitate to shed Schaub and his $5.5MM cap number. Offensive lineman Kevin Boothe, who has experience at both center and guard, is set to carry a cap number of $1.3MM and could be let go.

Austin Howard theoretically could be let go after finishing as one of the league’s worst regularly playing right guards (per PFF), but the dead money on his deal will probably keep him around for this upcoming season. Del Rio let everyone know last month that Howard will change positions and compete at right tackle with third-year player Menelik Watson. Sebastian Janikowski ain’t cheap with a cap hit of $3.6MM, but he missed only three field goal attempts in 2014. Besides, dropping the soon-to-be 37-year-old would be like taking the eye patch off of the Raiders’ logo.

Positions Of Need:

With Nick Roach already ruled out for the season, the Raiders’ top need is probably finding a starting middle linebacker. Miles Burris could theoretically be called upon again, but he wasn’t all that effective when given the opportunity. Brandon Spikes, who is rather profiecient as a run stopper, probably stands as the best available MLB on the open market. Meanwhile, new defensive coordinator Norton is extremely familiar with Rey Maualuga from their time shared together at USC and the 28-year-old is coming off of his best season to date. Maualuga still graded out as being just a tick below average, according to PFF, but he’d represent a cheaper solution at the position if the Raiders wanted to direct more money elsewhere.

As mentioned earlier, the Raiders have three key receivers who could potentially reach the open market. Regardless of how things shake out there, they can be expected to look into finding a true top target for Carr. Armed with the No. 4 pick in the draft, the Raiders are in prime position to grab Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper. Cooper doesn’t boast the insane athleticism of last year’s top rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr., but he’s a very advanced route runner for a player at his age and could make a major impact right off the bat in Oakland. While Cooper’s name has been thrown around as the top wideout in this class for some time, there are some who have made the case for DeVante Parker (Louisville) and Kevin White (West Virginia). Sounds surprising, but you only have to look back to last year where Sammy Watkins was almost universally regarded as the best talent over the rest of the crop, including Beckham. The jury is still out on that race as we’re only one year in, but Beckham just might prove to be the best WR out of that class, despite being the third one off the board.

With Howard going over to tackle and Wisniewski set to hit free agency, the Raiders will be looking to fill in their offensive line. In the draft, At the top of the draft, there’s Iowa’s Brandon Scherff, who could play tackle or guard. Taking him at No. 4 might be something of a reach, however, and they’ve got other needs. Tafur recently suggested that Florida’s Cam Erving could make a lot of sense for Oakland and he projects more as a second-round prospect. An added bonus: scouts feel that Erving could work as a guard, tackle, or center. In free agency, Oakland could make a play for 49ers guard Mike Iupati or Broncos guard/tackle Orlando Franklin. Neither one will be cheap, but the Raiders don’t have to be with a great deal of cap room to work with.

The Raiders could use a defensive tackle and, as is the case with every team seeking a DT, they’ve been connected heavily to Ndamukong Suh. After all, the Raiders are cash flush and there’s no better way to upgrade the D-Line than adding one of the league’s most feared players. There are options outside of Suh in free agency, of course. Broncos notable Terrance Knighton would cost a whole lot less, as would Henry Melton, who was looking pretty solid in 2014 before his injury. Nick Fairley is understandably overshadowed by Suh this offseason, but he’s slated to hit the open market and he’d move the needle for any team that signs him.

Extension Candidates/Contract Issues:

Donald Penn signed a two-year contract with the Raiders around this time last year and he’s set to earn $4.6MM in his walk year. You can beat up Oakland for a lot of their decisions in the spring of 2014, but Penn’s deal is not one of them. He more than earned his contract with his play last year which resulted in him being ranked as the No. 7 ranked tackle in the league by PFF (subscription required). Great tackles don’t grow on trees and Penn has a history of being one of the better ones in the league, earning a positive grade from PFF in every season since 2011.

Overall Outlook:

The Raiders have a boatload of cap room to work with this offseason, the No. 4 overall pick, and they’ll have every opportunity to vault themselves into the playoff mix in 2015. The question is whether they’ll utilize those resources properly. Their recent history says they won’t, but nothing is constant in the NFL. Maybe this year is the year that the Raiders get things right.

Information from Over The Cap was used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.