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Shutdown Corner Offseason Blueprints: Oakland Raiders

Eric Edholm
Shutdown Corner

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Lamarr Houston (USA Today Sports Images)

After the Seattle Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII, all 32 teams officially entered the offseason and started plotting how they could position themselves for a shot at Super Bowl XLIX. Shutdown Corner will look at the offseason blueprint for each of the 32 NFL teams, presenting one team a day (using the 2014 draft order, starting with the Houston Texans and finishing with the Seahawks), leading you right up to the start of free agency on March 11.

OAKLAND RAIDERS

2013 record: 4-12

Projected current salary-cap space (according to Spotrac): $63.1 million

Key free agents: RB Darren McFadden, RB Rashad Jennings, OT Jared Veldheer, OT Tony Pashos, DE-DT Lamarr Houston, DT Pat Sims, DT Vance Walker, DE Jason Hunter, CB Tracy Porter, S Charles Woodson

Possible salary-cap casualties: None

Draft situation: All of their original picks, except for a fifth-round pick (traded for Matt Flynn); own additional seventh-round pick (acquired for Carson Palmer)

Revisiting 2013: The Raiders showed a competitive spark early in the season, with Terrelle Pryor making a few eye-opening plays along the way, sitting at 3-4 through Week 8. But Pryor faded, Matt McGloin didn't show enough, McFadden couldn't stay healthy and the defense faded badly down the stretch. It was to the point that head coach Dennis Allen couldn't have felt 100 percent comfortable about his job status until it became official that he and most of his staff would return.

Reasons for optimism: The Raiders appear to have the shell of a solid team and oodles of salary-cap space to be players on the market. The problem? Many of their good players — Houston, Veldheer and Jennings among them — are free agents. They might have to let one of their defensive linemen (all four starters are free agents) go, but they should be able to keep their most important pieces intact. With pressure on GM Reggie McKenzie to field a more competitive team, he should have few restrictions when it comes to improving the talent base through free agency this offseason.

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Terrelle Pryor (USA Today Sports Images)

Glaring hole to fill: There isn't a position on the team that is complete right now, but the biggest question mark is at quarterback. McGloin showed promise as an undrafted rookie last season, but expecting him to start in a division with three playoff teams (quarterbacked by three top-five draft picks) is unrealistic. Pryor, it appears, is on the outs. The team would prefer to build its offense around a pocket passer who can distribute the ball to a few quality receivers. That quarterback might have to come from its first draft pick, No. 5 overall, and they likely won't be getting their first choice at that spot with QB-needy teams above them.

Toughest decision: The Raiders have two must-sign players scheduled to hit free agency: Veldheer and Houston. Can they re-sign either one prior to the March 11 start of free agency? Will they need to invoke the franchise tag? Veldheer came back from triceps surgery to finish the season strong, and McKenzie has said he wants him back. Houston would be a highly desired fit in many defensive schemes if he hit the open market. Cap space isn't a problem, and Veldheer has said he wants a long-term deal with the team, but can the Raiders keep both? That's not completely certain.

Best-case offseason scenario: With cap space galore, the Raiders should be able to keep most of their key players in place and add 2-3 additional starters in the draft. If they take a rookie quarterback, you'd like to think that he'd be able to win the starting job early enough in the offseason to mesh with the rest of the offense. But there is a talent void at several other spots — at guard, pass rusher, cornerback, tight end and a speed running back among them — that must be addressed through free agency, the draft and perhaps via trade.

Previous Blueprints:

32. Houston Texans; 31. Washington Redskins; 30. Jacksonville Jaguars; 29. Cleveland Browns

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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