Raiders have work to do as free agency formally kicks off

Scott Bair
NBC Sports BayArea

NFL free agency opens Wednesday afternoon in name only. Teams were allowed to contact reps for untethered players starting Monday, and open negotiations proved fruitful.

Most big names found a home during this window, with big money being promised to marquee members of this unrestricted free agent class.

The Raiders weren't a part of that whirlwind stretch. They took a measured, patient approach to the period, refusing to overpay for well-known talents. They have a budget and they're sticking to it, ever mindful of the extension due Khalil Mack down the line.

That prompted plenty of hand wringing from an on-edge fan base hoping for a big splash in free agency's first wave. Raider Nation got receiver Griff Whalen and blocking tight end Derek Carrier instead.

Trumaine Johnson, Malcolm Butler and Allen Robinson and many other names you know who could've filled Raiders needs, all signed for beaucoup bucks.

The receiver market went nuts. Cornerbacks got paid for playing a premium position, and the run on free-agent quarterbacks is nearly complete.

So many agreed on terms that Wednesday's 1 p.m. free-agency kickoff might be anti-climactic.

The Raiders enter the offseason's formal signing period with the same needs they had a few days back. They're looking for veteran help at cornerback, interior defensive line, receiver and maybe offensive line.

They want to re-sign NaVorro Bowman, and have been working on a deal to bring him back. Zach Brown, a free-agent target last offseason who ended up in Washington, could be another option.

Defensive lineman Denico Autry wants to test the market some, but a return hasn't been ruled out. TJ Carrie has reportedly attracted Denver's eye, though the Raiders want him back at the right price.

Carrie would certainly ease the burden at cornerback, though another veteran is coveted. The Las Vegas Review Journal reports there has been some contact between the Raiders and former Indianapolis cover man Rashaan Melvin.

Several cornerbacks are spoken for, with second-tier options Prince Amukamara, Bashaud Breeland and Aaron Colvin off the market.

Miami's set to release Ndamukong Suh on Wednesday, and would be an intriguing fit in Oakland. General manager Reggie McKenzie was interested last time Suh hit the market, but was quickly priced out. The same could happen this time – Suh might soon be the best the best free agent on the market – even with mutual interest between player and team.

Valued defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson remains on the open market as well, though Star Lotulelei, Muhammad Wilkerson and Haloti Ngata are already off the board.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports the Raiders have shown interest in Vikings defensive tackle Tom Johnson, and states he's headed to the highest bidder. He would fit the Raiders system, considering Mike Zimmer and Paul Guenther run the same system.

The Raiders were disappointed Paul Richardson ended up in Washington for big money, but reportedly have Jordy Nelson coming in for a visit Wednesday afternoon. Jordan Matthews could offer an upgrade in the slot if Nelson doesn't stick. Mike Wallace offers take-off-the-top speed the Raiders lack.

The Raiders will start filling free-agent needs this week, ever mindful of a Khalil Mack extension coming down the pike, properly using funds to tackle several issues as opposed to spending all their cash in one spot.

It may not come at a pace fans appreciate, or with the marquee names that make March more fun, but free-agency will still fill an important role constructing the first roster of Jon Gruden's second tenure.

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