While the Oakland Raiders continue to occupy the off-the-field side of the NFL with their ongoing Las Vegas deal, general manager Reggie McKenzie and the front office still had a job to do, attempting to re-sign key players and lure potential free agents to join the return to greatness.
March 9 may very well be Christmas for the NFL, as the long-awaited day marking the official beginning of the NFL free agent frenzy. At 1:00 P.M. PST, free agents were officially permitted to sign deals with a new team. Teams around the NFL started their contract negotiations on March 7, with only verbal agreements until Thursday.
Thursday could very well be the turning point and perhaps the biggest day of the NFL offseason, with many landscape changing signings around the NFL. The first hit to the Raiders came from a former Super Bowl MVP, who has departed for the San Francisco 49ers, via Will Reeve Jr. of USA Today:
Former Raiders LB Malcolm Smith to sign 5-year, $26.5M contract with 49ers https://t.co/CcwWl7C9X1
— Will Reeve Jr (@WillReeveJr) March 10, 2017
Entering this week, the Raiders had a general sense of which players wanted to re-sign and which players wanted to test the market. In fact, Malcolm Smith, Mychal Rivera and Matt McGloin are all expected to depart in free agency.
Smith led the Raiders with 86 total tackles last season (17 assisted), along with one interception, two forced fumbles (one recovered, and three passes defended. He appeared in 15 games last season (14 starts) and was a key driving force that stopped the running game.
The Raiders also lost another key interior player on the defense, as defensive tackle Stacy McGee has departed for the NFC East, via Mike Garafolo of NFL.com:
DT Stacy McGee to Washington, five years $25m
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 9, 2017
McGee appeared in nine games last season (nine starts), collecting 14 tackles (three assisted), 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. The four-year veteran understood the Raiders financial obligations heading into free agency, opting to receive more money with Washington.
While the departures do set up holes in the Raiders interior defense heading into 2017, the organization does have a silver lining in the entire process. According to Nick Korte, the Raiders will be receiving two complementary picks related to their departures.
The Raiders will receive a 2018 fifth round pick for Smith ($5.25M APY) and another 2018 fifth round pick for McGee ($5M APY). McKenzie stated he is actively searching for key defense difference makers in the 2017 free agency class, in an attempt to improve an otherwise mediocre 2016 defense.
While McKenzie continues working on deals for franchise players Derek Carr and Khalil Mack, the Raiders should also be active on the defensive side in the upcoming days.