Editor’s note: The Raiders have roughly $74 million in cap space heading into the start of unrestricted free agency next week. Teams can negotiate with other team’s players on Monday and formally sign them Wednesday. We’ll take a look at how the Raiders could fill several areas of need heading toward the NFL’s free-agent frenzy. The first installment examines running backs.
Head coach Jack Del Rio didn’t pull punches when discussing last year’s rushing attack. That effort ranked No. 28 in the NFL, and Del Rio believes his Raiders must balance the offense by improving all aspects of the ground game.
That starts with those carrying the football. The Silver and Black need to add a weapon behind Latavius Murray, a 1,066-yard rusher without a consistent partner. This seems like a draftable commodity, but the Raiders could add a veteran in free agency to add experience to a young group.
Latavius Murray: 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, three accrued seasons, Central Florida
Stats: 266 carries, 1,066 rushing yards, 41 catches, 232 yards, six total touchdowns
Jamize Olawale: 6-foot-1, 240 pounds, four accrued seasons, North Texas
Stats: 24 carries, 110 yards, nine catches, 84 yards, 1 total touchdown
Roy Helu Jr. : 5-foot-11, 220 pounds, five accrued seasons, Nebraska
Stats: 17 carries, 39 yards, nine catches 75 yards, 1 total touchdown
Marcel Reece: 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, six accrued seasons, Washington
Stats: 10 carries, 36 yards, 30 catches, 269 yards, three total touchdowns
Taiwan Jones: 6 feet, 195 pounds, five accrued seasons, Eastern Washington
Stats: 16 carries, 74 yards, seven receptions 106 yards, one total touchdown.
Thoughts: Helu was brought in to be Murray’s primary accent piece, but he quickly fell out of favor and never recovered. He hopes offseason hip surgeries will improve next year’s results. Jones has to prove he can stay healthy and the Reece/Olawale combo will primarily be lower options. Murray felt he could’ve been better, and adding another producer should push him to do so.
BIG TICKET ITEMS
Lamar Miller (Dolphins): 5-foot-10, 225 pounds, four accrued seasons, Miami
Stats: 194 carries, 872 yards, 47 catches, 397 yards, 10 total touchdowns
Good fit? Miller would be a solid addition for the Raiders, especially if they are unsure if Murray can be a primary back. Miller is just 24 years old and has stayed healthy and productive the past two seasons. In terms of free-agent backs, Miller is a quality long-term option. He might be more expensive than the Raiders hope to pay for rushing production, but there’s little doubt he’d be effective in his next venture.
Chris Ivory (Jets): 6 feet, 222 pounds, six accrued seasons, Tiffin University
Stats: 247 carries, 1,070, 30 receptions, 217 yards, eight total touchdowns
Good fit? Ivory will be 28 years old soon, and his aggressive rushing style might not last much longer in the NFL. That could damper his market value and, if it drops some, Ivory might benefit from a rushing partnership that lessens his workload and allows him to punish defenses when he’s in the game. He and Murray could form a solid partnership, but only for the right price.
Matt Forte (Bears):6-foot-2 eight accrued seasons, Tulane
Stats: 218 carries, 898 yards, 44 catches,389 yards, seven total touchdowns
Good fit? Forte could provide the type of veteran stability and pass-catching ability this team needs in crunch time. That’s especially true on third down, when the Raiders needed a short-range safety valve. Forte is 30 years, and could look for a team with realistic Super Bowl chances, but a few extra dollars could change his mind.
Other options: Bilal Powell (Jets), Arian Foster (Texans), Jacquizz Rogers (Bears)
Overall thoughts: The Raiders need help running the ball. How much, however, do they value that improvement? It’s generally better to get running backs early, before they’ve been worn down. That could lead to a draft pick, though Miller is an uncommon option in free agency and there are other options that could help in the short-term should the Raiders chose to find a rusher in free agency.