Right tackle Austin Howard signed a lucrative contract with the Raiders last season, and was promptly moved to right guard. The experiment didn’t take and, with position-switch proponent Tony Sparano on to other endeavors, the Raiders are moving Howard back outside.
That leaves an opening at right guard likely filled from the outside. General manager Reggie McKenzie said recently that some quality interior linemen are available in the NFL draft. It seems likely they’ll go young at right guard, but there’s also a possibility the Raiders look at some free agent options there as well.
Let’s take a look at players they have now, and a few options in free agency.
Gabe Jackson: 6-foot-3, 336 pounds, 1 accrued season, Mississippi State
Kevin Boothe: 6-foot-5, 325 pounds, 9 accrued seasons, Cornell
Khalif Barnes: 6-foot-6, 320 pounds, 10 accrued seasons, Washington
Thoughts: Jackson was a standout performer in his rookie season, and seems entrenched at the left guard spot. Boothe was the team’s reserve center last season, and should remain a backup if he returns next season. Barnes has played tackle most of his career, but has experience at left guard. There’s no reason to think he could compete at right guard as well.
BIG TICKET ITEMS
Mike Iupati (49ers): 6-foot-5, 331 pounds, five accrued seasons, Idaho
A good fit?: Iupati is expected to make big money on the free-agent market, but his next paycheck probably isn’t coming from the Raiders. He’ll likely end up staying at left guard, which would force Jackson to the right. It's unlikely the Raiders want to do that, or pay such a hefty sum.
Clint Boling (Cincinnati): 6-foot-5, 310 pounds, four accrued seasons, Georgia
A good fit?: Boling had some strong games on the left side and, at just 25 years old, he’s in line for a payday this offseason. He’s versatile and can play tackle as well, so that might be attractive to the Raiders.
Others: Justin Blalock (Atlanta), Orlando Franklin (Denver), James Carpenter (Seattle)
Willie Colon (New York Jets): 6-foot-3, 315 pounds, 9 accrued seasons, Hostra
A good fit?: The converted tackle has played right guard the last three seasons, the final two on the right side. The 31-year-old has plenty of experience on winning teams -– he was a Pittsburgh Steeler from 2006-12 -– and could be an asset and a solution while a younger, drafted player develops. There would also be chemistry built in on the right, because Colon and Howard played next to each other in 2013 with the New York Jets.
John Jerry (New York Giants): 6-foot-5, 340 pounds, 5 accrued seasons, Mississippi
A good fit?: Jerry has spent significant time at right guard, and would already know the position well. He’s had up-and-down performances, but he has the raw tools to be a solid guard and has plenty left in him at 28 years old.
Others: Paul Fanaika (Arizona), Davin Joseph (St. Louis)
Overall thoughts: Jackson could anchor the left guard spot for years to come and, it seems likely the Raiders look for another young player on the right. A player like Colon could offer sage advice to the younger players -- even to Howard and Menelik Watson -- on the outside without demanding a long-term deal. He could also start right away and be productive in the short term.