Overview: Reggie McKenzie stepped into difficult circumstances when he took over as general manager in January. The Raiders were way over the salary cap and had to release several key players in order to make any moves in free agency. That led to the departures of OLB Kamerion Wimbley, CB Stanford Routt, TE Kevin Boss and DT John Henderson. Although the team has filled a few of those spots with some signings, the roster is not where McKenzie would like it for first-year head coach Dennis Allen. McKenzie’s job of rebuilding the roster is even tougher when you add in the fact that the team has only five draft picks, and none among the first 94 selections.
Need No. 1: Outside linebacker
With Allen — the former Broncos defensive coordinator — now calling the shots, the Raiders plan to run a hybrid defense, using both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. That’s what makes the loss of Wimbley, who was experienced playing both defensive end and outside linebacker, so devastating. Now on the Titans, Wimbley provided a consistent rush off the edge, registering a total of 16 sacks the past two seasons. The Raiders signed former Colts LB Philip Wheeler on Friday, and although he's an accomplished run defender, he isn't much of a pass rusher, as evidenced by his total of two sacks over four seasons. Oakland will look to upgrade the OLB position during the draft, maybe even going as far as drafting a pair of prospects at the position. One of those has to be a pass rusher, as the team has no one currently on the roster to fill Wimbley’s role to rush quarterbacks from the outside.
Need No. 2: Tight end
Though he wasn’t great during his one season in Silver and Black, the departure of Boss hurts the Raiders (even more so because he signed with the rival Chiefs, same as Routt). On a roster full of speedy, downfield receivers, Boss was the only target for QB Carson Palmer who was comfortable in the middle of the field and who was able to make tough catches in traffic. Finding either a physical wide receiver or a pass-catching tight end will be a big help to Palmer, who often forced throws deep when he couldn’t find anyone open underneath. The Raiders drafted two tight ends last season, but combined, David Ausberry (seventh round) and Richard Gordon (sixth round) had three receptions for 16 yards. Starting TE Brandon Myers is primarily a blocker.
Need No. 3: Nose tackle
Without many starting spots available, McKenzie will try to fortify the Raiders' depth, especially on defense. Expect the team to add a defensive lineman, particularly a nose tackle, where it currently has nobody to fill the position if the team opts to run a "30" front. More bodies at inside linebacker also would be helpful if that’s the style of defense Allen would like to run. In addition, McKenzie has done a nice job of replacing Routt and Chris Johnson by signing three cornerbacks in free agency, but more talent in the secondary would be useful.