The Oakland Raiders are having another up and down season and as the offseason approaches, general manager Reggie McKenzie has some big decisions to make and that starts with whether to sign Darren McFadden to a new contract and with that, deciding which of the 2014 free agents to after with names like Maurice Jones-Drew, Ben Tate, Jimmy Graham, Hakeem Nicks and Brian Orakpo possible targets.
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The team is coming into the offseason with some cap space after getting rid of a number of high priced players over the past couple years in Michael Huff, Darrius Heyward-Bey as well as other players and now the team will have $60 million-ish to work with when the free agent class hits the market next year. The biggest focus for the Raiders will be at the running back position, as Darren McFadden and fullback Marcel Reese both will be free agents and the top question will be whether or not to bring back McFadden.
This decision by McKenzie may end up saving him or costing him the general manager job, as the team has Rashad Jennings looking good with McFadden hurt and with options on the market, a wrong move could be disastrous for a franchise that knows about moves like that all too well. McFadden's talent is not in question here, as everyone knows how good he can be and is when he is on the field, but that's the biggest problem, getting him on the field. This season the team is ranked fifth in the NFL in rushing yards per game, but that is more about Terrelle Pryor rather than McFadden, who has been injured once again.
McFadden can't stay healthy and now he is coming up on yet another season where he will not play in a full 16 game schedule, something that he has never done in his career. McFadden has played in 13 games as the biggest total and with players like Tate and Jones-Drew on the market, it might be hard to reconcile a big deal for McFadden when he can' remain healthy and on the field. This was a contract year for McFadden after he previously signed a six year deal worth $60 million and after not playing in more than 13 games in any season and missing 13 games over the past two seasons, he could be on his way out of town.
The Raiders want the 2010 McFadden, which saw the running back gain 1,157 yards on the season with a career high in touchdowns, but since then he has not been able to stay healthy and over the past two seasons he has far fewer touchdowns than he should based on how much he could have played. McFadden missed 10 games over his first three seasons and while he has potential as a 1,000 yard back every season, he has only done that once in his career and that is where the big issues lie for McKenzie.
McFadden is a versatile player, as he showed with over 40 catches in both 2010 and 2012, but his health will be the biggest issue. Last season he had just 700 yards and two touchdowns scored and even though Tate and Jones-Drew aren't up to the talent levels of McFadden, they could be cheaper options going forward for a player that can't stay healthy.