The Oakland Raiders showed a lot of improvements during the 2015 season and with salary cap space to spare, they could make a few key moves in the offseason to become contenders next year. The Raiders have key franchise pieces in place with Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack, but veteran retirements have opened doors for other free agents and the Raiders plan to offer money in order to get them.
Muhammad Wilkerson is one of the top defensive players preparing to hit the free agent market. Even with the broken leg suffered at the end of the season, Wilkerson is still a target for many teams. According to CBS NFL Insider Jason La Canfora, the Raiders plan on chasing Wilkerson with a top contract, but will they be able to even begin negotiations with him? Wilkerson is of great value to the New York Jets and they do not want the defensive end putting a toe into the free agent pool.
Rich Cimini of ESPN reports the Jets plan on using their franchise tag should they not be able to get a long-term deal negotiated. Wilkerson wants the big contract, but the Jets are cash-strapped. With Ryan Fitzpatrick and Damon Harrison all needing new contracts, Wilkerson might end up getting shorted into a franchise tag leaving the Raiders searching elsewhere. That is where the first-round of the NFL Draft could come in handy for the team.
The Raiders already have a solid defensive front. Mack is developing into one of the best players in the league. They also have Aldon Smith once his suspension is lifted along with Dan Williams and Mario Edwards Jr who are coming all well for the team. With Justin Tuck retiring, there is a linebacker opening and getting a solid first-round option could give the Raiders one of the best defensive fronts. Joey Bosa is expected to be gone before the Raiders get to drafting. That opens the door for either Myles Jack or Reggie Ragland. With Oakland selecting at No.14 this year instead of in the top ten, they run the risk of missing out of key options and trade up could be considered.
Outside of the defensive front, the Raiders must look for secondary help with the retirement of Charles Woodson. The team has a good emerging player in David Amerson, they simply need to replace Woodson. For the first time in a while the Raiders do not have a ton of needs to fill giving them flexibility in the draft and in free agency. Wilkerson is the first priority, but chances are slim he becomes an option leaving the draft to fill Oakland's roster.