The Oakland Raiders are slated to have the most salary cap space of any team in the NFL at roughly $50 million. Normally, big contracts handed out by the Raiders have been about as successful as passing on the one-yard line in the Super Bowl. But unlike years past when Oakland threw money at a problem only to get a diminished return on their investment, there is a reason to hope that this offseason might be different.
Despite having virtually no help whatsoever, rookie quarterback Derek Carr played pretty well in 2014. In fact, he played well enough to convince some that he can develop into Oakland's long lost franchise quarterback. As a result, the Raiders are poised to spend big money on offense to help Carr's progress.
One possible recipient of Oakland's considerable cap space could be San Francisco 49ers guard Mike Iupati.
"He is going to cost a pretty penny but given the fact that Bill Musgrave is going to want to run the ball a lot, the Raiders need to make sure their offensive line can keep up (something it struggled with in 2014)," James Arcellana of Cover32.com wrote. "They found a true mauler in 2014 third round pick guard Gabe Jackson but need someone to play opposite him.
"...Grabbing Iupati would give the Raiders a dominant duo at the guard positions which is crucial to running up the gut. In addition, if the team is unable to bring back center Stefen Wisniewski, the loss would be minimized by having dominant guards surrounding whoever replaces him."
Having a strong running game to fall back on is one of the easiest ways to ease along a young quarterback. Keeping him upright in the pocket is the other. Iupati, despite coming off a somewhat down season, can do both for the Raiders. Whether the 49ers let him reach the open market, however, is another question entirely.
The other free agent Oakland could target to aid Carr is Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb.
"The Raiders are in desperate need of a number one wide receiver and Randall Cobb fits that bill," Arcellana wrote. "As everyone knows, [Raiders GM] Reggie McKenzie came from Green Bay and has had a thing for former Packers players. Coming to Oakland would mean reuniting with James Jones...Cobb would be able to fit into the locker room right away.
"In Cobb, Derek Carr would get a true number one receiver who is a deep threat and would make an immediate impact for the second-year signal caller."
Although Cobb did most of his work out of the slot this past season, his versatility and explosiveness would be welcome additions on any team. He can line up virtually anywhere in the offense (including in the backfield as well as out wide) and is a formidable return man. Cobb hopes to return to the Packers but it doesn't appear as if he and Green Bay have made significant progress in their negotiations. Could he be Carr's new favorite target come 2015?
Regardless of what happens, it's clear that the Raiders need an infusion of youth and talent, whoever that might be.