Rodney Hudson Must Be First of Many Upgrades for Oakland Raiders in Free Agency

The Oakland Raiders missed the opportunity to agree to deals with top free agents Ndamukong Suh, Randall Cobb, Jeremy Maclin and Jerry Hughes during the NFL’s three-day negotiating window prior to the start of free agency on Tuesday. Even with nearly $70 million in salary-cap space, a talent-starved roster and a desperate general manager, the Raiders couldn’t make a splash.

After making fans nervous for a repeat of 2014, the Raiders agreed to a five-year, front-loaded deal with center Rodney Hudson worth $44.5 million, according to Albert Breer of That’s $8.9 million per year for a center upgrade for Stefen Wisniewski, who was hardly the problem in Oakland.

At least the Raiders have joined the race for players, but Hudson must be the first of many upgrades. The Raiders simply must continue to add quality players in free agency to improve the roster and move toward the spending minimum mandated by the collective bargaining agreement.

Although not as splashy as other signings would have been, Hudson is a good player and fills a big need. One of the major problems in Oakland last year was the offensive line. The Raiders had the most trouble running the ball, which put the pressure on quarterback Derek Carr and his lackluster set of wide receivers.

By signing Hudson, the Raiders are wisely building a safety net for Carr. The Raiders will be in position to add a wide receiver in the draft, but they may not have the opportunity to draft linemen who are any better than those they already have.

Hudson is also an ascending player and was by far the best center available in free agency. Last year, Hudson was Pro Football Focus’ third best center. In 2013, Hudson was in the middle of the pack but didn’t grade out negatively in pass protection, run blocking or screen blocking.

By contrast, Wisniewski was solid blocking for the run in 2013, but he decl...

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