Through the early stages of free agency, the Las Vegas Raiders have reset the foundation of their offensive line. In the process of doing so, they’ve added veteran center Nick Martin. But what are they getting from the former Notre Dame golden domer?
After trading right tackle Trent Brown, center Rodney Hudson and guard Gabe Jackson for a trio of draft picks, the Raiders’ initial strength has unequivocally become an unknown. In order to go cheaper along the offensive line, one player the Raiders have settled on is former Houston Texans’ center Nick Martin, in an effort to move additional money to the defensive side of the ball.
Martin, the former second round pick has started all but two games throughout his tenure in Houston. At the time of signing, it appeared Martin would fill the void at center, bringing his profound pass-blocking ability to Las Vegas while anchoring the middle of the Raiders’ rebuilding unit.
However, multiple reports also indicated the Raiders are optimistic about Andre James presumably becoming the starting center. For a former undrafted player who’s only taken 117 snaps in the NFL, it’s pretty out of the ordinary to see someone like James take over that role.
But the Raiders put their money right where their mouth is. On Monday, it was reported the Raiders have agreed to a three-year, $12.5 million contract extension with James, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Perhaps the starting center position doesn’t appear to be all that concrete after all. But giving James a three-year deal does present him being the plan long-term compared to Martin’s one-year contract.
“I’m just going to come in here and compete and I’m excited to have an opportunity,” Martin said.
Martin was one of just seven centers to allow one sack or less last season. He also comes in with limited experience at the guard position, so if he doesn’t become the starting center, his versatility could offer the Raiders other ways to use him. In fact, Martin sounded open to the idea of lining up at guard if need be, during his Wednesday video conference call.
“Yeah, absolutely, I played some guard in college and early in my career in Houston I would kind of flop around a little bit there,” said Martin when asked about his capability of playing guard. “So, yeah, it (guard) still is and whatever I can do to help this organization, I’m willing to do.”
All of Martin’s starts in the NFL have come at center, however. Therefore, a season-long change to another position could call for an adjustment period before settling in. Last season, he posted a 74.0 pass-blocking grade and a 47.7 run-blocking grade, per PFF. His best work is surely against the pass. Meanwhile, his run-blocking efficiencies may see an improvement working under Raiders’ offensive line coach Tom Cable, as others have improved in that area in recent seasons.
“I’ve played with some people who’ve been fortunate to play with coach Cable and everyone’s loved him,” said Martin. “The way he’s aggressive and teaches technique. I’m very excited to be apart of this.”
Whether Martin edges out James in training camp as the starting center or serves another role for the Raiders, one aspect he says he’ll bring to the team is leadership.
“I’ve played over 60 games in this league,” said Martin. “I’m going to bring some leadership to this team and the O-line room, but at the same time its an opportunity to attack everyday.”
The Raiders’ current offensive line shapes up as such:
LT: Kolton Miller
LG: Richie Incognito/John Simpson
C: Nick Martin/Andre James
RG: Denzelle Good
RT: Brandon Parker