ALAMEDA — Pat Sims’ future with the Oakland Raiders is unclear. He should have plenty of options for next season.
The veteran defensive tackle is one of at least a dozen players on the Raiders who are set to become free agents in 2014. Seven of them are starters on defense, including all four on the line.
With so many potential changes, the franchise is in nearly the same position it was a year ago when general manager Reggie McKenzie made sweeping changes to the roster and brought in 10 new starters on defense in order to save space under the salary cap.
McKenzie will have about $50 million worth of cap room when free agency opens and coach Dennis Allen said he hopes to avoid totally overhauling the defense for a second consecutive year.
Sims, who signed a one-year deal with the Raiders in March, isn’t sure where he fits in.
He is open to returning to Oakland but also hasn’t ruled out moving on to play for a third team in three seasons.
“I wouldn’t mind, but at the same time it’s not left up to me,” Sims said Thursday. “I can’t do anything about that.”
When it comes to the potential free agents on the Oakland roster, it looks as if Sims and defensive end Lamarr Houston are in the best shape to cash in on the open market.
Houston is second on the team in sacks while Sims has been at the heart of Oakland’s run defense, which has allowed only one 100-yard game by a running back this season.
It’s an impressive stat, but also a bit misleading.
The Raiders have played progressively worse as the season has gone on. They’ve allowed 37.5 points a game over the last four weeks and will miss out on the playoffs for the 11th consecutive year.
“I ain’t used to losing,” Sims said. “That’s the one thing I don’t like. I don’t like losing, but it is what it is right now. We’re in our last game of the season. All we (can) do is go out there and prepare to the best of our ability.”
The 28-year-old Sims, a third-round draft pick by Cincinnati in 2008, is making his push now.
He had a career-high 15 tackles and two hurries in last week’s 26-13 loss to San Diego. Now he gets a shot at MVP candidate Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos.
“He’s becoming a little bit more of the wrecking ball that we thought he could be,” Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said. “He’s so big and strong that when he sets his mind and does the call right, he can be really good. (I’m) expecting that out of him this week ... and that’s good for him in the future.”
Sims already has established a career high for tackles and should have no problem attracting multiple suitors in free agency. He’s provided a bit of a spark for the interior pass rush and regularly grades out as the Raiders’ most effective defensive lineman despite regularly being double-teamed.
Games like the one he had against San Diego will only add to Sims’ value.
“He’s played well and done the things that we think he’s capable of doing in being a real good run player,” Allen said. “He’s given us something in the nickel as far as the rush is concerned. He’s had a good three weeks.”
NOTES: CB Mike Jenkins (hamstring) was limited and his status for Sunday is uncertain. ... OT Menelik Watson (calf) was held out for a second consecutive day.