It would be an understatement to say “This season didn’t go as planned for the raider nation.” There’s no way owner Mark Davis envisioned this kind of season after the hiring of head coach John Gruden.
The Raiders have traded away two of their three cornerstone pieces sending Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears and Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for a handful of draft picks. Gruden is all in on the “future” versus the present!
Since switching uniforms Mack has ten sacks, six forced fumbles and two fumble recovers, leading the way for the Bears explosive defense to a playoff push. Since Cooper’s arrival in Dallas he’s produced staggering numbers, with 40 receptions, 642 yards and six touchdowns through his first six games in a Cowboys uniform.
Raiders have already turned the page, by firing general manger Reggie McKenzie. Gruden addressed the media about the firing of McKenzie on Monday 12/10, and mentioned “I know Mark is going to accumulate a list of names and candidates and I’m sure we will discuss those people this week.”
McKenzie served as the Raiders general manager since 2012. He helped uplift the Raiders franchise, when they were at a low place. McKenzie put together the Raiders team that went 12-4 in 2016. McKenzie earned a lot of praise for drafting Derek Carr, Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. Since Gruden was hired, the roster has seen a massive amount of turnover by bringing in his own players rather than the guys that McKenzie had brought to the franchise.
The Raiders are slated to move into their new home in Las Vegas, in 2020. The Raiders will need some positivity before the big move. An improved record, offseason signings and draft picks that get developed are things to build on, when heading to Vegas. With a new stadium in 2020 high priced tickets won’t be easy to sell if the Raiders are still on the decline. Gruden and owner Mark Davis will need to make a splash before they step foot at the entertainment capitol of the world.
Positions of need: Defensive End, Cornerback, Safety, Linebacker, Wide Receiver, Running Back.
Acquisition’s through trading:
Gruden is no stranger to trading, he’s done a lot of it. Gruden can wheel and deal some of his draft picks. With three first round picks, it isn’t out of the question that Gruden trades one of them for a starting NFL player. If not, all three of those first rounders will become free agents at the same time unless a new contract or extension is given beforehand.
During the 2018 draft, Gruden sent a third round pick to the Steelers for wide receiver Martavis Bryant. Bryant has been praised for his dominating speed, running past defenders that the coaching staff likes.
Acquisition’s through free agency:
Defensive End: Being last in the NFL in sacking the quarterback could mean Gruden goes after an edge rusher. Top candidate’s that would fit are Frank Clark, Chris Long or Brandon Graham. It would be shocking if Gruden makes a case for a top defensive end on the market such as Demarcus Lawrence of the Cowboys, since he just traded Khalil Mack who held out because he wanted a new contract and more money.
Cornerback: The Raiders lack experience in the Corner back department but believe their young guys will develop into established cover cornerbacks. Although, right now they need guys on the roster that can set the tone and demeanor for the young core of cornerbacks. Right now the cornerbacks on the roster are Gareon Conley (age 23), Nick Nelson (age 22), Rashaan Melvin (age 29) and Daryl Worley (age 23). Melvin and Worley’s contracts both expire at the end of the season, although Gruden has expressed thought’s on wanting to keep Worley in a Raiders uniform. Candidates to go after in free agency: Bradley Roby, Jimmie Ward, Kareem Jackson.
Safety: The safety position will be a key acquisition this offseason, with Karl Joseph, Marcus Gilchrist and Reggie Nelson all becoming free agents. That leaves Erik Harris as the only safety on the roster. Lucky for the Raiders, the amount of talent at safety in this years free agent class is enormous. Some guys that could fill that role for the silver and black are Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Brynden Trawick or just resigning Marcus Gilchrist. Top safeties also available are Lamarcus Joyner, Earl Thomas, Tyrann Mathieu and Landon Collins.
Linebacker: The Raiders haven’t had a steady linebacker stay within the franchise in quite sometime. Last offseason they signed Tahir Whitehead, who leads the team in tackles. They could use another linebacker to play side-by-side with Whitehead. Gruden has had his history of going after veteran type players. This could be his chance, going after Thomas Davis, K.J Wright or Brian Orakpo.
Wide Receiver: The Raiders are in need of a deep threat wide
receiver, as they just have high volume, reception-type receiver’s on the roster. The unfortunate thing is, this year is a bad offseason to be in need of a wide receiver. Tyrell Williams, Josh Gordon and Golden Tate would be the best deep threat options for the Raiders. Tate will come with a hefty price tag and Gordon has had a past with off the field problems. The Raiders took a chance on Martavis Bryant this year despite his issues away from football.
Running Back: With the uncertainty of the status on Marshawn Lynch, the Raiders might be in need of a new starting running back in 2019. Gruden has shown that he likes the emotion that Lynch brings to the table, so who knows if Lynch comes back for one more year before the Raiders head off for Vegas. If not, some running back candidates consist of, former Raider Latavius Murray, Mark Ingram or LeGarrette Blount. Murray was on the Raiders team that went 12-4 and was a key asset to Derek Carr’s offense. Carr might be in the recruiting business, persuading Murray to come back this offseason.
Oakland will have $78 million dollars in cap space to spend on free agents and draft picks for the 2019 season according to “Spotrac”.
(Photo: Justin Sullivan/ Getty Images)
Follow Nicholas Cothrel on twitter @NickCothrel41
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