Author Archives: Pete D. Camarillo

Veteran versus Youth movements in Oakland

Listen, you don’t go and buy a new car if you love what you have. The Raiders didn’t draft Arden Key or sign Tank Carridine in free agency because they loved what they had at defensive end with Mario Edwards Jr. They didn’t draft Mo Hurst and PJ Hall because they loved what they saw from Justin Ellis, Eddie Vanderdoes or Treyvon Hester on the inside.

Further, you don’t go out and buy an old car after you just got a new car. In this analogy, it doesn’t make any sense why Oakland signed veterans Ahtyba Rubin or Frostee Rucker after the draft. Clearly, the Raiders want to give Hall, Key and Hurst time to develop. I’m all for veterans like Rucker and Rubin teaching these guys how to become professionals and winners. However, that is not Gruden’s mindset.

Gruden prefers veterans. Sure, he’ll let the best players play but the only reason why he signed these aging veterans was because he thought they could compete for rotation and starting spots today.

Moreover, the Raiders didn’t re-sign Reggie Nelson and add Marcus Gilchrist because they felt the young trio Obi Melifonwu, Shalom Luani and Karl Joseph could handle leading the secondary. Don’t be surprised if the first two veterans start over the other guys despite the playing time and draft capital the Raiders invested in them early.

This phenomenon is happening throughout the Raiders roster. Oakland brought in veterans Leon Hall and Shareece Wright because they weren’t comfortable with Dexter McDonald or Antonio Hamilton as depth at corner. They even brought in Daryl Worley and Rashaan Melvin to challenge last year’s first round pick Gareon Conley for the lead CB role. Nick Nelson was drafted as the last piece to the complicated secondary picture.

At linebacker too, the Raiders signed veterans Emmanuel Lamur, Tahir Whitehead and Derrick Johnson. They didn’t bring in that sort of experience to let it sit behind developmental prospects like Marquel Lee, Nicholas Morrow or even rookie Azeem Victor.

The point is, there is a lot of smoke about how half of these guys won’t make the roster because of their age. I’m not buying that.

You don’t add an old car to your garage to take up room for the new cars you already got in your lineup. You buy that old car because it offers you value and an experience that even a new car smell won’t give you.

Thus, don’t be surprised if you see older players playing over younger players during Gruden’s first year. Signing guys like Nelson, Lamur, Whitehead, Johnson, Wright, Gilchrist, Rubin, Rucker, Carridine, and even Melvin and Worley was about more than just a culture or price tag.

The Raiders brought these veterans in because Gruden believes they believe they can push for playing time. He isn’t going to care how much draft capital he has invested or how much development the previous regime put into any given prospect. That’s great if the Raiders win early and often.

It only gets complicated if the Raiders aren’t a serious contender. Then, fans and executives are going to push to develop young players and stop wasting reps on guys who are probably at the end of the road.

Moreover, what do all of these veteran signings tell us about our young players? Clearly, Hall, Hurst and Key aren’t as ready as they would’ve hoped. They wouldn’t have signed all those veterans if any of them were ready to be more than situational depth. They’re probably not in love with any of the last regime’s projects like Ellis, Edwards Jr., Vanderdoes or Hester either.

The same goes in the secondary. If they were confident in the health of Conley, Joseph and Melifonwu would they add Wright, Gilchrist, Nelson, Worley and Melvin to the mix. Linebacker has a similar impact. I’m sure Gruden gave guys like Johnson, Whitehead and Lamur some reassurance they would be in the mix to play in Oakland which is why they wanted to come here too.

Ultimately, yes a lot of these veterans are good enough to start and get some serious run. However, that is the scariest part. That speaks to the talent on this roster as a whole if all these aging veterans are the best the Raiders will field. Let’s not act like any of them really had a long line of suitors.

Plus, what does that say to the confidence of our young players? How are they going to feel getting passed up by some old veteran every day? How will they deal with sitting on the shelf and collecting dust? Will it inspire them or disengage them? Will they be able to develop in practice if they don’t have gametime reps?

I guess that is what Gruden wants to see. He wants to see what young players step up and beat out the veterans on the rosters as well as what players aren’t moved by the added competition in front or behind them in position drills.

Still, it is a big risk. Unlike cars staying off the road, prospects don’t keep their value by not performing. It is also a different approach than the last few Raiders regimes which have relied on young players over players. They’ve gambled on giving drafted and undrafted rookies a shot to prove themselves on gamedays instead of going with a slew veterans.

Obviously, that approach hasn’t groomed anything but a mediocre defense. Hence, the new approach is welcomed by many in the Silver and Black.

Nonetheless, I’m skeptical to the approach until I see exactly how much gas all these veterans have and where is the development of our young players. Preseason will give me the first answers to these questions.

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Goodbye, Gruden’s Casualties: OTAS

I know it is OTA’s and it is all about moving forward to the 2018 season but I want to take a few moment to remember the legacies of a few Raiders casualties. You won’t read about any of these guys in Raiders Hall of Fame. They’re the casualties of the lost 2017 season.

Michael Crabtree, Sean Smith, David Amerson, Clive Walford and Marshall Newhouse were all let go before their contracts expired. Jamize Olawale and Cordarelle Patterson were traded even though they flashed at times for the Silver and Black. Don’t forget Marquette King, JDR, TJ Carrie and Denico Autry who will also move on. Otherwise, peace out to Darius Latham and Jihad Ward. 

Marquette King, Broncos

I get it. Marquette King had more followers than some of these NFL teams but let’s not pretend like he wasn’t legit at his craft. And really, to let him go on the first day of the new year when he hadn’t met his new coach? Even if Gruden wants a punter who will be quiet and kick, adding one more roster question doesn’t help Oakland’s cause. King wasn’t the only person that got his walking players.

Still, let’s remember King not only for his dances after punts but all the work he did in the community. Plus, he was the league’s lone punter. He made us forget about Shane Lechler and was actually athletic in a similar way as Raiders legend Ray Guy.

Michael Crabtree, Ravens

Crabtree was the biggest surprise since he’s been Carr’s favorite weapon especially in the redzone. Crabtree’s numbers and relative contract, that had $6 million in non-guaranteed money, made him a likely candidate to stay on the Raiders. Instead, the Raiders cut him.

However, Gruden and the Raiders had other plans. It was clear that Crab fell out of favor with the last staff and for whatever reason, Gruden wasn’t ready to give him a restart. Lookout for Crab to really play with a chip on his shoulder this season.

Either way, let’s not forget Crab for being one of the first players to buy into the new era of the Silver and Black. He took a below market value contract to play with Derek Carr and prove his worth. He was the start of a culture change. Crabtree was more than a gold chain and Talib antagonist. He was a Raider.

David Amerson, Chiefs and Sean Smith, Free Agent

The greatest cornerback duo that never was. Amerson and Smith didn’t live up to their expectations. They were supposed to be the big, cornerback duo that could make plays on the ball. Last season, Amerson couldn’t stay on the field, despite being an underrated addition when he signed a few years ago. Smith couldn’t even get practice time after being a key free agent before the previous season.

As a unit, it took the Raiders nearly the whole season to get an interception. Some of that falls on these veterans. Plus, their contracts, Amerson’s health and Smith’s legal trouble just made it all to easy to start over. 

Marshall Newhouse, Bills

Speaking of upgrades, Newhouse was cut because he really didn’t solidify the right tackle spot. Newhouse was adequate on the right side. He also had experience playing a variety of positions on the offensive line. However, he wasn’t better than average and the Gruden regime wanted someone better for their scheme. Newhouse will always be remembered for recovering that fumble versus Miami and getting flipped when he tried to run and advance the ball.

Jamize Olawale, Cowboys

Here’s another trade that hurt. Olawale hadn’t been utilized by the previous regime. When he was, he flashed running ability like that big run versus the Steelers a few years ago. Otherwise, he was a balanced player with blocking, catching and special team abilities. Olawale was a class act in the community and still relatively young.

Cordarrelle Patterson, Patriots

Speaking of under utilization, Patterson played more than expected due to injuries to other WRs. However, he didn’t always see a lot of designed targets. He did give the Raiders some game changing runs, kick coverage and kick returns. That alone gives him a reason to be on an NFL roster. Now, Belichick gets to use his game changing speed and special teams ability. Patterson should see some extra snaps at RB too. Guess he had to go since the Raiders are deep at WR but we really chose Seth Roberts over him? And all we got back was conditional pick in this trade, SMH.

Navarro Bowman

Oh yeah, Navarro Bowman isn’t signed after a solid year as our runstopper. He is probably not in the plans since the Raiders already signed three veteran linebackers. 

Jihad Ward, Cowboys and Darius Latham, free agent

Here are two players that played a ton their rookie year but injuries and other competition kept them mostly out of the rotation. Latham isn’t too surprising since he was an undrafted player. However, Jihad Ward was a second round pick and he never even sniffed that potential. Both players didn’t seem like fits in the new defensive scheme and both are easily upgraded. Ward was traded and Latham waived.

Clive Walford, Jets

Another tragic draft pick waived. Walford never regained his career projections after he injured himself in an ATV accident before his sophomore season. He played well last year but we all knew Jared Cook was the starter. Walford had all the tools to be both a good blocker and pass catcher. He just never consistently put it all together. That’s why the Raiders always needed to bring in another player to compete or compliment him. Walford is the type of player who might benefit from a change of scenery though.

Corey James, Free Agent

Another player waiver with flashes who battled injuries. Hopefully he catches on somewhere else?

TJ Carrie, Browns and Denico Autry, Colts

Two surprise contributors who got more money elsewhere. I ain’t mad at them even if they’re both sorrier teams. Both Carrie and Autry served and represented the Silver and Black every week. Yes, we could’ve used more consistency out of both players but they both showed willingness to play multiple positions. They both fought for playing time and a roster spot. Plus, they arguably got better every single year. Carrie was undrafted and Autry was claimed from another team. These were too Raiders who I wish the best for moving forward.

Aldon Smith, N/A

An obvious subtraction since he hadn’t played in two seasons. Tragic story where unlimited potential was derailed by demons. Hopefully, he can get his life together.

Jack Del Rio, N/A

The bay area native, living his dream job. We’ll remember Captain Black Jack for his gutsy fourth down calls and weekly media cliches. He should also be remembered for modernizing the Raiders facilities, getting decent free agents and giving this team direction and foundation. The weird thing is, he lost all of that just as fast as he built it.

The truth is, 2017 was a weird season especially to those of us not in the lockerroom. Someone needed to pay the price and it was JDR. Not only did he let players impact the lockerroom culture, but he failed to make weekly or halftime adjustments. He got comfortable and the team got stagnant.

Don’t feel too bad though. He signed an extension before the year and he got cashed out to not work.

The New Guys

Regardless, you don’t really get mad until you realize who the Raiders replaced said players with. For a minute, there was a running joke that they were cutting black players for white players. That wasn’t entirely true but it was a weird coincidence. For instance, they signed Jordy Nelson to take over at receiver for Crab despite his added age and more recent injury concerns. Adding Martavis Bryant helps soften the loss of Crab and Patterson too. 

Smith, Carrie and Amerson were replaced with veterans like Rashaad Melvin, Shareece Wright and Leon Hall. It remains to be seen if they’re upgrades. Reggie Nelson was re-signed despite him getting beat bad a lot last year. Journey man tackle Breno Giacomini replaces Newhouse but that might not be an upgrade either. 

Oakland added Derek Carrier and Keith Smith and re-signed Lee Smith to replace Olawale and Walford in the new offensive scheme. Again, lateral moves at best.

They spent a bunch more draft picks to restructure their offensive line with the roster moves and new scheme. Emmanuel Lamur, Derrick Johnson and Tahir Whitehead will takeover for Bowman’s leadership.

The point is, yes Gruden made changes but it is unclear if any of them are really upgrades. Either way, it is clear Gruden is trying to change the culture and schemes and he doesn’t care where a player was drafted or signed. Hopefully, it all works out, the Raiders win and we forget all these casualties.

Grading the Raiders 2018 Draft class

It’s easy to give the Raiders a middle of the road grade for the 2018 NFL Draft. Their draft has a high amount of risk but they managed to find some good value propositions in the middle round.

The biggest takeaway from the Raiders 2018 NFL Draft is that you cannot grade it in a vacuum. You got to look at the bigger picture considering this is Jon Gruden’s first time heading the NFL Draft in a decade. He and Reggie McKenzie made some selections that were gambles and they reached for players but you can’t get caught up in each pick. Look at the draft class as a whole and you’ll be far less disappointed

Team Needs

Oakland specifically addressed the trenches. Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker were the tackles selected in the first three rounds. Not surprising, considering Vandal Alexander is starting the season suspended, Donald Penn is over 30 and been hurt the past two seasons and the RT position has been a joke the past two seasons. Oakland needed some tackle help and hopefully, they found it. The Raiders also took defensive tackle PJ Hall and edge Arden Key to infuse some disruption along the defensive line.

Miller was inconsistent in college. Key has Off-field issues. Hall and Parker are underrated prospects who will need some time adjusting to the change in speed and strength at the NFL level. However, that’s the case with most of these picks.

Sixth round pick and linebacker Azeem Victor is another high-risk player. Victor had an off1field DUI and there are also questions about his speed and size in the NFL. Then, there’s Nick Nelson who is recovering from an off-field injury. Both LB and DB were some of the Raiders biggest needs but they waited until the last part of the draft.

Oakland’s biggest draft needs are addressed to an extent. That depends on how ready these players are to contribute on Day One.

Playmakers

Above all else, the Raiders needed to find playmakers on both sides of the ball in this draft. On offense, that meant finding big-play threats. On defense, that meant sacks and picks.

They found a player like Maurice Hurst who can develop into an inside playmaker on the defensive line. He can get sacks. Hall and Key can too. Thus, I can give the team a pass for not selecting Harold Landry when they had a chance in the second round.

However, picks are another story. Nick Nelson is a nice prospect but he had zero picks in college. The Raiders need a defensive back who can take the ball away because we all remember how miserable it was not having a pick through more than half the season. For context, Oakland passed on CB/Safety Josh Jackson as well as safeties Josh Jackson and Justin Reid who would’ve given the Raiders some playmakers in the defensive backfield.

Moreover, they waited until the last round to select an offensive skill player. They took Hall three picks before Derrius Guice. Guice is considered a copy of Marshawn Lynch and he would have been the perfect heir to Beast Mode. The LSU product is a balanced runner and pass catcher with first-round ability who may haunt the Raiders.

Don’t forget the Raiders traded a third-round pick to get Martavis Bryant. That’s literally the pickup that saved this draft class from a playmaking standpoint.

Value

You could argue the Raiders took Miller and Parker way too high. They were probably the most overdrafted of this class, but the tackle position was bad. It makes sense that Oakland took these picks. P.J. Hall was a little high of a selection too especially since he’s from a small school. However, there were rumors of him getting selected that high even with other good d-linemen on the board. With his film and body type, the Raiders get a pass for making the selection.

Added, the Raiders found Arden Key, Marcell Ateman and Maurice Hurst way lower than most expected. Those three picks balanced out the value proposition of this draft class. Victor and Nelson were selected at the spots they were expected so that makes the Raiders even in terms of finding value.

Culture

We were all looking at this draft to see how Gruden would build his team. It is clear he wants to start with a physical team on both lines.

Further, it is clear that Gruden’s regime doesn’t care where a player plays or what they did as long as they can play. That is evident by the off-field red flags from Key and Victor, the injury concerns of Nelson and Hurst and the small school pedigrees of Hall and Parker. Even Miller had questions about his consistency and Ateman had questions about his speed.

Ultimately, Gruden wants to take players he thinks can compete regardless of the context they come with. He also isn’t afraid of getting away from conventional thinking. Guden isn’t afraid to let draft picks compete with each other or replace a prominent player from the previous regime. We knew that already but now it is confirmed.

The Bigger Picture

Hopefully, Gruden is right and all these players compete. He doesn’t have a lot of time to wait for players to develop, deal with off-field concerns or let players get healthy. Gruden needs this rookie class to step-in and compete as well as provide depth now and into the future.

Either way, the Raiders found at least two starters in the NFL Draft. Hurst and Hall will both compete for starter roles on the interior defensive line. Parker and Miller will compete for starting roles on the offensive line. More than likely, only one rookie will start on either line.

Not to mention, Key and Ateman can compete for starting time immediately. That means the Raiders got two starters and four key depth players. They got Victor and Nelson who might compete down the line and Bryant is an added bonus.

Big picture, the Raiders had a solid draft class by balancing out some of their earliest reaches with the best player on the board towards the end of the draft.

The point is, if you look at the Raiders from a holistic approach you will find yourself much more pleased.

The Raiders get a C+ for this year’s draft but it can easily turn into a B+ if these guys start immediately.

 

Oakland Raiders outlook for Round Two and Round One reaction

What are the Raiders best options in day two of the NFL draft?

You can’t talk about the second round without talking about the first round.Kolton Miller was the Raiders Day One pick. It’s surprising since Miller would usually be a Day Two pick. However, this year’s tackle class is so bad that Miller going this high makes sense. He’s the consensus 2-4 ranked tackle throughout this draft process. Miller brings the athleticism to play left tackle down the line. He has the UCLA production to compete for play at RT immediately. The biggest knock on Miller is his consistency and toughness. Not to mention, his QB Josh Rosen was often hurt and the entire UCLA team under achieved.Either way, the Raiders filled a need at the top of the draft. They get a player who had the potential to improve both the running and passing offense.

Trading back

That wasn’t even the biggest surprise of Day One. Oakland trades back five spots and got a third and fifth round pick in the exchange. They sent that third round pick to the Steelers for Martavis Bryant.

Bryant is a legit deep threat. He’s an explosive option to have as your second or third receiver. Bryant is an upgrade over Seth Roberts.

However, the Raiders essentially let the Cardinals into the top ten and handed them a franchise QB for an added third round pick and fifth round pick. The Packers moved back 13 spots, got a first round pick and then flipped that 27 pick and some more draft capital to get the 18 pick. Green Bay got their guy Jaire Alexander and an added first rounder for next year. Oakland couldn’t do this? Maybe, the organization shouldn’t hint at trading back all offseason which gave away their leverage.

Round two

Either way, the Raiders still have some great players to consider in round two. Harold Landry makes sense as a dynamic pass rusher. Derrius Guice is a physical and balanced runner. Both of those players could be steals at this point.

There’s rumors that Oakland could take another offensive tackle to continue the rebuild of their line. Connor Williams, Tyrell Crosby and Will Hernandez are some of the top offensive linemen left but they’re more of guards in the NFL. Will Oakland reach for Brian O’Neil, Geron Christian or Orlando Brown who are more traditional tackles?

Defensive back makes sense for the Raiders too. Justin Reid and Ronnie Harrison make sense as versatile, athletic and productive safeties. Isaiah Oliver makes sense as an instant nickel back with a chance to compete on the outside. Josh Jackson is a hybrid safety and corner who many thought would go in the first round.

Speaking of offense, Linebacker should also come into consideration. How about Malik Jefferson or Uchenna Nwosu?

Otherwise, Ronald Jones is a super shifty back and Nick Chubb is another back to consider.

There are also some tight ends like Mike Gesicki and Mark Andrews. They’re dual threat TEs who might be gone after this round considering Hayden Hurst went in the first round.

This is a very interesting draft. The market is much different than people expected especially since Cleveland threw everyone off with Baker Mayfield at No. 1 overall.

Added, Oakland proved they’ll make an unpopular pick. Gruden clearly has a vision for this team and it isn’t yet clear. I’d assume he wants to be physical upfront and take his shots deep which has always been the Raiders forward. Therefore, I’m leaning towards a RB in round two. Guice makes too much sense as the heir to Marshawn Lynch this year and in the future. He’s a physical runner and does a ton of community work.

If he’s gone, Oakland needs a playmaker on the defensive side. They need to look for sacks or picks. Landry or Jackson makes sense for that spot since they’ve been among CFB’s elite the past season. Oliver, Jefferson and Nwosu wouldn’t upset me either though. Realistically, we can’t rule out another trade back either. Anything is possible especially if talent keeps falling. The Raiders have the assets in the fifth and six round to pair with their second to move back into the second and grab a third or fourth rounder in the process. We will see what happens tonight!

Who will the Raiders select on Day One of the NFL Draft

Who will the Raiders Draft in the 2018 NFL Draft?

I don’t think the Silver and Black even know. The dynamic between Jon Gruden and Reggie McKenzie is still too new. This is there first draft together and it will be a trial to how they work together and find prospects that fit Gruden’s scheme and culture. As we know, Gruden brings a unique culture and scheme that is different than any coach McKenzie has drafted before.

Either way, rumors and speculation is that the Raiders will trade back in the NFL Draft. They’ve both hinted towards it all offseason. There is even smoke about them trading up to get Bradley Chubb. That isn’t likely since Oakland loves their draft picks.

Still, Chubb is the guy if he is there at No. 10. The same goes for Saquan Barkley. The talent is too real to pass on no matter what. Their availability depends on if teams are really buying the QB hype.

Nonetheless, Cubb and Barkley won’t be around and it is expected that the Raiders will be considering top defensive prospects like Derwin James, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Denzel Ward, Tremaine Edmunds, Vita Vea, Marcus Davenport and Roquan Smith.

Fitzpatrick, James and Ward are all top talents but their positions are deep in this draft class. Oakland can wait til later, especially since they’ve taken corners and safeties in the past couple of drafts. The same can be said for selecting Vea or Davenport. Both are great talents but the Raiders already invest draft capitol at their positions.

Edmunds and Smith make the most sense based on need. The Raiders have needed backers for years. With Bruce Irvin converting to pass rusher, the need is even bigger. Both or neither may be there depending on how many QBs and DBs go in the top-10. Oakland may consider trading out if both Smith and Edmunds are there or gone. Harold Landry is my darkhorse due to his athleticism. He might be a little too raw to go this high though.

Nonetheless, don’t rule out an offensive player. It would be a very Raiders move to take an offensive player when all the experts think you’re going defense. Oakland put the last two first rounders on offense and they might invest this one in some help for Derek Carr and Gruden.

Donald Penn ain’t getting any younger and right tackle has been a joke. This team is built from the inside out too.

Thus, we’ve been hearing rumors about Kolton Miller or Mike McGlinchey being the No. 10 pick. Both are athletic and productive enough to play either tackle position. McGlinchey is a little tougher so he projects as a starting right tackle sooner. However, Miller has more athleticism which could make him a better LT down the line.

Taking a tackle makes sense since this team is built inside out. It’s an easy way to help Carr, boost the running and passing game. This class isn’t that deep at the position which is why they may reach a bit for a tackle like Miller or McGlinchey who might be better values a little later in the first round.

Speaking of reaches, Calvin Ridley and Derius Guice should also come into consideration at No. 10. This is especially true if the top defensive players on the Raiders boards are gone. However, neither Ridley or Guice play positions of glaring need. They don’t have the elite athleticism to really even be taken this high but they’re proven gamers who have great production for huge programs.

Ridley is a smooth receiver who can do a bit of everything. He is Amari Cooper light. Meanwhile, Guice is a physical beast who can run and catch with anger. He is a Marshawn Lynch light. That makes both Ridley and Guice great scheme and culture fits even if they aren’t the top talents overall or fill a position of need.

Added, the WR and RB classes are deep but Ridley and Guice are definitely in the top tier with a big gap ahead of their competition. It would not surprise me if Gruden wanted either of these guys. There is the slight chance they fall into the second or the Raiders can get them later.

Ultimately, the Raiders can do any number of things on Draft Day. I’d be happy if they took any of the aforementioned players. McGlinchey or Edmunds would be my pick based on need. Ridley or Guice would be my pick based on playmaking. Roquan and Davenport make sense for value. Miller and Landry have the upside to go that high. Ward, Fitz and James wouldn’t hurt the team at all.

Oakland is expected to pick around 6:40 PM PST so make sure you tune in.

The Raiders already made their big splash

If you expected a marquee free agency signing or hoped for one like I did, you’re real disappointed with this week’s haul. It’s understandable since the Raiders signed a 33-year-old Jordy Nelson, four defensive starters from non-playoff teams, three reserve skill players you’ve never heard of and a long snapper.

This really shouldn’t be surprising since Oakland prefers to build through the draft. Plus, the Raiders already made their major move in free agency. That was signing head coach Jon Gruden.

Adding Gruden won’t impact the salary cap but it’s the marquee move of the free agent. If you were expecting a big name with dollars to upstage that you were setting yourself up for failure.

Yes, there’s no Suh, Honeybadger or Tru coming despite whatever source said that might happen.

Instead, Oakland will try to grab impact players in the draft. They’ll bank on Gruden coaching up mediocre plays. They will hope a new staff wit structure and scheme will help this team improve naturally.

Hopefully, there right. The regime will need to bat 1000 in the NFL Draft if they hope to construct a Super Bowl roster.

Plus, this team needs to win immediately as they’re facing relocation in a season or two. If this team stumbles out of the gate, expect a ton of hostile fans at home. They will cite this free agency and last season as examples of McKenzie letting them down.

Again, the hope is McKenzie and Gruden are right that they can coach up some average NFL talent. That these veterans are hungry and ready to buy into Gruden’s schemes.

That means all we can do is what and see. Trust the process, no matter how tired of it you are.

Free Agency Watch and Wish List

Here is a comprehensive list of how the Raiders should value free agents. Free Agency opens today and these players are grouped by the wave. This isn’t necessarily a ranking so much as it shows what players should be a priority as well as their value to the Raiders.

Top Guys

These guys will get the big money and they will get it fast. Oakland will be lucky to get any of them with only about $15 million in cap space and Khalil Mack‘s extension upcoming. This group is ranked by priority.

Mo Wilkerson

Trumaine Johnson

Malcolm Butler

Sheldon Richardson

Allen Robinson

Sammy Watkins

Dontari Poe

Nate Solder

Kenny Vaccaro

Jimmy Graham

Andrew Norwell

Tyler Eifert

Second-Tier Guys who fit a need

This group doesn’t have the same name recognition, age, production or upside but they’re still ballers. Big money will not come for this group as fast as the first tier. Thus, they may take the most money they can get early from a team who really wants them. Otherwise,  they can wait until the market is more stable and a team really needs to spend some money.

Eric Reid

Star Lotulelei

Nigel Bradham

Bashaud Breeland

Aaron Colvin

Tahir Whitehead

Justin Bethel

Nickell Robey-Coleman

Carlos Hyde

Isiah Crowell

Tre Boston

Patrick Robinson

Paul Richardson

Marquis Lee

Zach Brown

Adrian Clayborn

Terrelle Pryor

EJ Gaines

Morris Claiborne

Deshawn Shead

DeMarcco Murray

Bennie Logan

Avery Williamson

Derrick Coleman

Dion Lewis

Peter Warrilow

Todd Davis

This is where the Raiders have made their living in free agency. If the money and team fit is right, Oakland can fill some positions of need by this group that is often overlooked. The Raiders won’t overpay for anyone in this bracket.

Under the Radar Guys for down the line

This group is filled with starting experience. Players in this bracket have proven themselves as starters and key role players. They’ve played at a high level but age, injuries, limited upside and inconsistencies keep them from being in a higher bracket.

Morgan Burnett

Prince Amukamara

Demario Davis

Philip Gaines

DJ Hayden

Austin Seferian-Jenkins

Luke Willson

Jerick McKinnon

Jeremy Lane

Brandon Boykin

Jeremy Hill

David Bass

Cody Davis

Cornellius Carradine

Justin Pugh

Bradley McDougald

Benson Mayowa

Pierre Desir

Kendall Wright

Kamar Aiken

Benjamin Ljalana

Kendall Wright

John Brown

Dontrelle Inman

Jaron Brown

Rex Burkhead

Tavon Wilson

Korey Toomer

Cameron Fleming

Charles Simms

Oakland can fill some key starters and depth players from this bargain bin. However, a team who thinks they can put this player in the best position may make one of these players an offer they can not refuse.

On the downswing

Again, these players have proven themselves in the league. However, they will have to continue proving themselves. Unless a team falls in love with one of them or desperately needs to spend money, these players won’t see a ton of cash.

Ron Parker

LeGarrette Blount

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

Lamar Houston

Ricky Jean-Francois

Andre Smith

Da’Norris Searcy

Nick Fairley

Virgil Green

Clinton McDonald

Doug Martin

Pernell McPhee

Courtney Upshaw

Akeem Ayers

Davon House

Jerrell Freeman

Tramon Williams

Anthony Fasano

Zach Miller

Quinton Demps

TJ Ward

Alan Branch

Will Hayes

Mike Wallace

Conner Barwin

Tyvon Branch

Jon Sullivan

Matt Slauson

Byron Maxwell

Darius Butler

Eric Decker

Willie Young

Ahtyba Rubin

Shareece Wright

Rashaan Melvin

Sterling Moore

Stephen Peaea

Alfred Morris

Alterraun Verner

Brian Quick

Michael Floyd

Terrance West

Jarvis Jenkins

John Jenkins

James Hurst

Josh Bynes

Will Compton

Lance Dunbar

The biggest difference between this wave of free agency and the previous one is age. Expect these guys to sign contracts after the draft when teams have a better idea of their needs before camp.

Potential

These are the ego signings. A coach will think they are the ones to unlock the potential that this group has shown. Injuries, scheme-fit and inconsistency have placed them in this wave. However, age, flashes and upside put them in this group over some of the others.

Alex Okafor

Donte Moncrief

Jordan Matthews

Barkevious Mingo

Preston Brown

Kony Ealy

Luke Joeckel

Trent Murphy

Albert Wilson

Dominique Easley

Aaron Lynch

Damien Williams

Kevin Minter

Jared Crick

Greg Robinson

Taylor Gabriel

D’anthony Thomas

Marcus Smith

Jeremiah Attaochu

Richard Rodgers

Trey Burton

Anthony Hitchens

Eddie Lacy

Cody Latimer

Some of these players were drafted high. Others were not. Nonetheless, they’re all explosive athletes who were suppossed to dominate the competition. A team might fall in love with that and gamble on them. The Raiders might be one but Oakland will only do it if the price is right and the player fits the culture.

Veterans worth a gamble

Many of these players have earned the right to decide how they want to go out. Money grab and mentorship role with a young team or a reserve role with a contender? Some are more name than game these days.

Derrick Johnson

Julius Peppers

Haloti Ngata

Kyle Williams

Charles Johnson

Pacman Jones

Mike Tolbert

Jonathan Stewart

Elvis Dumervil

Brent Grimes

Johnathan Joseph

Sean Witherspoon

Danny Amendola

Benjamin Watson

Frank Gore

Karlos Dansby

Paul Posluszny

Leon Hall

Martellus Bennett

Not all of these players are Hall of Famers but they’ve all played at a high level and reserve the right to decide what value football has to them. The NFL is not for long and these players will have their value set by other teams. It will be up to them if another season is worth it or not. Either way, Oakland could use their leadership.

If you want to know numbers, positions, and former teams then click on the linked names. Ultimately, this is more big board than it is predictions. Can’t wait to see what the Raiders do when Free Agency opens at Midnight.

 

Gruden and McKenzie Free Agency 2018

This year’s free agency is going to be super interesting. Even more interesting than usual given it will give us our first public taste of the Jon Gruden and Reggie McKenzie dynamic.

Traditionally, McKenzie and the Raiders sit out the first wave of free agency. Unless, there is a guy RM really wants he usually waits for the big dollars to come out and he spends his money on second-tier players. There are some exceptions like Kelechi Osemele and Rodney Hudson who the Raiders wasted no time persuing. However, it’s more likely that they look at second wave free agents like Sean Smith and Bruce Irvin.

Except, Jon Gruden is in the picture now. Gruden, traditionally loves his veterans. His schemes also demand new team needs. They’ll need a tradional fullback and blocking tight ends. As well as upgrades at the possession receiver and catching back positions. Oakland may prefer to address these needs in the draft.

However, both Gruden and McKenzie need to win now. Las Vegas relocation is creeping up and Oakland is desperate for a contender. McKenzie will need to prove his worth to Gruden too since this will be R.M.’s third regime.

The point is, free agency will be interesting to see the relationship of McKenzie and Gruden play out. How will their different strategies integrate? Will they attack tier one upgrades? Will they wait and add low-budget depth players. Is it a quality or quantity approach? Do they value the players already on their roster?

Justin Ellis

Justin “Jelly Roll” Ellis is a fan favorite of the Raiders largely due to his name as well as him being a part of the infamous 2014 Raiders draft class that is the foundation to this team. Ellis got a 3-year, $15 million contract ($6 million guaranteed) before he hit the open market.

At face value, this is Oakland re-signing a part of the No. 12 ranked run defense. This is rewarding home grown talent which is something the Raiders have done under McKenzie. It is even more important given Eddie Vanderdoes torn ACL and uncertain future.

However, Ellis finally played himself into shape in a contract year. He hasn’t progressed much as a pass rusher or run stopper over the past few years. Neither is he a great fit for the new regime.

Plus, it is expected that the $6 million in guarantees will be all upfront for Ellis. That means he’ll be making a salary close to what Bennie Logan and Dontari Poe signed last year. He neither has the name recognition or production to warrant that contract.

This is not an indictment on Ellis. He’s a solid player and good rotational defensive lineman. It is not his fault the Raiders offered him this contract.

Nonetheless, why wouldn’t McKenzie and the Raiders let the market tell them Ellis’ value? It’s unlikely he gets that deal anywhere else. Moreover, big-name tackles like Mo Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Poe could’ve been signed with this similar number in mind. They would’ve been considerable upgrades too.

Overall, Ellis’ contract gives us precedent on what to expect for Denico Autry and T.J. Carrie. Both players were also key contributors for the Raiders over the past few seasons. Both will hit the open market and it will be interesting to see if Oakland will overpay them or let them leave. I’d argue that both those players deserve more than Ellis so it will be interesting to see if they get more or less in free agency.

Lastly, the Raiders have to ink Khalil Mack at some point. Mack wanted Ellis back but will Jelly’s money make it harder to cash out Mack? Either way, the Raiders got to lock Mack up before the Rams pay Aaron Donald. Donald is another DPOY from the 2014 class and he will set the market higher than Mack if he is signed first. Either player will use the other’s contracts as the baseline for the new extension. Thus, the Rams and Raiders are in a sort of arms race to re-sign their defensive franchise player before the other sets the market stupid high.

 

Jon Gruden headlines the Combine

Jon Gruden made headlines at the NFL Combine this week. It was largely due to his interview at the NFL Combine.

Gruden said he loves Raiders player Michael Crabtree and many more. The new head coach called out other former draft picks like Gareon Conley, Obi Melifonwu and others. He also knocked down GPS and said he wants to take football back.

Ultimately, it is really not important what Gruden said. He’s been on record saying most of what he already said including players he’s counting on, an emphasis on the strength of his coaching staff, his frustration with new rules and his happiness to be back coaching. The issue is that he keeps saying.

Gruden isn’t in the media anymore. It’s not his job to entertain or give quotes. His job is to win the Raiders games.

Jon himself has said that he hasn’t met many of the players on the roster who they will have to make decisions about. He’s also admitted that he has to catch up and get into the grind. He understand the business side of the NFL too.

The point is, Gruden is setting himself up to fail if he’s making promises he can not deliver. If he doesn’t know if a player will back, he shouldn’t say it. Gruden also shouldn’t promise featuring every single skill player and highlight that he wants to get them ball. They will look at him sideways if he can’t or doesn’t deliver.

That doesn’t look good to future rookies and free agents. Remember, the new players know Gruden more for his stint on Monday Night Football than his time on Oakland’s sideline. They will have to see him as a coach but that won’t be easy considering he’s moving from the outside. Not delivering on promises will kill Gruden’s credibility before he gains it.

Further, Gruden doesn’t need to make himself look anymore dated. Between the comments about GPS, analytics and gripes about the new rules, Gruden does not need to do anything else to make him seem out of touch. He’s going to keep seeming like the back in my dead head coach with anymore comments.

Ultimately, Gruden could be playing the media. He could make it seem like he is or is not talking to players, He could play coy like he is struggling to adapt to analytics, policies and technology. Gruden is just smarter than us all and making people underestimate him and the Raiders Otherwise, these are all facts and the Raiders have a long road ahead them.

Regardless, the point is Gruden doesn’t need to say anything. He doesn’t have to promise players camp auditions or more play calls. He doesn’t need to gripe about changes in polices or technology. He just needs to win games.

As much as I hated the coach speak from Jack Del Rio, Gruden’s quote vomiting brings its own issues. It is setting expectations for players and fans but Gruden hasn’t and can’t do anything about these words. Sure, its the offseasons and it is all fluff but that doesn’t mean Gruden has to buy in. If Gruden wants accountability and a tight-lipped culture he better set the example. We’ve all had enough of his Monday Night Football quotes. It’s to Just Win Baby

 

 

The Marcus Peters Effect

Marcus Peters got traded to the Los Angeles Rams which should make them one of the best defenses in the NFL.

For Raiders fans, addition by subtraction is what they say when a three-time pro bowler leaves your division. However, when it is a 25-year-old, Oakland-native traded for a second-rock pick there are some serious questions about why?

The narrative is that Peters was a a cancer in the locker room including his time at Washington. He had an altercation with the Raiders in 2017. He almost got kicked out for throwing a referee flag last season. Still, Peters did not have a problem with the Chiefs. They’re moving in a new direction as a team anyways.

Regardless, Peters is a top talent in the NFL. The 28 teams who passed on Peters did themselves a disservice including the Raiders. Finding a second round player who can instantly impact games likes Peters is a long shot. It’s laughable to think that was the highest comepensation.

Peters is an athlete who changes games with his abilities to create turnovers. Oakland desperately needs that kind of impact in the back end as their consistently ranked towards the bottom in pass defense and turnovers.

As for the Raiders, their trade history is non-existent under Reggie McKenzie. It would have been nice for them to take a chance on a player like Peters for a second round investment. Their history of second round draft picks under Reggie McKenzie like Jihad Ward, Mario Edwards Jr. and Menelik Watson have not had half the impact Peters has had or will have.

Additionally, Oakland will look to add a corner in the draft or free agency. Trading for Peters would’ve fulfilled a need in less time than a rookie and for less money than free agency.

Of course, the Raiders and Chiefs are unlikely to make a trade since their both in the AFC West. Peters’ questionable incidents and upcoming payday also make him a risky investment. Still, the Raiders should’ve considered the Oakland native and proven commodity.

It makes sense that the division rivals couldn’t come to a agreement. However, the Raiders should not have let an all-pro corner in his prime slip from their grips. It was a move  that was unlikely for the Raiders.

Nonetheless, it is disappointing that they officially let this trade happen under their nose. Oh well, I guess we will all watch Peters dominate as a Ram. Hopefully, the Raiders can get their own corner position filled out now.