By Ben Babcock
Offseason Grade: A-
The Raiders actually made a lot of moves this offseason, which is good because they needed it. Their wide receivers look a bit different now and there are a lot of new faces on defense. They are also under new management, with ex-head coach Jon Gruden returning to coach the team again.
The biggest signing for the Raiders this offseason was landing veteran receiver Jordy Nelson on a 2-year, $14 million contract. Nelson has been the top guy in Green Bay for the past 6-7 years when he wasn’t hurt. So now they’ve got Nelson and Amari Cooper and as long as Cooper doesn’t have another down year this will be a great duo. The only problem with this move is that they lost a little depth in the process. They had to release their number 2 guy, Michael Crabtree and traded their number 3 guy, Cordarrelle Patterson. So Seth Roberts and Johnny Holton will have to step up behind Amari and Jordy. But, it looks like they could be using their tight ends a lot more this year to make up for their lack of depth at wide receiver. They signed two guys, Lee Smith and Derek Carrier, to 3-year, multi-million dollar contracts. And those two will be backing up Jared Cook, so they’ve now got nearly $20 million invested in their tight ends over the next couple years. The most interesting move though in my opinion, was the signing of running back Doug Martin. They only gave him $1 million for 1-year but Doug Martin has been really inconsistent over his 6-year career. He’s had two 1,000 yard seasons, and then only 400 yards the other four seasons. So it could either work out really well or just kind of fizzle out. He’ll still have to compete with power back Marshawn Lynch for reps, so I don’t expect him to have a massive year, but they could really compliment each other well since they are polar opposites in terms of what they bring.
They made even more upgrades on defense, adding three linebackers and five defensive backs. Tahir Whitehead will be the new starting middle linebacker, with Emmanuel Lamur and Kyle Wilber coming off the sidelines. The addition of Whitehead is huge for the Raiders because they weren’t the strongest at linebacker last season, Bruce Irvin is the only other solid linebacker on the roster. Then they brought in cornerbacks, Rashaan Melvin, Leon Hall, and Shareece Wright. Re-signed strong safety Reggie Nelson, and added free safety, Marcus Gilchrist. After losing T.J. Carrie, Sean Smith, and David Amerson in free agency they really needed something at cornerback, and while they still aren’t necessarily strong at corner, they are still in a better spot than they were at the beginning of free agency. I still really like what they got going at safety though. Karl Joseph, Reggie Nelson, and Marcus Gilchrist are all very solid players.
So while they are very deep at corner they could still use someone stronger, and maybe add someone on the defensive line to help Khalil Mack or maybe another linebacker, but other than that they look a lot better on defense. And I’d say the only things they need on offense are depth at wide receiver, someone at right tackle. The Raiders have the no.10 spot in the draft which is a great position to grab a defensive stud. The best pick for them there would be either one of cornerbacks Denzel Ward or Minkah Fitzpatrick. These are the top two cornerbacks in the draft and one of them should be available for the Raiders at no.10. I’d be surprised if neither of these guys fell to them, but if they don’t there are still a couple strong linebackers available in the middle of the first round or other corners that they’d have to reach a little bit for. So no matter what I see them getting something on the defense in the first round.
They’re in a really good position going into this draft. They are at the front end of each round, and they’ve got a couple 5th rounders after trading Patterson and Jamize Olawale each for 5th round picks and still have a few 6th rounders. Overall I like what they did this offseason. It’ll be interesting to see how they do this season with Jon Gruden back as head coach. They are in one of the strongest divisions in the league so it won’t be easy, but they’ve definitely got a chance.