RAIDERS 2017 MOCK DRAFT – After the first wave of free agency, the Oakland Raiders primary needs haven’t changed very much. An interior pass rusher remains the top priority. On defense, Oakland must also address the MLB and CB positions. On the offensive side of the ball, the Raiders need to find a heir to LT Donald Penn. They also need to upgrade at RT.
The signing of Jared Cook upgrades the TE spot but not wildly so. Cook is a good TE in his own right, but Aaron Rodgers made him look even better. Losing Latavius Murray to the Vikings shakes up the RB spot but don’t expect any major moves there. RT Marshall Newhouse coming in for the departing Menelik Watson would appear to be a neutral move, though Watson clearly has much more potential.
LB Malcom Smith will be missed but there’s no way the Raiders could justify matching the 49er’s offer. CB DJ Hayden left for greener pastures and a change of scenery. His departure is a depth issue. Losing Stacy McGee puts a lot of pressure on the Raiders to come up big in the draft. Even with McGee staying, Oakland would be looking for an interior pass rusher. Losing McGee just compounds the problem.
OAKLAND RAIDERS FREE AGENCY UPDATE – March 16, 2017
LATAVIUS MURRAY — RB — VIKINGS
STACY MCGEE – DT – REDSKINS
MALCOM SMITH – LB – 49ERS
MENELIK WATSON – RT – BRONCOS
NATE ALLEN – SS – DOLPHINS
DJ HAYDEN – CB – LIONS
DAREN BATES – ST – TITANS
MARSHALL NEWHOUSE – RT — GIANTS
CORDARELLE PATTERSON — WR — VIKINGS
JARED COOK — TE — PACKERS
OAKLAND RAIDERS FREE AGENCY UPDATE
RB Latavius Murray was allowed to leave for the Minnesota Vikings for roughly $5M per year on a three year contract. $3.4M is guaranteed upfront as is the final year salary of $5.3M. This was not a prohibitive contract for the Raiders to match so Murray’s leaving has more to do with a change of direction by the Oakland Raiders. They are not going to be an “establish the run…pound the ball to open up the pass” team once talked about by Head Coach Jack Del Rio. Rather, they’re offense is going to be more “attack, attack, attack”. That makes the singing of Vikings WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson more understandable since CP was adamant he wants playing time on the offensive side of the ball.
To close this out, we need to comment on Vikings RB Adrian Peterson and former Seahawk RB Marshawn Lynch. Neither will be coming to Oakland. Peterson has a history of domestic violence and Owner Mark Davis would never approve him being on the Raider payroll. Lynch is staying retired, period. We know there’s a lot of talk about a trade nearly taking place last year but according to the people we know, “to say a trade almost took place is a gross exaggeration”.
DT Stacy McGee went to Washington for a speculated $4.3M per year. Oakland, which desperately needs an interior lineman who can generate a pass rush, apparently feels that McGee, who had a decent 2016 campaign, is better suited as a rotational player and thus $4.3M was too high a price. That may be the case but it really puts the Oakland Raiders in a bind. Chiefs NT Dontari Poe and Giants DT Johnathan Hankins are still available but neither is a good fit. Poe is an unmovable force but will command a stratospheric salary. Hankins is stellar at stopping the run but lacks the pass rushing pedigree the Raiders are aiming for. That leaves the draft. And they have to hit a home run.
It’s no surprise LB Malcom Smith signed with another team, going to the 49ers on a five year deal worth about 26 million with $13M guaranteed. Smith was the Raiders leading tackler the past two years but was inconsistent in pass coverage, often having trouble covering TEs and backs in the flat. With Smith gone, the Raiders are sure to resign LB Perry Riley. They could also go after Bills LB Zach Brown.
RT Menelik Watson went to Denver after signing a three year, eighteen million dollar contract. Full details were not disclosed but on the surface that’s an awful lot for a RT that has yet to fully prove himself. Losing Watson is a big deal but $6M per year is a little steep. And that explains the Raiders signing Giants RT Marshall Newhouse who is, by and large, a high quality backup. The 7 year player signed a two deal at just under $4M.
CB DJ Hayden leaving Oakland is neither a surprise nor a meaningful loss. We hoped he would stick around but $3M a year was too much for Oakland to consider. Hopefully a change of scenery will do him well. Daren Bates has left for Tennessee in hopes of getting more playing time.
2017 RAIDERS DRAFT – This is our pre-combine 2017 first round Raiders draft. Biggest needs for Oakland are an interior pass rusher followed closely by CB. The Raiders also have to address the inside linebacking corps and both offensive tackle spots.
There’s still a lot of speculation that Latavius Murray will leave without Oakland putting up much of a fight and we think that is in fact, largely speculation. While the Raiders will probably let Murray walk if another team extends a $6M+ contract, the Raiders will fight to keep him if the market comes in lower. The front office may not match entirely on salary but could structure a deal giving Murray a respectable salary laden with performance incentives.
For our part, we would love to see Latavius stay with Oakland. He’s been a good teammate, a true Raider, and the team just isn’t the same when he’s off the field. That’s not a knock on Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington but rather a deserving compliment to Murray.
Raiders Top Offseason Requirements – The Oakland Raiders biggest offseason needs on Defense and Offense are Interior Pass Rusher and Offensive Tackle. We’ll take a quick look at each position as we gear up for free agency and the draft.
On a separate note, the top vote getter for 2016 Raider Rookie of the Year poll was RB Jalen Richard with 44% of the Vote. SS Karl Joseph was second with 34%.
RAIDERS TOP OFFSEASON REQUIREMENTS
Interior Pass Rusher
This was a high priority going into 2016 and is probably now the top priority for 2017. Free Agent DT Stacy McGee showed promise early in the 2016 season as a run stopper and pass rusher but groin and ankle injuries put him on the sideline for 7 games. He’ll garner attention from other teams due to last year’s fast start but is largely viewed as a player with potential who has not yet proven himself. Therefore McGee will double his $675k salary but a large payout is unlikely. And most likely he stays with the Raiders. Regardless, Oakland needs to look at a Free Agent pickup or use their first pick in the draft if the right DT is available. They absolutely must get better at rushing the passer.
DT Darius Latham had a pretty good season for an undrafted rookie but at this point is best suited as a rotational player. Justin Ellis is a decent backup entering the final year of his rookie contract. Veteran Dan Williams underperformed in 2016 after having a pretty good year in 2015. Of the three, Williams was the only to record a sack in 2016…actually 1/2 a sack.
LT Donald Penn is entering his 12th season and will be 34 years old in April. The Raiders need to groom a replacement on the expectation Penn can give them at most two more years of high level play. This can be done via the draft or acquiring a young player via FA or a trade. If Penn can’t make it two years and the heir apparent is not ready, Oakland would have to sign a top Free Agent. Worst case scenario for Oakland is Penn goes down midseason.
RT must be addressed and that includes resigning Free Agent Menelik Watson. Injuries to both Watson and Austin Howard devastated the position last year but bringing in a FA does not appear to be a viable option in 2017. The talent gap between Watson and Howard and the current crop of Free Agent RTs just isn’t big enough for the Oakland Raiders to make a change. Better to resign Menelik, who’ll come fairly cheap, and draft some insurance in the middle rounds.
Here are the Oakland Raider 2017 Free Agents. All are UFA.
LATAVIUS MURRAY – RB
There’s lots of speculation Murray will be allowed to sign elsewhere without much of a fight. We say not so fast. The wage scale for RBs is ever shrinking and there are ways for Reggie McKenzie to be creative. Rookies Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington had solid seasons but Murray added a physicality to the running game the smaller backs couldn’t. In 2016, Murray showed significant improvement in the receiving game and picking up the blitz. We’d like to see him stay in Oakland but know dollars might prevent that.
STACY MCGEE — DT
Stacy missed 7 games last year due to injury and 12 over the past 3 years. That will make some but not all teams shy away from him in free agency. We actually expect the resigning of McGee to heat up if the Raiders don’t make an early offer. When healthy last year he was Oakland’s best interior pass rusher. They still need a lot of interior help beyond McGee but losing him would only compound the problem.
MALCOM SMITH – LB
Signed in 2015, Smith has been a strong teammate and Oakland’s leading tackler the past two seasons. What he’s failed to do is elevate the players around him and defend the pass at a consistently high level. That has folks predicting a free agent departure. But if you let Malcom walk, who do the Raiders replace him with…a top tier free agent? We think the Raiders would be better suited spending that money on a DT that can generate a pass rush and the defensive backfield.
NATE ALLEN – S
Nate’s experience and leadership are countered against his knees and age. Doubtful another team picks him up at his 2016 $3M salary. Therefore the Oakland Raiders could and should resign him at a lower salary.
DJ HAYDEN – CB
DJ Hayden was an on the field liability his first three years but his performance improved in 2016, playing primarily in the slot. Even then he was average at best. The talent may not be there but the kid gives his all. Depending on what the Raiders do in free agency and the draft, it may be worthwhile to give Hayden another shot at a salary substantially lower than the $2.6M he earned in 2016.
MATT MCGLON – QB
The Silver and Black sign him to compete in training camp. If they keep only two QBs, his tenure with the Raiders is over.
ANDRE HOLMES – WR
The Raiders need to resign Andre Holmes but chances are he leaves for a team that will utilize him as a third or even a second WR. Holmes had 14 receptions in 2016 as a backup WR.
MENELIK WATSON – RT
A fan favorite, Watson’s injuries have hurt his free agent prospects. He was salaried at $1.2M in 2016 and will probably get a small bump due to potential. The Raiders resign him as a reliable backup while looking for an overall upgrade in the draft or FA. 8th year RT Austin Howard is still under contract.
JON CONDO – LS
Entering his 11th year, hard to see Condo leaving on his own.
BRYNDEN TRAWICK – S
True worth is special teams and needs to be resigned. Made $800k in 2016.
PERRY RILEY – LB
Signed last year after the season started, Riley had a decent year for the Oakland Raiders. He played for only $800k last year and will get paid more in free agency due to his 2016 performance. At a minimum he would provide Oakland with depth at the LB spot.
DAREN BATES – LB
Special Teams player worth resigning. Was paid $700k in 2016.
MYCHAL RIVERA – TE
Mychal has showed flashes at times but never materialized into a receiving threat. The Raider have platooned the TE positon the last few years and regardless of salary, Rivera may search out a change of scenery to get more playing time and kick start his career.
RAIDERS 2016 TEAM AWARDS: The Oakland Raiders shed several demons by posting a winning record and making the playoffs. As good as it was, we’ll all look back at 2016 knowing it could have been much more had Derek Carr stayed healthy. And now expectations are high for the 2017 campaign. Before we get there, however, we’re pausing to hand out Team Awards.
OAKLAND RAIDERS 2016 TEAM AWARDS
At one point, we, like so many others were looking at Jack Del Rio as the NFL’s Head Coach of the Year. Then came the loss of Derek Carr. It wasn’t that Oakland lost the season finale to Denver and thus the AFC West. Nor was it the loss to Houston in the Wildcard. Losing a potential MVP QB is difficult and the shoulder injury to Matt McGloin only confounded the problem. It was rather, that the Raiders were vastly outplayed in those final two games. It was Del Rio’s job to get his players to rise up and “embrace the suck”. Forget NFL Coach of the Year, he’s not even our Raider Coach of the Year.
That award goes to Offensive Line Coach, Mike Tice. The Raiders offensive line was arguably one of the NFL’s best despite injuries ravaging the Tackle position. Throughout the year five different players manned the Right Tackle spot and Tice did a masterful job preparing his men across the entire line. Losing Donald Penn showed an utter lack of depth at a key position but we put that more on GM Reggie McKenzie and to a certain extent Jack Del Rio.
There’s no debate, it’s Derek Carr. He ended the year with 26 TDs, only 6 picks, and a QBR of 96.7. In reality, in today’s NFL, those stats are very good but not exceptional. What made Carr special was his 7 4th quarter comebacks and a 4th quarter QBR of 110.1. The number of comebacks were second only to Matthew Stafford and the rating second only to Tom Brady. Carr’s prowess energized the Raiders with confidence and propelled them to the playoffs.
Looking for a runner up? Our 2015 offensive MVP, WR Michael Crabtree, led the team with 89 receptions and 8 receiving TDs. He also led the NFL with 9 drops. WR Amari Cooper led the team with 1,153 yards but often disappeared in the second half. RB Latavius Murray racked up 788 rushing yards and 12 TDs (5th in NFL). He was also tied for 4th with 33 receptions. Murray struggled with pass protection early in his career but turned things around in 2016. His running brought physicality and attitude to the Raider running game. And thus Latavius Murray is our runner up, albeit it’s wide chasm between #1 and #2.
Once again, there’s no debate. Khalil Mack accounted for 44% of the Raiders sacks (11 of 25). He was the Raiders second leading tackler and was second in the NFL with 5 forced fumbles. His 25 QB Hurries were nearly double the nearest Raider (Irvin with 14). He also led the team in Stuffs and Tackles for Loss. The defensive players continuously looked to Mack for leadership and game breaking plays.
Although the secondary was much aligned, our runner up is FS Reggie Nelson. Nelson led the team with 5 interceptions and was second on the team with 12 Passes Defensed. His 12 PDs ranked second among NFL Safeties. He also played every defensive snap for the Oakland Raiders, which is quite a statement. Bruce Irvin didn’t have the year many hoped for but was forceful at times. He recorded 7 sacks and led the NFL with 6 forced fumbles.
Lacking an elite returner, this award usually goes to the Kicker or Punter. Yet Janikowksi was only 3 of 8 from 50+ whereas King was golden for most of the season but began to wane in the final weeks. We debated this pick to the very end as some felt Marquette King should be the MVP but others were bothered by his performance in the final weeks and the killer punt return for a TD versus Denver. In the end, we’re giving our Special Teams MVP Award to Specialist Brynden Trawick who recorded 15 ST tackles, 4th best in the NFL.