This time last year, the Oakland Raiders were preparing to add multiple high profile free agents when they grabbed Kelechi Osemele, Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson. Will the Raiders be as active in 2017?
Last season saw the Oakland Raiders have their first winning campaign since 2002 as they went 12-4. It was not enough to pry the division title away from the Kansas City Chiefs but they reached the postseason for the first time since their Super Bowl loss in 2003.
The Raiders were preseason dark horses and they lived up to that reputation thanks to (Black) Jack Del Rio and his early season gambles. The Raiders rode their luck until their week 16 matchup with the Indianapolis Colts. Donald Penn let up his only sack of the season and it was costly, a broken leg for MVP candidate Derek Carr. With the Black Hole’s dreams in tatters on the field, the next two games were led by backup Matt McGloin in Week 17 and then rookie Connor Cook in the Wildcard game. Needless to say, the Raiders came up short in the end but it was a highly successful 2016 campaign for the Silver and Black.
Offseason Moves Already Made
The Raiders have decided to ‘tear up’ Del Rio’s contract and issue a brand new four-year deal. A well-deserved deal given to Del Rio after a tremendous season by all accounts on the side-line. In a surprising move, they fired offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave after two seasons and promoted from within, giving quarterbacks coach Todd Downing the play calling duties for the 2017 season. In a similarly surprising vein, they retained defensive coordinator Ken Norton after two poor seasons. Norton’s first outing as a coordinator has struggled to match his previous team’s Seattle Seahawks reputation. Former San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano has been appointed as Assistant Head Coach-Defence which could mean the writing is on the wall should Norton slip up again in 2017.
Notable Free Agents
Former sixth-round pick Latavius Murray is a free agent this offseason. Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie has been keen to try and replace Murray having previously targeted DeMarco Murray and Doug Martin in the last two off-seasons. Without success, this led to McKenzie drafting DeAndre Washington and signed undrafted free agent Jalen Richard who both ate into Murray’s 2017 workload. Murray is an upright runner who suits running out of the I formation, his market will be limited to a two-down role player with a team in 2017.
Two starters at linebacker, Malcolm Smith and Perry Riley, will be free agents. Smith, former Super Bowl XLVIII MVP who has been largely disappointing in coverage for the Raiders will test the market once again. Riley who was picked up in Week 5 of the season stepped in after the poor performances of Ben Heeney. Riley was solid against the run and could be resigned by Oakland this offseason. There are over 1500 snaps on defence that could be upgraded this offseason at linebacker.
Top Three Team Needs
Stopping the run! Whether it is a three down linebacker that can cover or a big defensive tackle that can anchor the line. It might sound like I’m asking a lot here but the Raiders linebacking core has been a liability for years and it could certainly do some help in the interior defensive line. I certainly think that Calais Campbell and Donta Hightower could be on the Raiders 2017 Free Agency wish list. With two Defensive Tackles atop Joe Hulbert’s top 50 free agents list that remain unsigned, the Raiders might have timed this need correctly. Bruce ‘Baby Reggie’ Irvin is up to his old tricks trying to recruit the pair also:
Twitter: Bout to shake this money to donta and Calais #babyreggie RT @GipsySafety: Bruce Irvin @BIrvin_WVU11 ‘s shake move https://t.co/6S1Wd8DkBp (@BIrvin_WVU11)
A nickel cornerback. The outside corner spots are in stone with the big money deals given to Sean Smith and David Amerson were agreed last season. Reggie McKenzie’s GM career was off to a shaky start when he drafted DJ Hayden in 2013 and he still needs to replace the corner. Hayden, TJ Carrie and Keith McGill all struggled to fulfil the nickel position. The Raiders were regulars on the receiving end of small quick receiver touchdowns. A signing like Captain Munnerlyn to play that inside corner role could go a long way to bolstering the Raiders secondary which clearly had a weak link. Munnerlyn has been a key part to the Vikings defence and he only gave up one touchdown all last season.
A Right Tackle and Donald Penn insurance. Penn has been a rock since he signed with Oakland in 2014 but you cannot ignore his age, at 33 years of age Oakland needs to be priming his replacement to be. With a mix of Menelik Watson, Austin Howard, Matt McCants and Vadal Alexander playing right tackle last season a real starter needs establishing and maybe someone they can groom on the right side before switching over to replace Penn within the next couple of seasons.