The NFL Combine just passed which means it’s time to turnover a new page. Last season is done and the new year is right around the corner. The NFL Free Agency and Draft are right around the corner. Teams are putting up smoke and mirrors to hide their key targets. Before we get to that, let’s wrap up one of the craziest years.
2022 Season Eulogy
The 2022 season ended as weird as it started. We entered the season feeling like a real contender. This was the first offseason where I feel like all the Raiders needs were addressed. There were some red flags left along the offensive line but development should have solved those.
It never really came together but the offense figured it out and made do. At times, it felt like Josh Jacobs was busting off runs in spite of his line. Other times it felt like Davante Adams was making plays in spite of not getting the ball enough. It was a weird season where the Raiders had individuals thriving but it never came together.
Like it or hate it, the 2022 season will be remembered as Carr’s last. The long-time Raider was benched, exiled from the team and eventually cut.
Fast forward less than a month and Carr signs with the New Orleans Saints. It’s the same Saints that shut him down in the regular season.
At least he signs with a team that is in a weak division. He also reunites with his first head coach Dennis Allen. New Orleans has some great skill players and some talent on defense. However, they got some age and cap concerns.
To be decided if Carr pans out in New Orleans. It’s still wild he signed with the team that the Raiders were going to trade him to. Carr also did not wait for any of the other QB dominoes to fall. It feels like he gave the Raiders a big middle finger on his way out by not letting them collect a pick. It’s a sad way to end.
So much for spending his life a Raider
I don’t know if it’s fair to put that all on Derek Carr. Carr holds all the franchise QB records. He is probably the most successful passer selected by the Raiders. It’s not his fault the team did not move on sooner when we all knew he was not the answer.
Still, Carr should have never chose to stay away. You take that benching like a man, especially as a captain.
It was crazy to see Carr subdiss himself at the Pro Bowl. It was wild to see him wearing blank gear with no Raiders logos. He is definitely using the Pro Bowl as a free agent combine. The team finally gave him permission to seek a trade right before. He looked great in the flag football showcase because there was no pressure
Carr could honestly have a Rich Gannon second act anywhere he goes. New Orleans has a solid offensive line and some receivers with great catch radius. Carr can throw with the best of them on air. It’s the pass rush and those big moments that sometimes get to him.
The Next QB
Moving forward, the Raiders have a lot to figure out at QB. There’s been a ton of rumors. The most likely scenario is running it back with Jarrett Stidham and praying CJ Stroud or Anthony Richardson falls to them in the draft.
Stroud has been called one of the most pro ready prospects in this draft. He has the right blend of collegiate success, athleticism and raw arm talent. Anthony Richardson put a show on at the Combine. He set records for both jumps. Richardson needs refinement but his ceiling is as high as anyone in the draft. Richardson only started 13-games at Florida.
Of course, trading is not out of the question. Vegas might not have to if Lamar Jackson keeps having issues with Baltimore.
If the Raiders have any chance at getting Lamar Jackson, you make the deal. Doesn’t matter the cost. He’s a generational player and the sort of star Vegas covets.
However, Jackson wants a lot of guaranteed money. That means the Raiders would have to punt guys like Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow. They might have to skip re-signing Josh Jacobs too. Vegas tagging Jacobs automatically eats over $10M in cap space. Jacobs may want more too.
Either way, I’m not sure Lamar Jackson on last year’s Raiders is any better than a second round team. I don’t want to take anything away from Jackson but injuries derailed his last two seasons. He has to go through Pat Mahomes and Joe Burrow to get out the AFC. We just haven’t seen those matchups due to Jackson’s health. Either way, it is unclear if the Raiders beat those teams in the postseason even with Jackson
How about Tom Brady?
Same goes for Brady. Maybe adding the veteran helps the Raiders win some of those close games. Will it add to postseason success though?
Besides, what is Brady really playing for? It’s not rings, money, proving anything, awards, branding or family. There’s no doubt in my mind Brady can play but does he really want to learn a new city and team? Same questions are even bigger for Aaron Rodgers, even if the Raiders have his guy Davante Adams.
Moreover, Brady is cool but what is the cost. It makes no sense to bring in a QB who is almost 50 if you can’t afford to keep the same caliber weapons.
Guess we don’t have to worry about that scenario since dude retired.
The other scenario we obviously need to monitor is Aaron Rodgers. It seems like Davante Adams and him are having fun with RaiderNation teasing the possibility.
Obviously, a reunion would be great. It also helps that the Packers would have to pay most of his contract if they trade him. They also have his replacement in the fold which means the compensation won’t be as high.
The Jets are thought to be the favorite since their OC has ties to Rodgers. Both teams would be ideal trade partners for Green Bay since their in the NFC.
Still, it’s been years since Rodgers got to the Super Bowl. There are questions about his commitment to learning a new receiver room again. I am not against trading for Rodgers but would he really wanna work with Josh McDaniels?
McDaniels already shutdown the prospect at the combine by saying he wants a QB to work with for more than just a year or two. It might not be up to McDaniels. He could’ve been lying. Either way, Rodgers seems less likely to play in Silver and Black as those talks have gotten a lot more quiet.
It’s that time of the year where every available flirts with the Raiders for leverage. The Silver and Black have a great fan base that’s easy to tease. Here’s a big move folks are getting their hopes up for.
I’m sure you saw those Jalen Ramsey and Max Crosby photos at the Pro Bowl. Ramsey would instantly upgrade the Raiders secondary. A move back to deep safety could also pro long his career in Vegas and capitalize on his playmaking ability.
Again, it will depend on what the Rams want but at the right price of course we want Ramsey. Raiders just need to figure out a few other things in the process. Plus, if Davis really likes stars go get them.
Back to those trade rumors
Early in the offseason, it was rumored the Raiders could move Renfrow and Waller. Both battled injuries and were successes of the previous regime. Each recently signed an extension. Josh again killed those by speaking highly of them at the combine.
Still, it makes sense to move Waller given his cap number, availability and value on the market. The Raiders need to find cap somewhere. Waller is one of the best players at his position. Remember those rumors of trading him to Green Bay for second? Plus, Vegas is also sniffing around Rob Gronkowski. Waller could get some valuable Draft compensation or help secure a big name QB.
Renfrow on the other hand, isn’t as valuable. He also is a little younger and cheaper. I’m in favor of keeping him if Vegas can add a high-ceiling veteran or rookie with speed to stretch the field. Mack Hollins was cool this year but he might find more money from another team.
All in all, if the Raiders are going to re-tool or rebuild moving Waller and Renfrow makes sense. The challenge is finding guys to replace them so the next quarterback can be setup to succeed.
The future of Qb
Again, Part of me is sad to see the dude who holds so many Raiders passing records discarded like trash. More of me is satisfied to finally have closure.
Derek Carr was never the problem in Vegas. So many things changed and failed around him. And yet, he was never the solution either. Carr is a good player who can win some games and make some teammates better. I just don’t think he’s a great player who can put the team on his back. We have 8 years of data that proves that.
Personally, I’d like to just bit the bullet and draft a QB. Whether CJ Stroud or Anthony Richardson falls to the Raiders, both could develop into nice QBs. Then Vegas can add a veteran like Jacoby Brissett or Jimmy G.
Either way, what compensation they get for Carr mattered. There were rumors the Raiders could get a first or second round draft pick. The Saints, Commanders and Dolphins all have staff members tied to Carr. A team like Carolina or Houston could also use him as a bridge guy. New Orleans would have to make some moves to have the cap. The Dolphins seem set on Tua. The New York Jets will go after Aaron Rodgers. It sucks that Carr ended all that by saying he’d veto a trade.
In the end, Carr could have gotten traded for a second or third along with a late pick. Vegas could invest that in a pass rusher, db, receiver or offensive lineman. Instead, he left the Raiders hanging.
Maybe he did that to help his new team not give up picks. Perhaps he wanted more room to negotiate a contract. Maybe he just wanted to visit different teams. Regardless, at least it’s over and the Raiders know they need to find a QB for now and the future.
Speaking of hard decisions
Vegas has a lot to figure out. Andrew Billings and Denzel Perryman flashed. Both are free agents and not exact scheme fits.
Rock Ya-Sin and Mack Hollins were brought in last year. Both exceeded expectations in their own way. Will Vegas try to keep one or both?
Duron Harmon ended up being more than a special teamer and locker room guy. The Raiders need playmakers but does Harmon want to stick around?
Clelin Ferrell still hasn’t become the player we want or need. He did have his best year by showing his versatility and quickness. He needs to add some strength to play inside or more Bend for the outside. At this point, both Ferrell and the Raiders could use a change. However, I can see him coming back for one more year if the price is right. Jerry Tillery is in a similar spot.
Jermaine Eluemunor and Alex Bars also stepped up for the Raiders o-line. Eluemunor was a steady force on the line all season. Vegas need o-linemen but they could also use some upgrades. Remains to be seen what they do there.
And we haven’t even got to Josh Jacobs who is off his best season. Jacobs could command over $12 million a year. He deserves it given how far he has come.
Yet, we all know RBs don’t usually taper off in that second contract. Vegas could find cheaper options in a loaded free agency class. Plus, the draft always has a combination of backs.
Vegas can also save some money moving starting center Andre James. James has been solid the past two years but they could use that $5 million in cap space if they want to snag another star. This draft class is loaded with interior linemen across the board.
Defensive lineman Bilal Nichols is in a similar spot. Nichols played inside and out. He got better as the year went on. Nichols is a consistent rusher but needs to do more against the run. Vegas can save half his contract by cutting him or over $5 million by trading him after June. Those dollars add up if the Raiders really want to transform their roster.
They could also try and move Chandler Jones. It’s unclear if age or all those injuries caught up to Jones. He gets into position but can’t execute with the same explosion as years past. Good luck finding anyone to take that contract.
Ultimately, the Raiders have a lot of things to figure out this offseason. Let’s see what the Raiders decision makers actually decide to do.
If it were up to me…
We’d all love the Raiders to get Jalen, Aaron Rodgers, Tremaine Edmunds and still somehow end up with DeAndre Hopkins. We’ll get to free agency later but the Raiders must first figure out what players they keep from hitting the open market.
Ultimately, Eleumunor and Rock-Ya Sin were steady at positions filled with turmoil. Harmon brought play making to a defense that needed it. Those should be the biggest priorities outside of Jacobs.
Luckily, Jacobs can get tagged. He may hold out on the Franchise Tag but the Raiders can’t let him get away. No matter how stack the draft and free agency is with running backs, the Raiders must let Jacobs prove last year was not a fluke.
After that, I could see Eleumunor, Ya-Sin and Harmon getting bigger deals on the open market. If the price is right, all three could be back.
Andrew Billings and Denzel Perryman also warrant consideration. The veterans proved they an adapt to schemes despite battling injuries. Still, Vegas could upgrade both positions with youth and durability that naturally fits their scheme.
Tillery and Ferell will probably try to reclaim their careers elsewhere. James should get his walking papers due to the depth in the interior offensive line in the draft. Same goes for Nichols on the other side of the ball.
If they an find someone to take Jones, do that too. Even if it costs them draft capital or part of the contract, the Raiders can find more impact cheaper.
Waller should only get moved for the right price. Bars should go much like James.
Moving on to the Combine
The Combine doesn’t have the same meaning as a decade or even five years ago. It’s still an important part of the process.
First, it’s a lot of access for teams to make trades and talk to a lot of players at once. Second, players must compete amongst the best from their position after long days of interviews and traveling. Teams want to see how players rise to the occasion.
Vegas met with several quarterbacks and many other players as did many other teams. Overall, there’s the elite guys in this class. Then it’s much closer to a toss up after the top-10. Check out your favorite draft rankings and you will see variance among where many players land.
Overall, a lot of the safeties, defensive line and linebackers made themselves some money with good 40-times. The good news, the Raiders should find some athleticism and play making to upgrade each level of their defense.
Again, A-Rich really put himself into top-10 pick consideration based off athleticism alone. Running backs moved into the first couple of rounds with great times. The offensive line also had their fair share of athleticism. Tackles in this class need to do more to show their strength and leverage. However, they move and run well.
The Combine re-affirmed the Raiders drafting a QB early. They can find talent and depth at many other positions later on. The defensive strength of the draft also puts less pressure on the Raiders hitting home runs in free agency. I still think they should prioritize adding an offensive tackle since there aren’t a ton ready to start right away in the NFL Draft. Plus, the Raiders should have learned from their last experiment reaching at tackle.