The Raiders are in a good position this offseason. They are not glaringly desperate in any one area. It means they won't need to overpay for a free agent and they won't need to reach for any draft choices. That is not to say that Al Davis won't do either of those things anyway, but at least there is no necessity for it.
After seven grueling seasons came the first glimmer of hope last year. Finally the perpetual state of rebuilding became something to build upon. All the best teams in the NFL are great because each offseason, there is little sense of urgency. They are always either at the top of the mountain or a few tweaks away from it. They achieve success through sound choices, building depth behind the starters, and infusing a good mixture of veteran savvy with youthful athleticism.
With that in mind, here are the Raiders' team needs:
1. Outside Linebacker
The only outside linebacker on this Raider team that you can really say held up his position this season was Kamerion Wimbley and he could be a free agent depending on the CBA. The Raiders traded for him last offseason and there is little doubt he will be coming back. But who else is there? There is no depth behind Wimbley on the strong side. On the weak side, Quentin Groves was the starter all of last season after he supplanted Trevor Scott. Groves was a liability in the run defense and, all save a couple good plays, was invisible most of the season. Scott was moved back to defensive end where he struggled before eventually heading to the disabled list midseason. Former starter Thomas Howard is also a free agent and is expected to move on. The uncertainty at the position combined with lack of depth make outside linebacker a high priority.
2. Wide Receiver
Al Davis seems as if he is happy with the group the Raiders are fielding currently. I really hope that isn't entirely true, because outside of Louis Murphy and rookie Jacoby Ford, there is little else. Darrius Heyward-Bey lacks the fundamentals of a receiver, Chaz Schilens couldn't stay healthy if he were bubble boy, and Jonnie Lee Higgins is... well, Jonnie Lee Higgins. He is also a free agent that probably won't be re-signed. A veteran receiver is what this team needs. Chad Ochocinco is very interested in coming to the Raiders as he loves him some Hue Jackson. Plaxico Burress will be out on work release soon and should only lose half a step with his ankle bracelet. And if Chargers GM AJ Smith can get over himself, Vincent Jackson could become available for the right price.
Raider fans saw first hand early in the season the lack of depth at the center position. Former all-purpose guard/center Chris Morris was let go after never playing well enough at either position, and Tom Cable went with rookie left tackle Jared Veldheer at center in the first game. Samson Satele resumed his starting job in week two and played quite well this season. However, not only do the Raiders need an insurance plan for Satele and oft injured left guard Robert Gallery, but both Satele and Gallery are set to become free agents. If either or both leaves, the team will be even more desperate for a replacement. Much has been made of Penn State G/C Stefen Wisniewski in the draft -- the nephew of former Raider All Pro left guard Steve Wisniewski. A lot of people, Al Davis included, would love to see a Wisniewski on the line for the Raiders once again. If Gallery does leave in free agency, Wisniewski can even have his uncle's old number if he wants it.
4. Offensive Tackle
A lot of people think offensive tackle is even more of a top priority than I do. Mainly fans are shaking their torches and pitchforks at right tackle Langston Walker. But even if Walker loses his starting job, the Raiders have been grooming former starting left tackle "Super" Mario Henderson to replace him. Henderson was a standout right tackle at Florida State and the Raiders converted him to left tackle. They are of the mind that once he gets his footing back, he could be the Raiders' next starting right tackle. He too is a free agent to be, so if another team sees his potential, he could get a sizable contract offer and leave. At which point the need for another offensive tackle could go up considerably. Jarod Gaither has been rumored for the past two seasons. He was out half of last season with a back injury. He is also rumored to have bemoaned the switch to right tackle. Both Hue Jackson and new offensive coordinator Al Saunders were with the Ravens while Gaither was there. If they don't bring him in, then that is all the answer we need as to his character and/or talent.
It seems like the Raiders have a need at corner every single year. But last year, outside of the two starters Nnamdi Asomugha and Stanford Routt, there was not much to speak of on a positive note. Adding to the "glass half empty" outlook is the fact that Asomugha and Routt are both free agents. Former starter Chris Johnson is next in line but he seems to have regressed of late. After him there are two rookies who both looked pretty bad in their first season. The position is a real wildcard at this juncture. It could be a marginal need area and then again, it could be much more desperate. And with Al Davis' penchant for drafting corners, we could very well see the Raiders draft one in the middle rounds.
Jason Campbell seems to have gained the respect and confidence of his new head coach and is the starter for the foreseeable future. Now it is time to groom a good backup. Bruce Gradkowski is solid whenever he enters a game but he gets hurt easily. If Campbell goes down with injury, the team can only expect to get a couple of games from Gradkowski before he is out with another injury. Gradkowski is also a free agent and may not be re-signed. And then what? Kyle Boller? Charlie Frye? JT O'Sullivan? Do any of those guys raise eyebrows? Boller played only a few snaps last season and looked atrocious. The Raiders need to invest in a young quarterback to see if they can groom a young stud who can either be the future starter, play well in relief, or make for some good trade bait down the road. It's all about options here.
7. Tight End
Zach Miller is one of the best tight ends in the league. But what of two tight end sets? Is there a team in the league that would really bother to cover Brandon Myers? The Patriots proved last year that having two solid tight ends is a great thing. The Chargers have Antonio Gates but while he was out with his plantar fascia injury and turf toe, Randy McMichael was torching defenses. The Raiders need to draft a tight end to compete with Myers for the backup spot or pick up a solid veteran.
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No way Boller isn't cut. I promise you.
Al Davis hates the kid. He watched Boller for 10 minutes in training, during his first ever practice session, and was immediately convinced he couldn't play football at an NFL level.
In fact, it very very nearly cost Jackson the HC position.
Al, was slightly concerned about Jackson's talent spotting skills, as Jackon was the guy who recommened Al pick up Boller. He really rates him.
As I said, Al hates Boller. I doubt he'd even keep him as a 3rd QB, let alone a back up
A beat writer friend told me all this. A guy who works with the media/comms people at Oakland ever week.
It's believable, as he was 100% right on the sacking of Cable, and hiring of Jackson as well. He told me 6 hours before the last game of the season
Told me the correct reasons as well - that Al felt Cable had disgraced the franchise with his off field business. And that he didn't think he was a winner
By the way, I don't consider tackle a position of need.
I think Veldheer and Walker are good starters anyway.
Plus, you rightly point out that Henderson is a possible upgrade at right. And we've also got the kid Campbell learning his game.
I wouldn't be paying too big at tackle, or drafting too high
Gaither is too freaking big
The guy's 6'9 and 350 pounds.
John Ogden was a freak, as he was athletic enough to handle that frame. Could stay on the field.
Most guys who are that big, in any sport, generally spend a lot of time injured
Oakland need to work on chemistry in the skills position.
A LOT of veteran leadership on D
Not much on Offence.
Campbell's a young player
McFadden and Bush are
Murphy, Heyward Bey and Schillens are
Oakland need some clutch, leaders, in the skills positions. Guys who step up and say "throw it to me" during high pressure moments.
The amount of 3rd and shorts Oakland don't convert is ridiculous. Especially passing it.
I'd personally like to see Oakland take one veteran receiver.
I'd love to see us pick up say, Steve Smith?
If we had a corps of Smith, Heyward Bey and Murphy, I'd be pretty happy.
A veteran like Smith is a must if you as me
I wouldn't write off a raw, receiver, after 2 seasons, personally.
Even the most polished pro prospects take 3 years to make a real impact. Guys like Reggie Wayne, weren't really doing it until season 4.
You know, a lot of you people were playing the smart guy, in regards to McFadden, saying he's a bust, and Al doesn't know what he's doing.
Well, truth is, Al probably knows a bit more than us, and if he thinks Heyward Bey can play, he probably can
all these WRs sound great in theory ... but remember that WR FA moves very rarely work out ... latest examples being Boldin and TJH in Baltimire ...both dropped critical passes that killed the Ravens ... and both had very forgettable seasons ... for some reason, WRs dont seem to transplant well
The Old man said he's done with head cases which should leave Chad OchoCinco out of the equation. No matter how talented he is. As for guard I say draft Wisniewski and the Carimi from Wisconsin at Tackle and look to the 5th and 6th round for a quarterback.
I have watched Carimi last year and this his pass and run blocking skills are way above average, he's really standing out at the Senior Bowl practices this week
@LEMMY Yeah, i actually knew that but still put "son" instead not thinking about it. Good catch. Thanks for letting me know.
There's other good receivers out there. Mike Sims-Walker, Steve Smith, Jacoby Jones, Sydney Rice, Santana Moss ... we'll see what teams keep which receivers... but any of these guys will help.
I believe the Bungles will shallow their pride and sign the 6 million dollar option this year for CJ. The words being exchanged is the same old dance that Lewis and CJ go through... and it ends up the same way every year. I'd definitely take him as Lewis and Hue are two different coaches... which means he'll do a much better job keeping CJ's mouth shut.. but i just don't think the Bungles are ready to let go of him.
NOTHING WILL HAPPEN if this CBA doesn't get worked out ... i'm sure it will... question is how long will it take?
Resign Nnamdi, Seymour, Zach and Bush ... let Gallery walk. i think he's going to anyway... and follow Cable up to SEA. Gallery IS NO GOOD TO US BEING OUT HALF THE SEASON EVERY YEAR!!! not much else to say after that. it's almost a guarrantee that he will miss 4+ games every season. why pay him that kind of chedder when we can go pay Mankins the same amount? Besides, Veldheer is just the younger version of him. If Henderson works out at RT, Veldheer can eaily transition to LG ...
go out and get Gaither and VJ.
Then draft Wiz Jr.
This offense will EXPLODE in 2011.
Campbell has problems with slant routes and hitting the WR's in the seams. Every throw last year on the slants were being the receiver. This indicates he has real problems anticipating the routes run. He waits until the WR is clearly in the open. This takes too much time and allows the defense to react. The receiver position is not as much of a concern to me as the OL. The center position in particular was chaos much of the year. I agree we need an outside LB. Wish list draft Wiesnewski center out of Penn State. TE position could be improved however I don’t think we threw the ball to Myers enough to know what we have in him. Throw him 10 balls in a game you might find out he can catch! Go Raiders
I completely agree with what Levi stated about the Raider needs. The two areas of concern that I personally would focus on is the Offenive Line and Wide Receiver. Resigning Robert Gallery is a must. He is the anchor of the oline, and his experience and toughness is invaluable. Losing him would be more costly than losing Richard Seymore, who I think is an absolute beast. I would also try to sign Jarod Gaither, whose talent is off the charts, and Mankin, a perrenial pro-bowler. Add these two guys and draft Wisniewski, and the Raiders would have among the best offensive lines in the NFL. It would be costly, but well worth it, and our offense would put up EPIC numbers, especially Darren McFadden.....
Nambi Asomugah has gone on record and said that VINCENT JACKSON is one of the toughest wide receivers he has ever faced. Philip Rivers has said he is the best receiver he has EVER seen or thrown to. Incredible hands, a great route runner, dynamic, athletic and a game breaker, Vicent Jackson is a player Al Davis has to do everything possible to make a Raider. This guy is the real deal, and as much as I like Chad (Ochocinco) Johnson, Jackson is a level above. The Raiders have a very legitimate chance of getting him, as the Chargers' GM, AJ Smith, is a jackass at every level, and his ego will prevent the Chargers from franchise tagging Jackson. Al needs to move in quickly and give him him a contract he can't refuse, and with Vincent Jackson recently expressing that the hire of Hue Jackson was intriguing, I I see a great player willing to play for a soon to be great coach and a match made in heaven. Wouldn't be incredible to see Vincent Jackson, Louis Murphey, Jacoby Ford and Zach Miller lining up for plays, and add Darren McFadden to that scheme, and we would be talking about serious intimidation. HOLY TOLEDO!!!!
paper thin on Offensive Line. It would be great if Campbell came good, but reports of him were not very promising last season in training. All really depends on which FAs stay/go though ... if just one of Ware or McFadden could come through then it would really help
Nice read. I hope McFadden and Ware work out at CB long term.
BTW, Stefan Wisniewski is Steve's nephew not his son