Putrid, unbearable, atrocious – those are a few words, and rather fair adjectives I might add, that describe the Oakland Raiders right now.
Failing to make the postseason for the 11th straight year, which is the longest in it’s history, the Raiders haven’t had a winning season, much less made the playoffs during this stretch.
It’s sad because the back-to-back 8-8 seasons from 2010-11 must be the only good memory they have since their Superbowl 38 meltdown, considering all their other campaigns held a record of either 4-12 or 5-11.
Compiling a 53-123 record over these miserable years, Oakland has seen seven coaches, eight top-10 draft picks – seven if you don’t count last year’s selection due to the trade-down – and 17 starting quarterbacks. They have witnessed a head coach slugging an assistant coach, owned a lean-addicted quarterback, and gotten penalized more than any other team in the league.
Even more embarrassing, is that they even have their own cheerleaders suing them now!
What’s mind-blowing is that out of the eight top-10 picks they selected, cornerback DJ Hayden – who was really drafted 12th overall after they traded out of the third-spot – is the only player who’s actively on their roster. And what’s perhaps even more overwhelming, is that five of them are no longer in the league.
Is there anybody that can save this organization? Yes. His name’s Reggie McKenzie.
McKenzie, who became Oakland’s general manager back in 2012, may not seem as though he’s pushing the team in the right direction – due to their 8-24 record during his tenure – but he is.
Ditching the bloated contracts of quarterback Carson Palmer, defensive tackles Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour, outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, cornerback Stanford Routt, and cutting linebacker Rolando McClain, McKenzie has taken big strides towards bettering Oakland’s payroll dilemma.
Which is why the Raiders have the most cap space ($63,633,401) heading into the offseason – according to Spotrac – and can improve their lineup drastically before September.
As-far-as who they should draft, ink, and re-sign, here are the five moves they should consider making:
1 – Draft WR Sammy Watkins
I understand that drafting a wide receiver in the first-round is unnecessary, but Oakland is lacking a playmaker. In watching the Raiders’ offense last season, it was ineffective mostly because they couldn’t stretch the field through the air. Although there’s promise with current receivers Rod Streater and Denarius Moore, they aren’t go-to wideouts.
Watkins has similar characteristics to that of Arizona Cardinals’ receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Not because they both have dreads – which is just a coincidence – but their route-running ability, playmaking mentality, and speed. Watkins is a matured target to throw to and can help further the progress of both Matt McGloin and Terrelle Pryor.
I also acknowledge the fact that a quarterback is a pressing need for Oakland, and if need be, the Raiders could draft Georgia gun-slinger Aaron Murray in the later rounds – considering his ACL surgery may have pushed him out of the first. However, don’t give up on McGloin just yet. With the right weaponry around him, and another year under his belt, he could still be the one.
2 – Re-sign T Jared Veldheer and DT Lamarr Houston
Despite a shortened season due to injury, left tackle Jared Veldheer is a no-brainer to re-sign. A depleted offensive line and shallow pool to choose from as-far-as tackles are concerned in the NFL, Veldheer is a homegrown trench-man who needs to be locked up, deal wise, for the forseeable future. Depending on how much he will demand once contract talks commence, Veldheer should be on the top of their to-do list.
Same goes for defensive tackle Lamarr Houston. Leading the team in sacks last season, Houston is another homegrown talent that poses as a strong building block for the defensive line. A big body and a killer instinct, Houston is one of the few successful picks made through the draft in recent attempts. Like Veldheer, the organization will obviously have to wait and see what his asking price is, however, Houston should also be tops on their bucket list.
3 – Sign CB Charles Tillman
If the Chicago Bears, who have a little over $7 million in cap space, chose not to re-sign cornerback Charles Tillman, the Raiders need to make an attempt to ink this guy. Seeing cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Tracy Porter, along with safety Charles Woodson for that matter, hit free agency, they must sign somebody who can play with, and mentor young Hayden.
Tillman, who patented the peanut-punch move in order to strip the ball out of the opponent’s grasp, would also provide necessary leadership on the defense. Accompanied with former teammate, linebacker Nick Roach, Tillman would have familiarity with some of the players should he join. If he’s asking for a reasonable deal, the Raiders must entertain the idea of picking him up.
4 – Sign S Antoine Bethea
A hard-hitter and a nose for the ball, safety Antoine Bethea can fill the void Oakland’ desperately needs. Similar to Tillman’s situation, should the Indianapolis Colts not pursue his services, Oakland has to deliberate signing him. Who am I kidding, deliberate? Show him a deal immediately. The secondary was torched for most of last season, and Bethea’s presence on the field will limit the big plays.
Bethea is 29-years-old, so we’ll have to see how much he wants. However, he is a perfect fit to play smash-mouth football in Oakland next season.
5 – Sign Either RB Ahmad Bradshaw or RB Maurice Jones-Drew
The Raiders will see both Rashad Jennings and Darren McFadden hit the open-market. And although you’d like to see them re-sign Jennings, given the fact he performed exceptional for Oakland last season, there’s concerns on if he’ll be able to replicate that success. Plus, he may just want to part ways and see how much cash is out there for him.
As for McFadden, he’s overstayed his welcome. Which is a shame, considering he’s never really had a chance due to his inability to stay healthy. That, and the fact he was a 4th overall pick. So, it’s bittersweet, yet relieving to see his contract evaporate.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, Bradshaw and Jones-Drew can’t stay healthy themselves. However, McKenzie likes hard-workers, and both of them qualify for that trait. Before Bradshaw went down with a season-ending neck injury, he was coming off a 95-yard, one touchdown performance in San Francisco, against that stout Niners’ defense. And Jones-Drew, while he may not have played like himself last season, might have had the wheels come off due to how terrible the Jacksonville Jaguars were.
On top of it all, both can be had at a small price, given their outcomes to last season. So while they’re not the top choices, both are affordable, and will work their butts off.