Now that Oakland Raiders general manager Mike Mayock has a right hand man in place with the hire of Ryan Grigson, he can turn his attention to roster evaluation and figuring out what areas he will need to upgrade this offseason.
And that’s exactly what we’re going to do now. It’s a long offseason and this list is likely to change throughout the offseason as the team makes roster moves, but it’s never too early to start thinking about how much this team might be able to improve over the offseason.
So let’s get into it. I am going to list and discuss the needs in order of how I view their importance from most important to least:
From what I hear, pass rushers are hard to find and it just so happens that the Raiders are in desperate need of just that. Not only were the Oakland Raiders dead last in the NFL in sacks, they had so few they should have created a special category for pass rush ineptitude with the Raiders being the only team in it.
The Raiders only managed 13 sacks this season. The second worst team in the league had 30 sacks. If that isn’t enough of a shock to your system, try this on for size: There were 11 players who accounted for 13 or more sacks this season.
Yup, Gareon Conley is looking like a true number one corner. After a slow start to the season, Jon Gruden and Paul Guenther finally allowed the former number one pick to get some playing time and boy did he reward them for it. By the end of the season Conley was the best player on the Raiders defense and not just because the defense sucks, but because Conley is actually really good.
That being said, teams need more than one good corner. In today’s NFL they need three starting caliber corners and solid depth behind them. The Raiders might have another starter if they bring Daryl Worley back and Nick Nelson might be solid depth, but both of those are far from guarantees. The Raiders need to invest in at least one more starting caliber corner for next season.
I know the Raiders just traded up to the top of the third round in order to draft Brandon Parker in last year’s draft but that doesn’t change the fact that right tackle remains one of the biggest needs on this team. Parker is a project who did not develop nearly enough this season to feel comfortable with him moving forward.
Sure, there were some games where Parker looked like a competent right tackle, but more often than not he looked completely lost out there. His performance is a major reason why Derek Carr was sacked a whopping 51 times this season.
I understand not wanting to give up on Parker just yet, but the Raiders need to at least find a stop gap tackle in free agency to hold things down while Parker develops. And no, I don’t think Donald Penn is sufficient given his injury issues and lack of experience on the right side.
The Raiders traded Amari Cooper and got good value for him. But despite it being a good trade, it still created a rather big hole for the team. With Cooper gone, there is no clear number one wide receiver.
Plus, with Seth Roberts and Jordy Nelson being the top two receivers currently on the roster, the Raiders could also use another youngin who can be a mainstay for Derek Carr moving into the future. Carr did ok with very few weapons this season but the Raiders can’t ask that of him again. They need to get him at least one more, high caliber wide receiver.
On the bright side of things. free agent addition Tahir Whitehead looked pretty good later in the season. And after the Raiders moved Marquel Lee from middle linebacker to outside linebacker, he began looking like an NFL starter.
That being said, neither of these guys were good enough for the Raiders to be complacent about the position group and the team still doesn’t have a middle linebacker they can feel confident about. Because of that, they should take every opportunity given to them to upgrade any of the linebacker spots they can. But first and foremost should be finding a middle linebacker.
As of now, it does not appear that the Raiders are going to be re-signing Jared Cook. Despite Cook being the team’s leading receiver and Carr’s most reliable target last year, it’s been reported that the Raiders have had no contact with Cook’s agent. That seems to be a big sign that the Raiders will be looking to move on from Cook, likely in favor of a younger and cheaper option.
If the Raiders do end up re-signing Cook, this need would drop WAY down the list. But until that happens, tight end will be one of the bigger needs for this team as it heads into the offseason.
Karl Joseph looked like a beast late in the season for the Raiders. It’s clear that as long as Jon Gruden doesn’t trade him, Joseph can be a starter, and a good one for the Raiders next season. But what about beyond that? Did he show enough for the Raiders to be comfortable exercising his fifth year option?
And what about the other safety position? Erik Harris had an impressive year but I’m not quite sold on him as a starter. Hopefully he proves me wrong, but as of now I think safety remains one of the bigger needs on this Raiders team.