The hysteria that is NFL Free Agency is only a few days old and the deals being consumed are like an unstoppable blitzkrieg. Yet the Oakland Raiders are sitting back and waiting for the chips to fall where they may. The regime has been weighing the market while making calculated decisions.
If they choose to wait until the draft, the Silver & Black own 11 picks, which they can always turn into trading up or down. Releases will undoubtedly emerge more and more as the offseason progresses, which can lead to some marquee names becoming available in an instant. Therefore, all hope is not lost just because a certain player was signed or traded elsewhere.
Looking at the six drafts for the Raiders prior to 2013, not one selection remains. In 2013, D.J. Hayden couldn’t produce what Reggie McKenzie had envisioned for him after trading back for him in the opening round. Sixth-rounder Latavius Murray was the sole bright spot and McKenzie let him follow the money to Minnesota in a backup role after seemingly taking the reigns as the primetime back in Oakland.
2014 brought the best draft to date. Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, Gabe Jackson, and T.J. Carrie willed this team to its first playoff appearance in eons. Carrie is officially out the door with no one to replace him.
After that, the last three drafts have been underwhelming at best. Amari Cooper will be the focal point of Gruden’s offense now, while Karl Joseph, Gareon Conley, and Obi Melifonwu will likely be called upon to produce as Day 1 starters unless something bewildering happens between now and September. That’s a bevy of pressure to place on the shoulders of your franchise going forward.
Meanwhile, in the open market, the Raiders haven’t had much success finding studs to fill their respective voids. During the 2012 postseason, McKenzie wanted to rid the club of the awful contracts to create cap stability for years to follow. The 2013 class welcomed the one and only Charles Woodson back home, but little else after.
The rock that is Donald Penn arrived in 2014 and a few more notable names latched onto an otherwise lousy haul. 2015 was Reggie’s premiere year for bargains. He inked the stable of Rodney Hudson, Michael Crabtree, Dan Williams, and a supreme pass rusher in Aldon Smith. Others made plays here and there that eventually got this squad on the doorstep.
The offensive line was nearly complete with the monstrous Kelechi Osemele deal, and another edge man to compliment Mack and Smith on the outside with Bruce Irvin joining the fold in 2016. Reggie Nelson had his moments, both up and down, and we all know where Sean Smith and Aldon Smith are headed for now. Last season was pretty much Jared Cook and not much else.
This brings me to the argument of whether it is better to draft or go after a free agent. Typically every free agent pickup does not live up to the contract hype. Albert Haynesworth, Javon Walker, DeAngelo Hall were free agents that went south faster than they put a pen to paper. However, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees bucked that trend by accomplishing Super Bowl victories in their careers after leaving the organizations that they were drafted by.
Franchises average around the identical record they earned during the previous campaign for throwing the boatloads of cash to top-flight free agents. So the reality of anticipating one or several known names to get your favorite team over the hump usually doesn’t result in the immediate growth that everyone wants asap.
Drafting talent has proven to be the way to go when building a dynasty though. Just look at the Patriots with Brady, the Packers with Rodgers, the Jaguars now with Jalen Ramsey and Leonard Fournette, and Carson Wentz in Philly. It’s definitely not the easiest road to find the ultimate solution to win but seems like the correct step to take for winning on the highest level of football. First rounders obviously have the highest chances of lasting, but that’s another example of why it is beyond critical to trust your scouts to be the best in the business for finding the diamonds in the rough that will change the franchise for the better.
Whichever direction the Raiders decide to travel, it will always be met with unruly criticism and heavy scrutiny until the goal of conquering a world championship is seized. After all, everything is just a crapshoot that hinges on how much work an individual is willing to put forth to be a champion. And the Oakland Raiders have exactly that in Jon Gruden. Rest somewhat easier knowing that and please enjoy the wild chaos that continues to ensue responsibly. Ramble On, Raider Nation.