To say the Oakland Raiders will have a different look this season is an understatement, but what about in 2019?
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden appears to be tongue in cheek serious about his comments in getting the Raiders back to their 1998 offense. A key to Oakland’s offense the last few years has been wide receiver Michael Crabtree, however, he has moved on and the team has added Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant. Also new to the team is tight end Derrick Carrier as well as Doug Martin and Keith Smith to the backfield.
The new changes are strikingly similar to the 1970’s George Allen led Washington Redskins and their “Over-the-Hill-Gang.” With an aging team and contracts also playing a factor for others, certain players may not be around beyond the 2018 season.
Running Back: Marshawn Lynch
Gruden wasn’t shy about keeping Beast Mode around when he was hired, however, Lynch is now 32-years-old and no longer is the breakaway threat he once was, albeit he still runs with his trademark ferocity and physicality. Last season Lynch was able to compile 891 rushing yards at 4.3 yards per carry, however, his pass catching could use some improving.
Lynch is expected to play the Charlie Garner role and catching passes is an important task he must perform consistently. By age 30, most running backs fizzle out of the league due to the physical demands on the body. The question with Lynch is, will he finally hit the wall at 32? Being a free agent after this season, this may be his last hurrah with his hometown team.
Tight End: Jared Cook
Cook came to the Bay last offseason and performed well in 2017 despite a stagnant offense led by former offensive coordinator Todd Downing. Quarterback Derek Carr was able to have a consistent underneath option in Cook. By seasons end, Cook was able to compile 54 receptions for 688 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Cook, who is now 31-years-old will have added competition as the team has signed Derrick Carrier and re-signed Lee Smith. Similar to Lynch, Cook is also in a contract season and must prove he is a needed asset or it could the end of the road upon seasons end.
Wide Receiver: Martavis Bryant
The “disgruntled receiver” formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers was ecstatic to find out he would have a chance for a fresh start when he was traded to the Raiders during the 2018 NFL Draft. Bryant may be all smiles now during the offseason, but keep in mind he was primarily disgruntled due to his role in Pittsburgh. With Cooper and Nelson as the No. 1 & 2 options, there is a chance Bryant becomes unhappy as the third option. However, all signs right now point to Bryant as a happy camper as the season approaches and the 26-year-old must prove that all he needed was a change of scenery.
However, if Bryant is unable to prove his worth in Oakland, Reggie McKenzie and coach Gruden may choose to pull the plug and the 2018 season could be all she wrote.
Offensive Tackle: Donald Penn
Unlike the previous players mentioned, Penn is not entering a contract year. While it may not be a contract year, Penn will be entering his thirteenth season in the NFL. Last season Penn wasn’t quite up to his 2016 level of play, and despite a season-ending injury, he was nominated to his third Pro Bowl. Penn was a holdout for a time during the previous offseason, as he outplayed his contract and wanted a pay raise. Taking that into account, Penn is owed $10.35 million next season, yet according to Spotrac.com, he can be cut with no dead money to worry about next year.
With the additions of first-round pick Kolton Miller and third-round pick Brandon Parker, Penn’s day as a Raider may be numbered.