From the jump, fans were calling for Las Vegas Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler to take his hands out of his pockets. Nearly two weeks later, the dust is still settling, and the NFL landscape is trying to catch up.
Dave Ziegler and JMD inherited a ten win team. The most prominent free agents they need to sign are some of their own.
— Phil Robinson (@PhilRobinsonIII) March 15, 2022
The Raiders have a new sheriff in town in Dave Ziegler
Ziegler has been a beast of a general manager since his arrival in Las Vegas. From the time free agency started, he’s added 23 men to the roster and only lost five players from the 2021 team. Ziegler used this year’s first and second round picks to acquire Davante Adams from the Green Bay Packers.
Additionally, he executed a player-for-player trade, one of which saw the Raiders send Yannick Ngakoue to the Indianapolis Colts for cornerback Rock Ya-Sin.
In essence, Ziegler took a 10-win roster and added 23 players capable of competing for a starting spot. All the while, upgrading two starters and cutting bait on three bloated contracts. After the contracts of Carl Nassib and Cory Littleton come off the books on June 2, the Raiders will have an additional $19.75 million in cap space.
The offensive line was fortified by re-signing Brandon Parker and Jermaine Eluemunor, and bringing in free agent Alex Bars. Offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo will have the task of coaching a group of ascending young players in the trenches.
Assessing the offensive line
In 2021, according to Pro Football Reference, the Raiders’ offensive line ranked second in pocket time with 2.5 seconds and 12th in pressure percentage with 21.4 percent. Mind you, quarterback Derek Carr threw 626 passes (fifth most in the NFL) and, as a team, the Raiders threw the ball 628 times. Running with the football never really materialized early. It started off rough but got better.
The Raiders’ rushing attack eclipsed the century mark seven times and hit 98 once. Four of the team’s top seven rushing performances came late in the season, in Weeks 12, 16, and 18, as well as on Wild Card weekend. In Week 15, the Raiders’ line blocked for 98 rushing yards. Amassing an impressive 4.89 yards per carry through these games down the stretch.
Ziegler ultimately felt comfortable with the remaining developmental aspects of the men on the offensive line, comfortable enough to allocate his resources in other areas.
In Year 1 of Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels’s regime, the Raiders have spent money in free agency, inking Chandler Jones to a five-year, $51.4M deal. It includes resetting the wide receiver market by signing Adams to a five-year, $141.25 million deal.
Trading Ngakoue for Ya-Sin had the positive of locking in Ya-Sin at his rookie contract salary of $2.5 million. A steal for the top man cover corner in 2021. Anthony Averett has a one-year deal worth $4.5 million and a $3.9 million cap hit. He is the highest-paid cornerback on the team.
According to OverTheCap.com, up to this point, the Raiders and Ziegler have pledged more than $120 million in total guarantees, Fourth-most in the league, and $77 million in first-year cash. But and there always is a but. Only Bilal Nichols, Averett, Parker, Jones and Adams will have dead cap hits of over a million if they were cut today.
Dave Ziegler’s pen is mightier than the sword
In just two weeks, Ziegler has taken the power structure of the AFC West and dumped it on its head. When the Denver Broncos traded for quarterback Russell Wilson, he countered by signing Chandler Jones. The Los Angeles Chargers traded for Khalil Mack and signed JC Jackson. No big deal. Ziegler acquired the best route-running receiver in football.
Most importantly, you must tell everyone, “he ain’t done yet.” Currently, it’s the end of March.
Going into April, in two months, Ziegler will have an opportunity to tinker with his roster even more.
*Top Photo: Courtesy of Raiders.com