The trenches are where you either win or lose football games. If your offensive and defensive lines are not set then it directly effects every other aspect of the team. Neither the offensive nor the defensive line right now is set and those are the major areas that need the focus this off-season.
With the Chiefs releasing their RT Eric Winston this past week comes a very credible idea on how to proceed for the rest of this off-season. It centers around targeting Winston, but the Raiders will not be his only choice. Whether it is Winston or somebody else, a Free Agent must be signed for this idea to work.
The idea is to sign a veteran that can start at RT or RG and using the first round pick on whichever of those two positions wasn't signed. The addition of Eric Winston would be the veteran that would make the most sense to sign and so the Guard position would be the area addressed via the draft.
For the Guards available in the draft there are a few names out there that could be quite interesting to add into the Raiders offensive line. The top two players in this years draft to play guard are Jonathon Cooper of North Carolina and Chance Warmack of Alabama. Another interesting prospect is Kyle Long of Oregon in the 2nd round.
The problem with going after Kyle Long is that the Raiders would have to make some moves to get a 2nd round selection because their 2nd rounder is the property of the Bengals for the remaining compensation due for Carson Palmer. If Oakland was able to acquire a 2nd rounder then the first round selection would be free for a much needed defensive lineman.
If the Raiders were to be able to sign Winston and draft Cooper, Warmack, or Long then their offensive line could be set for the next 5+ years. That consistency would allow Oakland to grow much more efficiently and would also allow them to concentrate on other areas of need without worry that their offensive line would be lacking. This is the direction that the Raiders should take in this off-season.
When looking at the Raiders lines it is clear that the offensive line is closer to being a completed project over the defensive side and that is why it should be that side that the Raiders concentrate on first. They can complete the offensive line for years to come with one free agent and one draft pick. After that the rest of the draft can be focused upon the defense.
The most logical thing to do is to finish the closest to completed project and to allow that project to mature and grow together. Then once that part is fixed they can concentrate on the other projects that are farther away from being completed. That means set the line and focus on the defense after that.
If Reggie McKenzie and company decide to go defensive line with their first round selection it would be completely understandable though. The selection in the first round of a DT or a pass rushing DE would give them some freedom within their defense to implement more variety in their play-calling. Also the talent at those positions are often harder to find later in the draft than that of the offensive linemen.
Either way they decide to go with the draft their early focus must be on fixing the trenches whether offensively or defensively. They are too important to ignore and the Raiders are too badly in need of talent on both sides to push it off for another year.
It all starts in the trenches and that is exactly where the Raiders need to start if they want to be competitive next season. Hopefully they finish off their offensive line first and then concentrate on the defense. The defense needs many players to be a finished product, but the offense is really only 2 offensive linemen short of being strong enough to compete. If they go defense first I can't blame them, but logically the answer is to start with the line.