For what it's worth, this will be an ongoing series of what I think needs to happen, or what I think will happen. For what I think needs to happen, I will obviously put out who, what and when I see as the best moves that are available at the time; for what I think will happen, it will be what I see as the moves that the Raiders will make, although I may or may not agree with them. So, let's get started with this installment, the running backs...
McFadden: Although I like DMC, he has to be considered a bust. He had a single very good season, but even that was shortened; he has not actually played for an entire season yet. Even that season, while good, was not really in line with what he was getting paid; he has never had the production to go along with his contract and/or draft position. He is a player that works hard, and doesn't cause problems in the locker room, but he is injury-prone, and from what I've seen this year, seems to have lost a step. His confidence is also in question. I think that if he is ever going to have much success, he will need to have a change of scenery. I am not blaming him for the struggles that the Raiders have had during his time here, but other players have been more effective behind the same OL; I don't see him staying, other than at a rock bottom price that he would likely not have to settle for.
Jennings: Seems to be a pretty solid player, with fairly good blocking, runs and finishes hard, good hands as a receiver out of the backfield, and is not a bad locker room guy. The only knock on Jennings seemed to be that he got hurt in Jacksonville, and had some fumbling there; neither of those seem to be significant issues since he came here. He has played quite well, and looked like a feature back. This is a player that I think that we definitely need to re-sign, because otherwise there will be too many questions at the position.
Murray: I didn't actually see Murray that much before he got hurt. Still, I liked him coming out of college, and even had us taking him in my mock draft, so I will admit to some bias. Anyway, his college numbers are very comparable to Knowshon Moreno and Doug Smith, so this is a guy that could very well earn the starting job next year; the problem is that he was injured before we could really get a read on him. It may very well be that Jennings is allowed to leave, with McKenzie and Allen already sold on this kid. The problem with that, of course, is that such a move leaves the team with a dearth of backups. Heading into the offseason like that would force us to bring in guys in earlier rounds of the draft, just in case, and/or guys that may or may not have much left in the tank in free agency. Not necessarily a problem if he pans out, but something of a risky move given the offensive struggles of the team, and assuming Allen is brought back, the fact that the coaching staff will be under the gun to produce more wins.
Stewart: I have said in the past that I don't expect Stewart to return; lately, I have changed my mind and believe that he will be brought back, less because of his effectiveness as a RB than how he plays on ST. If that is the case, then there is less need for another RB, although I can't imagine that one or two wouldn't be brought in for competition for this spot. Should Jennings also not be re-signed, Stewart may still be able to hold onto the third spot, but I don't see him moving up to the second team.
Overall, this should be a very solid group, if Jennings is brought back. Even if he isn't, there is some solid potential, but that can be a mirage if there isn't the production to go with it; witness our WR's for too many years. We will have an idea of what will happen in free agency and/or the draft when we see what the front office does with Jennings; I'd expect to see a respectable, somewhat shorter contract that is actually more front-loaded that will give the team flexibility should Murray be able to step up and take the starting role, and that will still give us a starter for some time should Murray turn out to be nothing more than a depth player.