The Raiders had one (if not the) least talented rosters in the NFL in 2013. And although the team had a nice start to the season, the lack of talent finally caught up to them and the Raiders dropped 8 of their last 9 games to finish the season at 4-12.
Due to the lack of salary commitments heading into the offseason, we didn't really know what to expect of the Raiders' 2014 roster. Well it's just over two weeks since the start of free agency and the roster has taken shape.
But it wasn't without controversy. On the first day of free agency we learned that the Raiders had lost Jared Veldheer to Arizona, Lamarr Houston to the Bears, and Rashad Jennings to the Giants (but they surprisingly kept McFadden though!). Houston and Veldheer were two players that most fans would see as foundation pieces for the Raiders, so it seemed to be an extremely rough start to the offseason. Then to replace Veldheer at left tackle, the Raiders signed Rams OL Roger Saffold to a lucrative (and likely overpriced) deal..... or so we thought. It turns out Saffold "failed" (some think Mark Davis decided to pull the plug) the physical with the Raiders and shortly after he re-signed with the Rams. Free agency couldn't have started any worse.
Then things shifted for the better. The Raiders signed Jets RT Austin Howard (to play RG), and then quietly snatched up proven veterans Justin Tuck and Lamarr Woodley to replace Houston/bolster the defensive line. A day later they signed former Texans captain Antonio Smith and Niners CB Tarell Brown. They then agreed to deals with former Bucs T Donald Penn to replace Veldheer, former Giant/Raider Kevin Boothe to start or provide o-line depth, and shockingly signed veteran Packer receiver James Jones. Suddenly, the roster didn't look half bad.
And to me, the most important factor is the fact that all of these signings (except for Brown) were multi-year deals. So in 2015 (assuming these acquisitions play well and aren't cut), the Raiders won't have to completely rebuild their roster AGAIN. As a result, we may actually see the Raiders have some continuity for the first time in a while, which is always important for sustained success.
However, the Raiders still didn't have a starting quarterback (Pryor and McGloin don't cut it). And while drafting one with the 5th pick was (and still is) an option, Reggie McKenzie always said that he prefers that a rookie QB sits out and learns for a year than to start from day one. So with that being said, it became known that the Raiders were going to sign/trade for a veteran stopgap QB. Names like Josh Freeman, Michael Vick, Mark Sanchez, and Ryan Fitzpatrick were brought up, but there was one QB that stood out the most to me and that was Matt Schaub. Yes, Matt Schaub had a dismal year with the Texans in 2013. Perhaps that can be attributed to a foot injury that prevented him from stepping through his throws, or maybe he just had a bad season. But, the reason he appealed to me (and also the Raiders) is that in the 5 seasons prior, he had a 90+ QB rating in every single one of them. To put things in perspective, a Raider QB hasn't had a 90+ QB rating since Rich Gannon in 2002! So while, Matt Schaub isn't Peyton Manning or Tom Brady (even though Dennis Allen may think he is) he could easily be the best Raider QB in 12 years.
The trigger was pulled. The Raiders sent a 6th round pick to the Texans for Matt Schaub, and instantly he was named the starting QB. The Raiders were heavily criticized for this move, and I don't really get why. A main reason for that was because of Schaub's lengthy and expensive contract. However, it has been restructured since then and now the Raiders are reportedly able to rid completely themselves of Schaub's contract in 2015 if need be. So worse comes to worst, Schaub has another down year and the Raiders cut him after the season with no additional penalty (except for the loss of the 6th round pick). To me that seems like a relatively minor risk for a guy that is a 2-time Pro Bowler. If Schaub CAN return to form, the Raiders offense could be the best they've had in years.
There is reason for optimism. The D-line appears to be more talented, the O-line has more depth, the receiving core now has a proven veteran, and the QB position has been significantly upgraded. The Raiders still have $14M in cap space and a full deck of picks (aside from a 6th rounder), so the roster isn't completely set and still has room for even more improvement.
While there's still a ways to go before the season begins, and I can honestly say that for once in nearly a decade, I feel as though this franchise is finally headed in the right direction. The Raiders are no longer overpaying players or trading high draft picks for aging veterans. They haven't dug themselves into a deep financial hole as in years past, and they should be players in the free agent market for years to come.
The Raiders are still missing pieces to build a team around, but hopefully the front office will draft well this year and find some young players to become the core of the future. In the meantime, I will try to enjoy this upcoming season and support our newest acquisitions and continue to hold out hope that we can get back to being a competitive team year in and year out.
Please comment if you agree/disagree or care to add anything. I'm curious to see what other fans think about how the offseason has gone so far. Go Raiders.