The calm before the storm sits heavy on us right now. No one knows which direction we're going.
Exciting isn't it?
Let's jump in:
#1 - Will we retain what appears to be our "Best" players? (I use quotes because based off our team's overall performance being best of the worst does not impress me i.e I DO NOT want to see us overpay to keep our own guys like we used to)
Truthfully it's impossible to know without knowing "the plan". It's frustrating because we've never really been in the this position before. With Al it was simple - we'd ridiculously overpay one of own guys which forced us to lose some guys. We'd replace them with some big name FA's at an insane price and keep the ball rolling with some creative restructuring on the rest of the team. Draft picks might be traded to accomplish all this and if we kept them we were never going to trade down and we most assuredly would be taking the fastest players regardless of position. Well..
That's all over now and it's far too early to criticize RM's draft from last year yet IMO. I believe Hayden will improve (let's not forget that Aso sucked worst in his first season), Watson & Murray will contribute and these guys will look better a year from now in terms of draft position. I don't know if we're moving on from Veldy and Houston but if we are, I HAVE to believe there's a real plan in place to replace them while improving both positions. If we do resign Veldy & Houston at reasonable prices, I think most of us with breathe a sign of relief as it symbolizes a new way of thinking and sends a clear message that if you play well for the Raiders you will be rewarded. This also goes to identity (which I'll discuss more later) and helps define what kind of team RM wants to build.
We still don't know RM's FA approach because he's been forced to bargain shop the last 2 years and in that regard he's done pretty well with cheaper pieces and UFA. The question is what can he do with money? We're about to find out. I personally have tempered my expectations, I expect at least 2 Big Name FA signings with a couple of swing and misses on some others because we won't play Al and crazy overpay. Everyone knows which guys fit our needs and there's a good # of them floating around out there that can help us.
#2 - Will we finally add some big name impact FA's without seriously overpaying??
Yes I believe we finally will. The Seymour's, Tommy Kelly's of the world won't be getting insane dollars anymore. If anything I think we'll end paying any big FA's what they are worth and maybe slightly over, nothing more. This is the smart way to do things. Guys like Bennett and Johnson will command bigger contracts because they're young still but we can sign them to fair market value and not go crazy as well. Something to consider is who's going to be there when we draft as well. We can reasonably address, DE, OT, QB or WR @ #5 and even a couple of those positions if we trade down. I think RM is biding his time to see what market value is for all these guys and weighing that against who we can get in the draft. If nothing else he, like Al, loves to take his time. But just because we haven't heard any rumors thus far we shouldn't be panicking. No news and being cryptic has always been part of the Raider way.
#3 - Just how much will RM & DA gamble to try and save their jobs?
There's been much debate and speculation about what RM & DA will do because of MD's comments. Are they under the gun to improve? No doubt. 4 wins will not cut it. Bad signings and a non impact draft will kill both these guys IMO. So will they double down and bet the farm? I don't think so. I have to believe that RM has had a plan from the beginning so I don't think we see a desperate Hue like move to save their jobs, I think RM is going to implement his plan until he's either successful or fired. As DA is his guy, I think he does the same. The bar of 4 wins is not high at all and even with our difficult schedule we should be able to win at least 5 to 7 with some better players and coaches. I just don't see them doing something crazy (Like trading up or trading future picks) unless they are 100% sure they are adding a real difference maker. Like the previous points - we just don't know if they capable of nailing that type of choice yet. I'm willing to see how this off season plays out instead of worrying about what happened the last 2 years and judge when they were backed up against a wall while facing a firing squad.
#4 - What to do at QB?
Ahhh yes, the $50 Billion Dollar question no one knows the answer to. I don't care if you're pro TP or MM, want a FA or want to draft _____ now or want to wait to next off season to draft _____. All of those options are currently on the table. I really don't have any clarity here but I think it's abundantly clear we will have some when the dust settles. I personally think this is the most important decision RM has to make this off season. Yes haters will point to the Flynn and Wilson misses but I think RM understands just how important the QB position is and that's why he was desperately trying to fill the void Palmer left by gambling on potential instead of just rolling with Pryor. I think it's also why he signed McGloin as well. It will be interesting to see what decision will be made here as it could vault us into the catbird seat, leave things very badly or leave things to be addressed next off season. FA could provide some insight very quickly so buckle up and wait it out.
#5 - What identity will this team have?
Next to the QB question this is the next biggest issue that needs addressing IMO. What kind of team are we going to be? Donkeys or Hawks? Well if you take into consideration that the Hawks won the SB, RM was a LBer and his first hire was a former DC. I think we'll be shooting for our own Legion of Boom-like D. I'm more than ok with that as we haven't have a scary good D since Willie Shaw's days in Oaktown. This used to be our forte once. Hurting QB's, intimidation, picks galore and extremely hard hits. IMO we need to get back to that type of football.
On the other hand - we still need some help to generate some more points. I can envision a team that focuses on D first and then addresses the offense more next off season. This is the biggest reason I don't see us drafting a QB unless one falls that we truly believe in. But hey, I could be wrong about all that and the draft could change that philosophy quickly if one of the top 3 QB's fall to us or we draft Watkins.
Bottom line we get better in both approaches but we must choose one right now. Waffling between the 2 will make us just bad enough to get the RM & DA fired because neither unit will be dominant. IMHO, there's no way we truly improve as a franchise until this decision is made. It's that important.
Well that's it for now. There's other points to be made but these are the top 5 to me. I'm ultimately stoked to see how the off season plays out and really hope the last 2 questions are answered when it's all over - thoroughly. Unlike a lot of young fans out there and on this site - I was alive and old enough to see firsthand our domination in the 70's & 80's and I would love more than watch my own children revel in the fact that their team (and Daddy's) is a beast once more.