Right tackle has been unsettled for the Raiders for a few years now. The good news these days is they may have two good options. Unfortunately they can't seem to keep both of them healthy for extended periods of time, so they basically just end up choosing whomever is able to take the field.
This time last season it was former second round pick Menelik Watson who was the starter. Austin Howard was making around $6 million to be his backup since being moved back to right tackle from right guard where he had played in 2014. Then Watson went down with a ruptured Achilles and missed the season, leaving the job to Howard.
Howard filled in admirably until late last season when it was apparently his turn to go down injured. He suffered a knee injury in week 14, causing him to miss the final three games of the season. That injury recovery will have Howard missing part of the offseason, giving Watson a chance to once again take the starting job.
"They're both returning from injury from last year," Del Rio told reporters at the owners meetings this week. "Menelik is going to first to return, Austin will return a little later in the offseason. They're both guys that showed they could play at a high level. Menelik was probably ahead at the point he was injured. Austin stepped in and really had a good year for us."
This is the third time since the Raiders drafted Watson that he will have a legitimate shot to start at tackle. As a rookie, he had a chance to start at left tackle with the injury to Jared Veldheer. But a calf injury shut him down and had him miss the first half of that season and he played mostly fill-in duty when he returned.
Howard was signed prior to the the 2014 season and started at right guard with Khalif Barnes starting most of the season at right tackle and Watson coming in as an tackle eligible in jumbo packages.
Last season was supposed to be the year we finally see Watson live up to his potential. And in camp he was looking good enough to keep his $6 million counterpart working with the second team. It was his work in that camp that has the staff giving him the edge to start again this season.
If Watson can stay healthy, he would complete an offensive line that added big time run blocking guard Kelechi Osemele this offseason along with returning Rodney Hudson at center, Gabe Jackson at the other guard spot, and Donald Penn at left tackle.