As we continue head first into the offseason, the focus for the Raiders will be to build upon their 12-4 season that fell short in the playoffs. It fell short due to the loss of Derek Carr to a broken fibula. At which point other weak areas were exposed.
Here are those needs in order of importance:
1. Defensive Tackle
There is nothing this team needs more than a big bodied monster on their interior defensive line. Someone who can shed blocks to stop the run and provide something in the way of an interior pass rush. All last season, they shuffled around guys hoping to either keep fresh legs or find a solution. They never found it. Time to make this position a priority.
2. Offensive Tackle
Each of the past few offseasons, the team has zeroed in on a position on the offensive line and signed a player to fill it. Right tackle was supposed to be Menelik Watson’s spot and after four seasons, he has not started a full season there, including missing all of the 2015 season and most of last season. Austin Howard has not been the answer either. It was once thought the two of them would make two great options, now it looks like neither are. The other four spots on the offensive line are set for the moment. Time to fix the weak link. The Raiders must also consider planning for being without Donald Penn who is in the final year of his contract at the age of 34.
3. Inside Linebacker
Much to their own detriment, the Raiders have danced around making middle linebacker a priority for some time now. Last offseason they did nothing, instead hoping second year 5th round pick Ben Heeney could be the guy. Two games in, they figured out that was not a great plan. After week four, the team signed Perry Riley Jr off the street and he was an upgrade, but still a Band-aid. A real ball hawking middle linebacker would go a long way to helping fix the Raiders’ defensive woes.
I don’t think the Raiders are ready to give up on Sean Smith after one rough season. And if used right, the trio of Smith, David Amerson, and TJ Carrie can be sufficient, though a speedy slot corner would do wonders.
5. Wide receiver
Seth Roberts led the league in drops last season. And that doesn’t include the catches that were jarred or knocked out of his grasp by defenders. He doesn’t scare a lot of defenses either underneath or on deep routes. Last season the Raiders did well to find alternate options whenever opposing defenses focused on taking either/both Amari Cooper and/or Michael Crabtree out of the game. Adding a game breaker as that third wide receiver option would take the passing game to another level.
6. Running Back
This is a potential need dependent upon whether the Raiders bring back Latavius Murray. If they don’t, running back would move up the list of needs.