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Raiders roster could look very different in 2019

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NFL: International Series-Seattle Seahawks at Oakland Raiders Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last few weeks, no team has had as many trade rumors swirling around them as the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders have some talented players, but at 1-5 their season is basically over and other teams could look to swoop in and acquire talent.

We’ve had rumors about Amari Cooper and Karl Joseph possibly on the trade block, and this week there have been rumblings about trading Gareon Conley and even Derek Carr. Trading Carr would seem to be highly unlikely given the nature of his contract, but the only player the Raiders have actually traded so far is Khalil Mack and his new contract is a monster too.

Here’s what Jason La Canfora said this week about the Raiders trading Derek Carr to the team he thinks will pay the price, the New York Giants:

“The final one will be Derek Carr and I don’t think it will be close to the draft, I think it will be at the combine,” La Canfora continued. “And ultimately what’s the point of keeping Derek Carr? And if you have all this draft capital and you get a one plus something else for Derek Carr, which I think he can — I’ll call it right now, Derek Carr to the New York Giants. At the combine.”

If you think Giants fans are frustrated now with Eli at quarterback, wait until they see how Derek Carr does with a porous offensive line. But that doesn’t mean the Giants won’t at least try, and it certainly doesn’t mean Jon Gruden won’t listen. If Derek Carr doesn’t have a good season the rest of the way and Gruden doesn’t think he can win with him going forward, it’s entirely possible he could be traded. If Jon Gruden wanted to reboot the franchise with, say, Justin Herbert at the helm, he most certainly has the opportunity to do so, and at this point that may not be the worst idea in the world.

Jon Gruden has a ten-year contract, meaning he has a 10-year mandate to rebuild the team. Even in their good year of 2016, this was a team that won a ton of close games and frankly were more lucky than good. They haven’t had anything approaching that level of success since, and have regressed hard to the mean and even below it.

The Raiders’ season got even worse with the recent news that Marshawn Lynch will be out for an extended period of time with a groin injury. The Raiders seriously need help at running back, and it just so happens that a player who fits what the Raiders are looking for is sitting at home right now- LeVeon Bell.

The Steelers are starting James Conner at running back and Bell is nowhere to be found, but Pittsburgh is reportedly asking for a first-round pick for Bell. That’s patently absurd since it’s already Week 7 and Bell is a free agent next year. Bell is exactly the sort of player the Raiders should go after in free agency next year. He’s a dynamic playmaker who runs well between the tackles and is the best pass catcher at running back in the NFL. The Raiders love to throw to their backs and nobody is better than Bell.

The Raiders have a ton of guys on one-year deals. Most of them will probably not come back. The Raiders may need new blood at WR, LB, CB, S and DE. Trading Conley would be a mistake, but he’s in the doghouse for reasons we don’t know about. Trading Karl Joseph would be a lateral move since he barely plays and hasn’t lived up to his first-round billing. Amari Cooper has all the talent in the world, but is so inconsistent that he won’t be worth the contract he’s in line for.

When Reggie McKenzie took over as GM, he was given the task of jettisoning old players who didn’t deserve their contracts. Jon Gruden is potentially doing that now, but with young players who don’t deserve their contracts. The good news is, the 2019 and 2020 drafts are chock full of talent, and the 2018 draft featured several players who will be long-term starters for the Raiders- particularly the three defensive linemen taken in the middle rounds. LT Kolton Miller is also pretty good when healthy, and might go higher than he was taken if the draft were re-held today.

Think of what the St. Louis Rams did in their final year before moving to Los Angeles, and the year they moved there. They tore down their team to the bare bones, cut payroll, and drafted offensive skill players like Jared Goff and Todd Gurley in the first round of drafts. This year, they spent all their money on high-priced free agents to open a championship window. That is the blueprint these days, and now the Rams are the best team in the NFL.

If the Raiders were to really go all out and trade their best players, they could have five or six picks in the top two rounds of next year’s draft. If they were to replicate the draft success they showed with Gruden and McKenzie working together earlier this year, they could suddenly have one of the youngest, deepest and most promising teams in the NFL, instead of what they have right now, which is the complete opposite of that- an old team with no depth and no future. Moving into a new market like Las Vegas soon, they’ll most definitely want the former, and if they are bold enough, they can achieve it.

It remains to be seen who, if anyone, the Raiders actually trade. Even if reports say Raider players are ‘available’, that doesn’t mean Oakland is shopping any of them. But don’t be surprised if they completely gut the team in preparation for the future.