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Are players really dying to play for the Raiders or is this just a Jon Gruden hustle?

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Gruden is determined to keep the Raiders in headlines, saying players are dying to play for them.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Circus promoter extraordinaire PT Barnum once said, “Nobody ever lost a dollar by underestimating the taste of the American public.”

From the mid to late 1800s, Barnum said just about anything to sell hoaxes and freakshows for big money. From the 1980s to the turn of the century, boxing promoter Don King made millions selling two crackheads fighting and-or a crackhead fighting Mike Tyson. In the 1990s, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had a dynasty but keeps his team relevant with his gift of gab now. And to join him on the list of hustlers these days is Jon Gruden.

Oakland Raiders’ owner Mark Davis felt like he needed someone to put butts in the seats when he moves to Las Vegas. So Gruden was happy to take his $100 million and hasn’t stopped talking since.

First, he convinced Oakland fans he was coming in to win a Super Bowl before leaving. Then things didn’t work out early on so he is tearing the roster down and prepping for a rebuild. He knows there’s more patience in a rebuild than a win-now mentality, particularly with the fans in Las Vegas,

But no matter what, he says whatever he has to say to make things look better than they are.

“I have a cell phone just like you and everybody else. And I get a lot of calls from people that are dying to come play here,” Gruden told Howie Long before his Thursday Night Football game on FOX against the San Francisco 49ers. “I’m just telling you, they’re dying to play for the Raidas! To have salary cap space. To have a chance to talk to some of the people that you really want to wear the Silver and Black. The one’s you really want to wear the Silver and Black and represent this team, that’s exciting.”

So Gruden didn’t really want Khalil Mack, the most dominant defensive player in the game?

Who’s dying to be a Raider these days anyway?

Gruden can’t talk to any of the players that will be top names in free agency next year, that’s tampering. But to get hypothetical with it, guys like Jadeveon Clowney, and Dee Ford are winning where they are. And it’s going to take contracts the size of Gruden’s to get Le’Veon Bell and Demarcus Lawrence to become Raiders

Free agent Junior Galette is one player who has been stumping to play for the Raiders with no luck. He responded to Gruden’s statement in the affirmative.

Yeah, Galette, the current free agent edge-rusher that had his last 10-sack season in 2014. Navorro Bowman, who led the Raiders in tackles last year, has repeatedly said he would like to return as well. Perhaps Dez Bryant and Colin Kaepernick are dying to play for the Raiders too?

Of course a player that doesn’t have a job is dying to be Raider. They’re dying to get back in the NFL with any team. Eric Reid probably was dying to be a Raider before signing with the Carolina Panthers but Gruden chose to stick with guys like Reggie Nelson.

The Raiders are horrible in Gruden’s comeback so far so he has to say something. He came back ready for the X’s and O’s of the game but wasn’t ready for the business side like Mack’s holdout. So after getting impatient, he unnecessarily traded him to start the nightmare.

Then his band of washed up older players didn’t work out and the rebuild started. So like Barnum, King, and Jones before him, he’s saying what he can to hold fans’ interest. After all, Davis did pay him to sell the Raiders in the midst of their move to Vegas.

And there’s nothing like the promise of a better tomorrow to sell your football team. He’ll likely keep that sell job going into next year’s draft, when fans’ hopes shift to the draft class. But at some point before too long, the hustle is over and he’ll have to produce something.