This was an interesting offseason in that despite a ton of players signed, the list of needs heading into the draft remained the same. What did change was the order of those needs.
What began with cornerback as the top need, became offensive tackle, making it fairly clear the Raiders had no choice but to go after the position.
Heading into free agency, not only did the Raiders not sign anyone, but they released last year’s starting right tackle, Marshall Newhouse. Then suddenly a position that needed an upgrade, was simply a hole to be filled.
The team was doing their best to make it seem like they just had a bunch of guys who would be competing for that spot between last year’s fourth round pick David Sharpe, 2016 7th round pick Vadal Alexander, 2017 7th round pick Jylan Ware, and formerly undrafted Denver Kirkland who spent last season on injured reserve. If you bought that, I have some swam land for sale.
Ten days into free agency, the Raiders signed the guy who literally gave up more pressures than anyone in football last season. Breno Giacomini gave up 81 pressures last season for the Texans including 9 sacks and added 9 penalties. He’s also 32 years old. Raiders fans were quick to excuse his numbers last season because of back surgery he had after the 2016 season. Though I’m not sure that favors him as much as you think it does.
Giacomini’s attraction comes from Tom Cable under whom Giacomini was the starting right tackle for the Seahawks Super Bowl run in 2013. The rest of the NFL wasn’t interested, but Cable wanted his guy. Gruden likes Giacomini’s toughness and hopes it rubs off on the other linemen. None of that signals ‘we brought this guy in to be our starter.’ It sounds a lot like Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther bringing in vets Leon Hall, Reggie Nelson, and Emmanuel Lamur who can help translate his system to the others.
Come the draft, it seemed clear the Raiders had their sights set on an offensive tackle. At 10 overall, or perhaps even with a trade down, Mike McGlinchey was the guy. Then the 49ers at 9th overall — a pick they got after winning the coin toss with the Raiders — went and stole him away.
Still determined to fill that glaring hole, the Raiders traded down with the Cardinals — who wanted Josh Rosen as their franchise quarterback — from 10 to 15, getting a third and fifth round pick. That’s terrible compensation for that move being that the Cardinals were desperate to get their QB, but the Raiders were desperate too. They needed to fill that tackle spot and hoped not to have to do it at 10 overall with McGlinchey off the board.
Once at 15, they chose the next best tackle in a weak tackle class, getting Kolton Miller out of UCLA.
With Donald Penn at left tackle, Miller would figure to start on the right side for a year and then move to the left side. Then again, Penn is recovering from a foot injury — his second lower leg injury in two years. It could be for that reason that the Raiders weren’t done addressing the tackle spot in this draft.
As soon as the third round began, the Raiders got antsy. Jon Gruden and Tom Cable wanted Brandon Parker so much, they weren’t willing to wait until their pick at 75 overall to get him or one of the several other tackles on the board. They jumped up to the first pick in the round to get Parker at 65 overall trading away a fifth and sixth round pick to do it.
Two tackles in the top 65, just 50 picks apart.
Both tackles are extremely tall; around 6-8 and 305 pounds. Just the way Cable likes them. Albeit they will each probably be asked to put on about 15 pounds.
Miller will start off on the left side and Parker on the right. Left tackle is Miller’s ultimate destination. How soon that happens remains to be seen. He is considered to be a bit of a project, with just one full season at UCLA as a starting left tackle. Parker is certainly a project as a FCS school (North Carolina A&T) standout who is switching sides.
The Raiders have a full host of tackles to work with now, even if they had to ignore other pressing needs or better value players and reach for them in the draft.
Best case scenario here is for Donald Penn to return full and stay that way and the Raiders don’t get it in their heads to cut him to save $5 million against the cap. Even at age 35 the three-time Pro Bowler is the most accomplished of the Raiders tackles by a wide margin. And throwing a couple rookies in at both tackle positions against these AFC West pass rushers wouldn’t be the wisest decision. Though it’s good to be prepared for that possibility.