While the Raiders have made numerous improvements to their roster this offseason and have a brand new and exciting coaching staff, there are still several spots at which the team does not have a premier talent.
You can squint at the Raider roster and see a playoff contender, but what if you could turn on the Madden Force Trades option in real life and plug some holes? Where would you turn? What player would you add from another team to the Raiders that would make them a true Super Bowl contender?
I can think of a number of players, and I’m going to ignore positions like quarterback where the Silver and Black is set up long-term. Tom Brady is an easy answer, but it’s also a lazy one. I’m looking at guys who would be a major improvement over what we currently have. In the comments section of this piece, I’d like for all of you to suggest one player who you think would put Oakland over the top, or if you favor one of the players I’ve mentioned, say so.
Harrison Smith, Safety, Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings defense is build on a ferocious defensive line with Danielle Hunter and Linval Joseph, fast and sure-tackling linebackers and a talented secondary featuring cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes. But the straw that stirs the drink, the true captain of the defense is Smith, the ultra-talented safety out of Notre Dame.
Over the past two seasons, Smith has had 169 combined tackles, 3.5 sacks and five interceptions. He is an extremely intelligent player and a ball hawk who instills fear in opposing offenses, locking down his side of the field.
How long has it been since the Raiders had a player like that? Charles Woodson at safety springs to mind, but even he wasn’t as physically gifted in his later years as Smith is right now. Smith is the sort of player the Raiders hope Karl Joseph develops into, but you can’t coach height, and Smith’s presence would turn the Raiders defense into a truly feared unit.
Luke Kuechly, Middle linebacker, Carolina Panthers
Since being drafted ninth overall by Carolina in the 2012 Draft out of Boston College, Kuechly has been the prototypical middle linebacker while at the same time changing the definition of the position. Previously occupied by huge, lumbering run-stuffers, Kuechly’s sideline to sideline speed and ability in coverage have shown teams what an advantage it is to have a complete athlete manning the middle.
While Kuechly’s career has suffered in recent years due to concussion issues stemming from his fast, physical style of play, he is exactly the type of player the Raiders could use in a questionable linebacker corps.
Lane Johnson, Right Tackle, Philadelphia Eagles
Taken fourth overall in the awful 2013 Draft, Lane Johnson was then-Eagles coach Chip Kelly’s first NFL draft pick, and has proven to be his best. Johnson could easily be a premier left tackle, but the Eagles have Jason Peters there and so Johnson uses his prodigious skills on the right side. He is, without question, the finest right tackle in the NFL and helped Philly win their first ever Super Bowl earlier this year.
It seems like forever since the Raiders had a premier right tackle, putting stopgap solutions there one after another. If Johnson manned the right side for Oakland, it would make that unit unquestionably the best one in the NFL. The Raiders have high hopes for Kolton Miller, and he may turn into a great tackle in the future, but Johnson is the gold standard right now.
So what do you think, Raider Nation? Who would you take from another team to help ensure the Raiders win the Lombardi Trophy at the end of this upcoming season?