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Raiders could be headed for bigger rebuild than anyone imagined

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NFL: Oakland Raiders at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After Jon Gruden was hired by Mark Davis and the Oakland Raiders, Gruden made it clear that his priority was bringing a championship to the Bay Area in 2018/19 before the franchise moves to Sin City. But based on many his recent comments it’s appearing more and more that’s just not the plan.

Oakland is now 0-2, making them a long shot for the playoffs. Just 11 percent of teams make the playoffs after losing its first two games.

The most obvious move to suggest a rebuild was trading Khalil Mack. Any team close to winning doesn’t trade away a future Hall of Fame player in his prime, especially one who is a model citizen and great locker room guy.

Many people might have been surprised that Oakland didn’t get any actual players in return and only future draft picks but it makes sense from a rebuilding standpoint. Getting a player in return would help Oakland win now and subsequently lower the value of the Raiders’ own draft picks.

The result of Mack’s departure has been just two sacks over the first two weeks. Even still, Jon Gruden said Monday he has no regrets about the trade, adding that he is hoping the rookie defensive linemen to step up and fill the void.

“We made the trade,” said Gruden. “There’s going to be hindsight 50/50, all that stuff, but we’d have loved to have had him here. I’m not going to keep rehashing this. I would have loved to have coached him, loved to have had him here, but he’s not here and somebody’s gotta step up. We gotta keep building our football team. That’s what we’re going to do. Hopefully we see more from Arden Key, hopefully we see more from PJ Hall when he gets healthy and hopefully we prove that in the long term we did the right thing.”

The long term.

In the short term, the Raiders aren’t getting any pressure. It’s costing them potential wins and will continue to do so.

On Sunday, the Raiders were one sack away on the final drive from thwarting Case Keenum and the Broncos offense and winning the game. They got no pressure on Keenum and the Broncos moved right down the field to kick the game-winning field goal. You think Mack would have been gassed on that final drive and failed to get pressure like Bruce Irvin? Don’t think so.

Oakland could have kept Mack this season and then traded him after hauling in the same amount of draft picks in return, maybe more. Then, the new draft picks would have made an impact on the same season Mack was traded, not one year later.

Carr had great numbers against Denver Sunday, but the offense only scored seven points in the second half and failed to keep the defense off the field in crunch time. A week after getting shut out in the second half against the Rams.

If the trading of Mack proved anything, it’s that even the best player on the team is not safe. The Raiders have the ability to get out of Carr’s contract after this season which would only leave $7.5 million in dead cap for 2019.

Amari Cooper is heading toward his fifth-year option in 2019. Despite his rebound performance in Denver, he has been disappointing over the last year and could hold first round value in a trade.

This offseason Sammy Watkins signed this offseason for $16 million per year. Cooper has the same agent as Mack and is worth a lot more than Watkins. If Gruden didn’t want to pay Mack over $20 million why would Gruden give even close to that much money to Cooper?

And don’t look now, but some Pro Bowl veterans’ contracts are coming up as well.

Rodney Hudson’s contract is up after the 2019 season and so is Bruce Irvin’s (could be cut after this year without penalty). Kelechi Osemele, who is under contract through 2020, could be released after this season with zero dead money going against the cap, per Spotrac. Irvin is approaching 31 and Hudson and Osemele will turn 30 next summer. Gabe Jackson is under contract through 2022, but the organization can also get out of his hefty contract after this season without penalty.

The veteran signings of Doug Martin, Jordy Nelson, Derrick Johnson, and Marcus Gilchrist might suggest a push to win now, but they are actually just short term easily disposable pieces creating future flexibility.

As such, it would be very easy for the Raiders to shed themselves of Carr, Cooper, Irvin, Hudson, Osemele and Jackson before they step foot in Vegas along with the other aforementioned veterans should they choose to do so.

Knowing Davis wants to do all he can to make sure the Raiders arrive with something to sell when they get to Vegas in 2020 (would have been easy to sell Khalil Mack), a brand-new first-round quarterback could do the trick. Not an often underwhelming and highly paid Carr.

There are also nine more years left on Gruden’s contract after this season. There he is feeling no rush and the organization has it’s sights set on Vegas in 2020.

Davis wouldn’t want a failed win-now effort to lead to a team that limps into their new Las Vegas stadium.