Currently the Raider have some $78 million under the cap to spend and will have five picks in the first 66 overall. Here are the positions they need to use that money and potentially those picks on.
1. Defensive end
There should be a chasm distance between the Raiders need at defensive end and the rest of the positions. It’s so far and away the most crucial need. They actually need more than one at this point. And I’m not talking a starter and a backup. I’m talking they need two starters. They should be looking free agency and the draft, probably multiple draft picks. Their 13 sacks last season was 17 less than the next fewest. That boggles the mind. The Giants and Patriots had the next fewest sacks with each team putting up 30 sacks. The Raiders edge rushing was so bad, their sack leader was a defensive tackle (Maurice Hurst with 4.0 sacks) and the next guy was Bruce Irvin (3.0) who was cut midseason. Of the defensive ends currently on the team, Arden Key led the team with ONE SACK. That’s right, the he was the ONLY defensive end on the team to even record a single sack. And he had ONE. I have never seen anything like it.
2. Wide receiver
When your number one receiver is a tight end, some help is needed. When your former number one receiver was traded away midway through last season, help is needed. When your former number three receiver is banned indefinitely from the NFL, help is needed. When your only real starting caliber wide receiver is 34 years old, help…is…needed. The Raiders kinda need a receiver. They need more than one, actually. Maybe even a few, but two will do for now. A starter/deep threat and a speedy, quick slot receiver. An established starter in free agency and a couple in the draft for the long haul should do nicely.
3. Middle linebacker
Speaking of things that boggle the mind; the Raiders constant need at middle linebacker. You can set your watch to it. Meaning, no matter what time it is or what year it is, the Raiders need a middle linebacker. Tahir Whitehead tried his hand at middle linebacker, and that didn’t work out. Marquel Lee got another shot and showed some flashes, but once he still has some deficiencies in coverage. Undrafted rookie Jason Cabinda was hyped up this season. Then he barely saw the field each game, splitting snaps with Lee with two pair of them rarely even on the field half the game combined. For about eight years it’s been time to find an answer at middle linebacker. And I mean an actual effort, not just hoping to get lucky in the later rounds, undrafted free agency, or the scrap heap. Four picks in the top 35. Maybe use one on a damn middle linebacker.
4a. Running back
Marshawn Lynch is probably calling it a career. Doug Martin is 30 years old. Jalen Richard is not a feature back. Chris Warren III looked great in preseason, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he is a beast waiting to happen. We’ve heard that before about preseason stars and more times than not, it doesn’t translate to NFL success when facing starting defense every down, every week. Bringing back Doug Martin would be a smart move as he proved himself last season. But what we know about Jon Gruden is he likes his smash and dash, thunder and lightning running back duos. Another back is needed.
4b. Offensive tackle
The Raiders spent two of their first three picks in last year’s draft on tackles. And they were a major reason Derek Carr was sacked 51 times. Right now it looks like they have few if any other options. They need to get another option because settling for what they have right now is not one. That means either a passable veteran who can start, until either Kolton Miller or Brandon Parker (or both) can develop (or in case they don’t). Or draft some real competition.
Yes, I know, this is six needs. But it was hard to choose between these final three, so they make it as a tie. Karl Joseph looks like he’s going to be fine. He came around late last season and played some good football. Erik Harris showed some potential as well. But both seem best suited as free safeties. A stout strong safety talent would be a valuable addition.