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Opinion: Josh McDaniels, Dave Ziegler in self-preservation mode ahead of trade deadline

Raiders reportedly will be buyers at deadline

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New England Patriots v Las Vegas Raiders
Josh McDaniels, Dave Ziegler
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

While the Las Vegas Raiders are still technically in the playoff picture at 3-4 and within striking distance of a Wild Card spot, it doesn’t take much to realize that their record is fool’s gold.

The Raiders’ three wins have come against the Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots who have a combined record of 6-14. Also, all of those victories have been by one possession and Las Vegas has suffered two blowout losses, giving them the seventh-worst point differential in the league at -49.

So, when it comes to next week’s NFL trade deadline, it seems pretty clear that the Silver and Black should be sellers to build for next season and beyond. However, according to a report from The Athletic’s Tashan Reed, head coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler will be taking the opposite approach.

“The Las Vegas Raiders endured a rough 30-12 loss at the hands of Tyson Bagent and the Chicago Bears (2-5) on Sunday, but they remain in “buy” mode with Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline approaching,” Reed wrote. “According to league sources, the Raiders’ focus when it comes to trades will be to find ways to further their effort to compete this season.

‘“We’re trying to win,” owner Mark Davis told The Athletic’s Dianna Russini last week. That was before the loss to the Bears, of course, but it fits with the approach of the front office leading up to the deadline.”

Russini’s report stated that the Raiders are looking to add a veteran pass-rusher and Reed noted that they’ll likely target edges who are currently on contract years. To me, that makes zero sense from a team-building perspective.

Could Las Vegas’ defense use someone who can put pressure on the quarterback other than Maxx Crosby? Definitely. But is another pass-rusher going to make the offense score more than 20 points? No.

What adding another rusher does is allow the Raiders to have a better chance to win a few more games this season against bad opponents on the back of the team’s defense. This late in the game, the front office isn’t going to find a quarterback who can elevate the offense enough to improve on their 16.0 points per game—third-worst in the NFL. So, their best chance at logging a few more W’s is to hold opponents to as few points as possible.

Dave Ziegler, Mark Davis, Josh McDaniels
Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

That way Las Vegas can creep up to the seven- to nine-win range and McDaniels and Ziegler can make a stronger argument to Mark Davis in regard to why they should keep their jobs heading into next season. However, that will come at the cost of the team’s future.

Let’s say they do strike a deal for Brian Burns, Danielle Hunter or one of the veteran pass-rushers who are on the trade block and playing on the last year for their contract. If the Raiders don’t make the playoffs after that—which again, seems likely seeing as they have plenty of issues offensively—the trade will be another bust.

The Raiders would have given up assets for a player that only suited up for half a season, only to get them to a mediocre level and take them out of range for drafting one of the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft class. Also, every rep that this new edge rusher takes is one that Tyree Wilson doesn’t get, hurting his development.

Now, maybe McDaniels and Ziegler re-sign said player in the offseason so they get more than one year out of him. Okay, but what does that mean for Wilson’s future?

The plan was always for the rookie to sit behind a veteran/Chandler Jones this year—which didn’t come to fruition due to Jones’ actions—but Wilson was expected to take over in Year 2 when the team could get out of Jones’ contract.

However, signing someone who plays the same position, along with having Crosby, means the No. 7 overall pick won’t be a starter until at least his third season and probably even longer. Let’s be honest, guys like Burns and Hunter aren’t going to be looking for a one-year contract from a team like the Raiders this offseason.

The only logical reason for Las Vegas to be buyers instead of sellers ahead of next week’s trade deadline is that McDaniels and Ziegler are in self-preservation mode and looking to avoid adding another three- to six-win record on their résumés.

Unless they can come up with a rare midseason player-for-player swap, a trade would be a detriment to the Raiders’ future as they’d be giving up draft picks in addition to the point made above about hindering Wilson’s development.

In other words, the two college buddies would be looking out for themselves instead of what’s best for the organization moving forward.