Las vegas Raiders, Silver and Black,

WWJD #6- Part 2 – The Las Vegas Raiders Silver and Black Wednesday 

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The day after the NFL season concludes is called “Black Monday” due to all the firings of head coaches and general managers. This WWJD is called Silver and Black Wednesday, and I will pose and answer two critical questions that face the Las Vegas Raiders heading into the 2020 offseason. What I will NOT do is include the “should Derek Carr be the quarterback going forward” question since the WWJD #6 part 1 is all about Carr and his future with the Raiders. Head Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock will once again lead the Silver and Black into an offseason where Raider Nation has to answer pressing questions to reach the playoffs.

The Raiders will have almost $80 million in cap space. They should once again be aggressive in Free Agency and also in the trade market (if they chose to go that route).

The first question is about the team’s defensive coordinator.

Monday Morning BeefEvery Raiders fan knows that Gruden and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther are friends. They share the same agent, and Guenther was one of the first hires Gruden made when he took the Raiders job two years ago. But after two seasons leading the defense and it not performing at a high-level, one has to ask: is Guenther the right person to lead the defense going forward? I do think that the much-maligned Guenther will be back in 2020 as the Raiders defensive coordinator.

The Raiders defense finished 24th in points allowed (26.2), and 19th in yards allowed in 2019. In 2018 the Raiders defense led by Guenther ranked dead last in points allowed (29.2) and 26th in yards allowed. While there has was an improvement in 2019, fans would say there wasn’t enough improvement. Others would argue that the growth happened with a multitude of injuries to key players.

1st round pick, Safety Jonathan Abram was lost for 15 games after tearing his labrum in his shoulder in Week 1. Middle linebacker and team captain Vontez Burfict was suspended for the season due to multiple illegal hits throughout his career. Both of those losses set the defense back, as did the injuries of Karl Joseph, LaMarcus Joyner, and Arden Key.

I did see some improvement on the defensive side of the ball. Rookies Clelin Ferrell and Max Crosby played exceptionally well and provided high energy to that side of the ball. Ferrell provided the leadership and consistent play against the run and pass. While his sack numbers weren’t as impressive as Crosby, who finished a half a sack away from Greg Townsend’s rookie record (10.5), the rookie from Clemson did everything the Raiders asked of him and more.

Rookie cornerbacks Trayvon Mullen, Isaiah Johnson, and Keison Nixon all showed the ability to be the type of defensive backs the Raiders can use as foundation pieces in the secondary. Abram flashed enough in the preseason and Week 1 against the Broncos to give the team security that they have a leader and an enforcer in the backend.

 

So, WWJD?

The need on the defensive side of the ball is alarming but not as bad as some teams who are in bad shape on the field as well as with the salary cap. The Raiders need a middle linebacker, another safety to play alongside Abram, and a playmaking outside linebacker. It’s hard to say who they should draft since the draft process is still evolving, but a linebacker early would be the way I am leaning as of now.

 

 

The Raiders need a legitimate #1 wide receiver for Gruden’s offense

TQ and I go back and forth with this subject all the time. I feel the Raiders need to draft a playmaking receiver early in the draft or trade for one, while he thinks that they can wait until the middle rounds to get their guy. I agree that this is a very deep draft for receivers, but I also think the Raiders could land an elite receiver in the 1st round if they don’t sign a free agent or trade for one.

Gruden’s offense needs a fast guy who can make things happen after the catch, something they thought they had when they traded for Antonio Brown last March. We all know how that ended up. Tyrell Williams is a very good receiver, but not a #1, and the rest of the receiving room is filled with role players.

AJ Green will be the top free agent if the Bengals don’t use the Franchise Tag on him, but he is also coming off a year where he missed the entire season and has a long list of injuries throughout his career. Green will want to get paid like a top 5 receiver, but he would be too risky of a signing for me. Would the Raiders risk spending the type of money on an often injured Green, or will they pass and allocate that money towards another position on the defensive side of the ball? They could trade for a receiver, but who’s available? Maybe Odell Beckham Jr. could be available depending on what happens in Cleveland, but that may be it, so the best option may be to draft one.

WWJD #6 - Part 2 - The New Las Vegas Raiders - Silver and Black Wednesday
Photo Credit: Chatsports.com

This drafts playmakers like Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, and DeVonta Smith, Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, LSU’s Justin Jefferson, Colorado’s Laviska Shenault Jr., and Clemson’s Tee Higgins and Amari Rodgers should all go in the first three rounds, with the majority of them going on Day 1 or early Day 2 of the draft. To draft a receiver early in the first round would give the Raiders an affordable contract they can control for five years instead of over-spending for a player where there are question marks.

 

So, WWJD?

For me, Beckham Jr. would be the only “available” player I would trade for and the best option for the Raiders. OBJ’s talent is undeniable, and his contract is paying him an average of $15 million over the next four years. He’s never been considered a “bad teammate” and has a skill set that would flourish in Gruden’s offense. The question is, would Gruden and Mayock be willing to part with a high draft pick for one of the NFL’s top receivers after what happened with Brown this season?

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Joe Arrigo

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