The Oakland Raiders ended their offseason program on June 14. Here’s a look at how they fared:
Offseason goals: To put it simply, to purge the Raiders roster of anyone deemed expendable and, well, expensive, and rebuild the roster in returning coach Jon Gruden’s image. In a word, grinders. In a dizzying array of moves, the Raiders were the busiest team in the new league year and Gruden, as he did as a rookie head coach way back in 1998, filled roster holes with a gaggle of 30-something veterans. This was not only Gruden’s plan, but also the realization of owner Mark Davis’ vision since the day he took over the franchise upon his father’s death in 2011 -- Gruden coaching the team with Reggie McKenzie serving as general manager.
How they fared: Too soon to tell
Move I liked: Sure, Derrick Johnson will be 36 come November. And he is working on a pair of surgically rebuilt Achilles’ tendons. But his experience in the middle of the Raiders defense will be invaluable to a rebuilt unit. Especially since Oakland essentially chose Johnson over the younger NaVorro Bowman, who was more than serviceable after joining the Raiders in October last season. Gruden envisions Johnson being a Rich Gannon-type of defensive quarterback at middle linebacker in a 4-3 base. Johnson sees himself as more of a lead-by-example player. He also brings an intimate knowledge of the AFC West, having played with the Kansas City Chiefs since 2005.
Move I didn’t like: “Didn’t like” might be too strong here, but the Raiders releasing Marquette King, one of the best punters in the league, without meeting with him, or his outsized personality, seemed rash. Especially since the Raiders did not have another punter with experience on the roster at the time. In fact, they still do not, using a fifth-round pick on Florida’s Johnny Townsend. King, due to make base salaries of $2.9 million, $2.8 million and $2.75 million the next three years, was simply deemed too expensive (those personal foul penalties did not help, either) and Gruden has been down this road before. In 2000, the Raiders went with rookie specialists after drafting a kicker and a punter in Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler, and they worked out fairly well.
Biggest question still to be answered in training camp: How far behind the curve will Khalil Mack be once he reports? The 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year has not attended any of the Raiders’ offseason workouts as he awaits a contract extension. After being a staple his first four years in the league, he has yet to even formally meet Gruden, let alone have a football conversation with him or see the new culture being cultivated in Oakland. “One of the main reasons I came here,” Gruden said, “was to coach that man.” Mack has 40 ½ career sacks and his 185.5 QB pressures since coming into the NFL in 2014 has lead the league in that time frame. So while a defensive player may be able to just flip a switch and see ball, get ball, there will be more at play. “He’s going to have a lot of catching up to do,” said defensive coordinator Paul Guenther.
Quotable: “We’re a long way off, but we laid a very good foundation. We’ve added a lot of new players. We felt like we needed to do that. This roster needed help and we went out and helped ourselves, I think. A lot of these players came…with very little signing bonus (and)…would play for nothing, and that’s the attitude that we need here. We need competition, we need depth, we need leadership, we need players – hard, tough football players. I think that’s what the Oakland Raiders franchise is built around and I think we have made progress. We have laid a foundation and now it’s up to us to continue to stack days together, get some momentum and go to training camp and get ready for the regular season.”– Raiders coach Jon Gruden
Salary-cap space: $1.76 million, smallest in league (source: NFLPA salary cap report)
2018 draft picks: 1. OT Kolton Miller (UCLA); 2. DT P.J. Hall (Sam Houston State); 3a. OT Brandon Parker (North Carolina A&T); 3b. DE Arden Key (LSU); 4. CB Nick Nelson (Wisconsin); 5a. DT Maurice Hurst (Michigan); 5b. P Johnny Townsend (Florida); 6. LB Azeem Victor (Washington); 7. WR Marcell Ateman (Oklahoma State).
Undrafted rookie free agents signed: TE Marcus Baugh (Ohio State), WR Saeed Blacknall (Penn State), LB Jason Cabinda (Penn State), K Eddy Pineiro (Florida), TE Paul Butler (California, PA), FB Henry Poggi (Michigan), RB Chris Warren (Texas), S Dallin Leavitt (Utah State), LS Drew Scott (Kansas State).
Unrestricted free agents signed: DT Justin Ellis (Raiders), WR Griff Whalen (Ravens), RB Doug Martin (Buccaneers), TE Derek Carrier (Rams), FB Keith Smith (Cowboys), WR Jordy Nelson (Packers), S Marcus Gilchrist (Texans), LB Tahir Whitehead (Lions), TE Lee Smith (Raiders), LS Andrew DePaola (Bears), CB Rashaan Melvin (Colts), LB Kyle Wilber (Cowboys). DE Tank Carradine (49ers), CB Shareece Wright (Bills), LB Emmanuel Lamur (Vikings), OT Breno Giacomini (Texans), QB EJ Manuel (Raiders), CB Leon Hall (49ers), FS Reggie Nelson (Raiders), WR/RS Dwayne Harris (Giants), CB Senquez Golson (Buccaneers), CB Daryl Worley (Panthers), MLB Derrick Johnson (Chiefs), DT Ahtyba Rubin (Falcons), DT Frostee Rucker (Cardinals).