Murray's future largest offensive question mark for Raiders

Murray's future largest offensive question mark for Raiders

The Raiders had a top 10 offense this season, with balance uncharacteristic of previous seasons. The run game got going behind an expensive offensive line worth its massive weight, and quarterback Derek Carr led a dynamic air attack always cool under pressure. They’ll want to keep a good thing going, which should be easy with most members of the offensive depth chart under contract.

Running back Latavius Murray, tackle Menelik Watson and receiver Andre Holmes – Seth Roberts is an exclusive rights restricted free agent -- are key exceptions set for unrestricted free agency. Tight end Mychal Rivera and backup quarterback Matt McGloin are also headed for the open market.

That’s a small sum, with just one steady member of the starting lineup.

The Raiders are expected to extend Carr’s contract this offseason, but there might not be many new faces on offense.

Let’s take a look at each position group and identify where upgrades might help.

RUNNING BACK

The Raiders have an interesting decision to make here. Murray scored 12 touchdowns and averaged 4.0 yards per carry as the leader of a three-back pack, and should draw interest on the open market. If he re-signs, the Raiders seem set at running back.

Murray insists he wants to return, but another team may offer a deal the Raiders don’t want to match. That scenario could lead to his departure and a new power back in free agency or the draft.

The Raiders prefer to re-sign their own players, a point made clear by general manager Reggie McKenzie on Thursday. 

"When you're talking about a guy who is 6-foot-3, close to 230 pounds, there's not a whole lot of similar you can get there," McKenzie said in an interivew with JT the Brick on 95.7 The Game. "He's one of those kinds that don't come around too often when you talk about size. I'm always in position to want to re-sign our own players, but the finances of it always will play a part. You never know there's 31 other teams out there who may be communiciating to his representatives. We'll see where it goes, but we like to re-sign our guys."

They have productive, yet smaller options in Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. The Raiders have been good drafting backs in the lower rounds – Murray was a sixth-round pick himself – and could mine for more production later in the NFL draft.

QUARTERBACK

Derek Carr will return to full strength from surgery to repair a broken fibula and plans to be the team’s starting quarterback for years to come. Connor Cook was drafted in the fourth round last year, showed quality arm strength and should be the primary backup moving forward.

Matt McGloin wants to go somewhere he can compete for a starting gig. That isn’t Oakland. The Raiders will need quarterbacks for camp and maybe one sticks, but they had just two on the 53-man roster in 2015.

RECEIVER

Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree headlined a productive group that came through time and again under pressure. It also waned some near season’s end. Both guys were battling injury late and certainly want to avoid that in 2017, when they’ll be primary targets yet again.

Slot receiver Seth Roberts is an exclusive rights free agent and is easily retained, but an upgrade is possible here. Holmes wants to return, but the market might dictate that considering his ability as a downfield receiver.

The Raiders receivers had far too many drops in 2017, Crabtree and Roberts especially. A sure handed possession receiver might be of benefit, especially a young player who can develop add injury protection to the unit.

OFFENSIVE LINE

The Raiders spent significant funds building a stout offensive line in recent offseasons, and it paid off in 2016. That unit was tough to handle, and became the engine that allowed skill players to thrive. The line weathered injuries at right tackle, and had the depth necessary to keep going strong.

Menelik Watson is an unrestricted free agent, and the oft-injured athlete’s market value remains truly uncertain. Austin Howard remains under contract and could start at right tackle, though competition could come from Vadal Alexander.

Left tackle might be a spot addressed in the draft, with Donald Penn entering a contract year and unsure of how long he’ll play beyond that. The Raiders even have options there with a deep, versatile line. Left guard Kelechi Osemele could slide outside when the time comes

TIGHT END

Lee Smith was lost to a broken ankle in Week 4, but the blocking tight end will be at full strength for the offseason program. The same should be said for Gabe Holmes, an exclusive rights free agent who should be brought back. Clive Walford still headlines the group, though the Raiders expect more from the 2015 third-round pick. The group could largely stand pat, with Rivera leaving in free agency and a few camp players added to the mix.

Oakland, Lott Group pen letter to NFL in last-ditch effort to keep Raiders

Oakland, Lott Group pen letter to NFL in last-ditch effort to keep Raiders

Through the office of mayor Libby Schaaf, the City of Oakland issued the following statement on Friday, revealing a letter they sent to the NFL a day earlier highlighting the viability and appeal of keeping the Raiders in Oakland.

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OAKLAND, CA — Today, the City of Oakland, Alameda County, the Lott Group and Fortress, who have been working in concert to develop a fully-financed local stadium proposal for the Oakland Raiders, shared publicly documents detailing the strength of the Oakland plan.

Specifically, they made public for the first time, their most recent correspondence to the NFL. The letters and accompanying documents were sent in follow-up to a March 6, 2017 presentation Mayor Libby Schaaf and former NFL player and real estate investor Ronnie Lott made to the NFL’s Joint Stadium and Finance Committee that outlined the economic advantages to the league and the team of staying in Oakland.

[RELATED: Letter to NFL from Libby Schaaf, Lott Group]

“We’re not giving up in the fourth quarter,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “Since I took office two years ago, I have been focused on taking a team-centered approach that is responsible to the Raiders, the NFL, the fans and the taxpayers of Oakland. We’ve been successful in doing the environmental clearance, aligning the City and the County which jointly own the land, engaging the league and bringing partners to the table in the Lott Group and Fortress who have the financial backing, compassion for this community and intimate knowledge of the game -- on and off the field -- to get a deal done. All that’s missing is the Raiders.”

“I know how passionate the Bay Area is about the Raiders,” said NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott. “To rip this team away from Oakland for a second time would be heartbreaking and entirely unnecessary given that we have a viable option on the table that keeps them here and helps this community and the team grow. We have a sophisticated financial partner in Fortress. We have done the due diligence, and it is clear that the only fully-financed, ready-to-roll option for the Raiders is in Oakland.”

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, City Council President Larry Reid, whose district is home to the existing Coliseum and the proposed new stadium site, Lott Group partner and former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete and Fortress Managing Director Drew McKnight plan to gather with fans, local business leaders, nearby residents and other community members to demonstrate support for the Oakland stadium plan at events planned for Saturday, March 25. This is the day before NFL owners begin a series of meetings during which they are expected to discuss, and possibly vote on Raiders’ owner Mark Davis’ request to move the team to Las Vegas.

City of Oakland media services

Why the Raiders 2013 draft class was disbanded

Why the Raiders 2013 draft class was disbanded

Reggie McKenzie has owned three top 5 picks since becoming Raiders general manager. He used one on Khalil Mack in 2014, another on Amari Cooper a year later. McKenzie got a defensive player of the year and a two-time Pro Bowl receiver.

Pretty nice haul.

His first big draft pick came in 2013, when a 4-12 record the previous year earned the No. 3 overall selection. He turned that into the No. 12 and No. 42 overall selections – the Raiders didn’t have a second-round pick, and also gave up a fifth-rounder in the deal – that garnered cornerback DJ Hayden and Menelik Watson.

Both guys were beset by injury early on, setbacks that kept them from realizing potential identified during the pre-draft process. The Raiders got some quality players from the 2013 draft class – Latavius Murray was a two-year starter and Pro Bowl rusher -- but none of them remain Raiders after their rookie contracts.

Sixth-round tight end Mychal Rivera was the last leave, signing with Jacksonville on Wednesday. The Raiders wanted a few back – Watson and Stacy McGee, in particular – but all of them ended up elsewhere.

That’s not ideal. McKenzie prefers to draft, develop and reward. That didn’t happen for his 2013 draft class. While he didn’t have a first or second round pick, the 2012 draft class has been gone some time now.

He compensated well for that veteran talent void in free agency, bringing in Bruce Irvin, Kelechi Osemele and others of that age.

McKenzie’s draft record after 2013 has improved dramatically. A 2014 group that includes Mack, Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson was franchise altering. The 2015 bunch stands strong, and 2016 has talent but can’t be evaluated quite yet.

Let’s take a look at the 2013 draft class and why it didn’t work out:

CB DJ Hayden (No. 12 overall)
Current team:
Detroit (1 year deal, $3.75 million; $2.25 million guaranteed)
Comment: The Raiders didn’t pick up Hayden’s fifth-year option, proof their first-round pick didn’t work out as planned. Hayden was drafted despite a heart condition stemming from a practice injury in college, but a series of soft-tissue injuries slowed him down. He was ineffective at times, though he played better in his final season as a nickel back.

OL Menelik Watson (No. 42 overall)
Current team:
Denver (3 year deal, $18.3 million, $5.5 guaranteed)
Comment: Watson was an athletic, nasty offensive lineman the Raiders hoped to keep, someone who showed real potential when healthy. Those moments didn’t come often for a player who lost 2015 to injury and never made it through a full season.

LB Sio Moore (No. 66 overall)
Current team:
Free agent
Comment: Moore made an instant impact as a rookie working off the edge. He started on the weakside in 2014, but never seemed to recover from a late-season hip injury. He didn’t fit in well with new head coach Jack Del Rio, and he was traded to Indianapolis before the 2015 season began, he has bounced around ever since, playing as a reserve and special teams player. He remains on the open market.

QB Tyler Wilson (No. 112 overall)
Current team:
Out of football
Comment: Tyler Wilson never fit in at the NFL level and didn’t give the Raiders anything for a mid-round selection. Wilson lost his No. 3 job to undrafted rookie Matt McGloin, spent most of 2013 on the practice squad, and was signed by Tennessee late in the year. Wilson was the highest 2013 draft pick to not make the opening day roster.

TE Nick Kasa (No. 172 overall)
Current team:
Out of football
Comment: The converted defensive end struggled with injury, and suffered a season-ending knee injury during the 2014 preseason. He spent the year on injured reserve and didn’t return to the active roster.

RB Latavius Murray (No. 181 overall)
Current team:
Minnesota Vikings (Three year deal, $15 million, $3.4 million fully guaranteed)
Comment: Murray was the most productive player in the draft class. He missed his rookie year with an ankle injury, but assumed the starting spot by the end of his second season. Murray exceeded 1,000 yards and made the Pro Bowl in 2015, and had nearly 800 yards and 12 touchdowns the following year. He wasn’t a perfect scheme fit for the Raiders, who didn’t pursue him once he hit the open market. Murray signed with the Vikings, and should be a major contributor in that offense.

TE Mychal Rivera (No. 184 overall)
Current team:
Jacksonville Jaguars (Two year deal, worth up to $6.75 million)
Comment: Rivera was a vital receiving option on bad Raiders teams, but fell out of favor under Jack Del Rio. That cut his opportunities way down, giving way to 2015 third-round pick Clive Walford. Rivera has receiving skill but isn’t much of a blocker, and his exit was no a surprise after he was a healthy scratch several times in 2016.

DT Stacy McGee (No. 205 overall)
Current team:
Washington (Five year deal, $25 million, $9 million guaranteed
Comment: McGee flashed interior talent when healthy in 2016, and cashed in with Washington on the first day of unrestricted free agency. The Raiders hoped to bring him back, but he got far more than they were willing to pay. McGee developed well during his time in Oakland, which ultimately priced him out of town.

WR Brice Butler (No. 209 overall)
Current team:
Dallas Cowboys (One year deal, $1.1 million, $300,000 guaranteed)
Comment: Butler was an occasional contributor during two seasons with the Raiders, though the athletic pass catcher was a bit too inconsistent. He finished the 2015 as the fifth receiver, and McKenzie got something for him via trade. Butler remains a Cowboy, and signed a new contract with them this offseason.

DE David Bass No. 233 overall)
Current team:
Free agent
Comment: Bass was cut after the 2013 preseason, but he hung on during the next four seasons with Chicago and Tennessee as a reserve and special teams player.