Raiders

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.

Raiders' Sean Smith charged with assault

Raiders' Sean Smith charged with assault

Raiders cornerback Sean Smith has been charged with assault, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced on Thursday.

The charge is for assault of his sister's boyfriend in Smith's hometown of Pasadena. Smith allegedly beat and stomped the boyfriend's head on the morning of July 4, 2017 in Old Town Pasadena, the district attorney said.

Smith faces formal felony counts of assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury and battery with serious bodily injury to the victim.

The 30-year old plans to fight the charges levied against him. 

"Sean maintains his innocence at this time," Smith's attorney, Daniel Rosenberg told NBC Sports Califorinia on Thursday evening. "We are going to be entering a plea of not guilty and fighting these charges."

A warrant was filed on Aug. 16. Smith's arriagnment is scheduled for Sept. 29. 

Smith was not present at Thursday's Raiders practice, the last session of training camp. He surrendered to Los Angeles County authorities, posted an $80,000 bond and has been released from custody.

If convicted as charged, Smith could face a maximum sentence of seven years in California prison. 

A Raiders spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The case is still under investigation by the Pasadena Police Department. 

This is another blow in a rough summer for Smith. He has struggled on the practice field during training camp and faces an off-field legal issue. Smith is guaranteed $9.5 million for the 2017 season. 

More to come...

After speaking with Marshawn Lynch, two things are crystal clear

After speaking with Marshawn Lynch, two things are crystal clear

NAPA – Marshawn Lynch spoke with the media Thursday for the second time as a Raider. He was quick-witted, disarming and, as always, not suitable for work.

It was five minutes of peak Marshawn, where he brought light to his charitable endeavors, called himself the “daddy” of his position group and cleverly sidestepped all things nation anthem.

He was asked four questions on other topics before elephant in the room was mentioned. It didn’t stick around long.

“I think the elephant left the room because a little mouse ran in here,” Lynch deadpanned. “Didn’t they say elephants are scared of mice or something? That [expletive] left the room, cousin.”

[RATTO: Lynch reminds media how much control he exerts over any interaction]

Two more related questions came down the pike. The first was about Del Rio letting players be themselves. He answered a different question instead.

“Yeah, because on ‘doctor-24,’ it’s a designed way that you’re supposed to run it but I have all freedom to go any way that I choose to run it,” Lynch said. “I would say, yes.”

The final anthem-esque query was deflected in a similar fashion.

“When we run ‘74’ or something like that, where I have to scan and read on both sides, that is pretty difficult. For the most part, I’m a veteran so I can make it work.”

Two things were crystal clear after speaking with Lynch.

He didn’t miss football one bit during his year in retirement. Lynch said this spring he decided to return after the Raiders were approved to relocate away from his native Oakland. He wants to represent his hometown well and give them something to cheer before the team leaves for Las Vegas.

That’s why he’s fired up even for Saturday’s exhibition against the Rams – he’s expected to make a cameo in that game – his first in Oakland wearing silver and black.

“It’s truly a blessing and just to have the opportunity to go and do that is a good [expletive] feeling,” Lynch said. “It’s a good [expletive] feeling.”

Lynch has always been active in the community, and hopes him playing here will bring more visibility to what’s being done to help kids in Oakland.

“I plan on continuing to do what I do in the community,” Lynch said. “It’ll probably be that now that I’m here, more people that are in the community might actually come out and support what it is that we’ve got going on.”