ALAMEDA -- Hue Jackson and the incoming general manager are going to have a pressing issue on their hands this offseason when it comes to their running back stable.Michael Bush, who rumbled for a career-high 977 yards while starting nine games, will be an unrestricted free agent.Darren McFadden, who is a unique talent and one of the most explosive running backs in the game when healthy, cannot stay healthy."Well, it's a concern, but again, you've still got to look at how your team is set up," Jackson said Monday in his season-ending media conference. "Would I love to have Michael Bush back? Yes. Are you kidding me? The guy is tremendous. But Michael Bush is going to have some opportunities himself. Sometimes youre not in control of that, and I respect that. I think Michael loves it here and loves playing for the Raiders and being a part of this organization, but I think any young man in these situations, they're going to do whatever they think is best for themselves and their families."McFadden, meanwhile, has missed three, four, three and nine-plus games in his first four NFL seasons. He sprained his right mid-foot on the Raiders' opening drive against Kansas City on Oct. 23 and never returned, leaving gaping hole in Oakland's offense.So, is McFadden being so injury-prone a concern, since the Raider cannot depend on him for a full season?It's a concern," Jackson said. "Me talking to him, it's a concern of his, too, because he wants to be out there with his teammates competing and playing and helping contribute. Again, this was an unusual year -- not an offseason and going right to training camp and obviously him getting injured early in training camp and starting the season and, boy, he started the season like gangbusters. He was rolling pretty good and then all of a sudden here comes the next injury, and then we didn't have him anymore."And I know everybody said that's been his history. Hopefully we'll get over the hump. And I know it's been foot issues, per se. I know he's going to do his part, to do everything he can to make sure he has an opportunity to play 16 games, because that's what we need him to do. We need him to play 16 straight games to help us earn a 17th."
The Raiders were pretty darn good last season. A 12-4 record proved that point. There was plenty of talent on a team with a penchant for high-wire acts in victory that masked the fact there were holes on the roster.
They need to be filled for the Raiders to improve in 2017, and new players will be imported through free agency and the draft.
Left tackle Donald Penn is excited to see who gets added, but said there’s no doubt talent is coming to Oakland. He speaks for Raiders players, who have faith that general manager Reggie McKenzie will make the right moves.
“Things that Reggie has done in past drafts have been great, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he brings back towards us,” Penn said recently during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network. “We can’t wait to get back out there healthy. We’re ready to hit the football world with a storm.”
While new guys are coming, a few might head out. The Raiders have several unrestricted free agents. Penn wants to keep his guys around – he mentioned running back Latavius Murray by name -- though he has some ideas for McKenzie’s checklist.
The Raiders don’t need much with most key players under contract – the Raiders should be less active in free agency over past offseasons – but a few key components could put this team over the top.
“If we stick to Reggie’s plan, we’ll be great,” Penn said. “I know he’s going to have a great draft, add a couple little pieces here and there – maybe somebody in the secondary to help out a little bit.
"On offense, you could always use a weapon. Maybe we get another receiver to take (pressure off Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper), but we have a good nucleus right now.”
Derek Carr is on the mend. The Raiders franchise quarterback had surgery to repair his fibula shortly after he broke it in a Week 16 victory over Indianapolis, and is recovering well during the offseason.
Carr insisted on intense rehab this winter in an attempt – however unlikely it may have been – to return should the Raiders have played in the Super Bowl. It slowed to a normal pace after the Raiders' loss at Houston in the postseason’s opening round, but those in contact with him say he’s making strides.
Left tackle Donald Penn was recently in contact with Carr, and provided an update on Monday during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network.
“I texted Derek (a few) days ago checking in,” Penn said, “and he said he’s almost 100 percent.”
Surgically-repaired broken filbulas take significant time to heal, and the Raiders plan to be conservative with their MVP candidate during the offseason. Derek Carr’s brother and NFL Network analyst David Carr, who was on set with Penn on Monday, said Derek could be back for offseason work.
“He’s doing good,” David Carr said. “He’s walking around already, stretching it out. You can’t do a lot for the bone, right? But he’s going to be back. He’s going to get a whole full offseason in. That’s going to be the best part.”