Does the Raiders’ Recent Signings Absolve Them of Last Season's Sins?
The Oakland Raiders, Head Coach Jon Gruden and first-year general manager Mike Mayock have been dubbed by some as the biggest winners of the offseason over the last week after trading for All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown and signing many of the young big name free agents that were slated to hit the open market during the league’s legal tampering period. The Pittsburgh Steelers essentially gave one the NFL’s best receivers of this generation for what equates to peanuts in terms of compensation as they only had to surrender a pair of mid-round picks and award Brown with a new contract to acquire his services. Oakland has been on quite the spending spree since the new league year began as they made Brown the highest paid pass catcher in the league with a three-year deal worth up to $54.125 million and made former Patriots blindside protector Trent Brown the highest paid left tackle in the league after inking him to a four-year deal worth $66 million. They signed receiver Tyrell Williams and safety Lamarcus Joyner to lucrative deals as well. These recent moves have led to a lot of praise and applause being directed in the Raiders direction, but these blockbuster transactions shouldn’t immediately make them contenders or absolve them of their colossal personnel blunders from last season. Many believe that Raiders control the draft this year because that have three picks in the first round with the fourth, 24th and 27th overall selections. They acquired the pair of late first round picks by trading away two former first-round picks of their own instead of giving them new contracts. They traded the fifth overall pick of the 2014 draft in Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears in a blockbuster trade for multiple picks prior to last season and the fourth overall pick of the 2015 draft in Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys just before the trade deadline for a first-round pick. Both players proved to be the catalyst for the teams that they were sent to making the postseason. Mack was the ring leader of one of the best defenses in the league that finished first in takeaways and saw him earn yet another All-Pro honor and come in second in voting for Defensive Player of the Year behind Aaron Donald, which would have been the second of his career. Cooper, who had just 22 receptions, 280 yards, and a single touchdown through six games with the Raiders, would be the spark that ignited the Cowboys’ offensive surge over the second half of the season. He also made the Pro Bowl as an alternate after topping 1,000 yards for the third time in his four-year career. Typically, NFL franchises prefer to pay their own players that they draft and develop instead of being forced to make huge splashes in free agency in which they have to pay the premium price for other team’s players. After Oakland traded Cooper to Dallas their offense was void of their only high-profile playmaker and without Mack, their pass rush fell to the bottom of the league as they finished dead last in sacks with 13, while Mack himself finished the season just half a sack shy of his former team’s total on the year. As impactful as these signings are projected to be, there’s no telling what results they will actually yield or if they will translate into more wins because games are won in the fall when football is actually being played, not in the spring when the ink on these new deals have yet to dry. The Raiders may have bolstered their offensive arsenal at starting quarterback Derek Carr’s disposal with some of these hefty contracts, their defense is still in need of significant upgrades across the board, especially is the pass rush department. Luckily for them they have a total of five picks in the 66 of the draft, which gives them a chance to land some of the premier talent at the top of the draft on the defensive side of the ball as this draft is considered to be loaded with prospects that can apply a lot of pressure on and get after the quarterback.