The Raiders briefly flirted with the idea of contention last season, before losing all but one of their remaining six games. But even a 7-9 record is a definite improvement over the 4-12 mark they finished with in 2018.
While many will be focused on the franchise’s move from Oakland to Las Vegas, there is potential for a ton of new faces on the roster. Jon Gruden’s team enters the offseason with two first-round draft picks and around $60 million in salary cap space.
The Raiders should be nearing the end of a multi-year roster rebuild, though there are still questions about what to do at quarterback. Derek Carr has been good enough to put up decent numbers, but hasn’t been the catalyst for many wins for the silver and black. For now, he’s the man under center and the name of the game for Las Vegas is simple: get him as much help as possible.
Which leads us to their biggest needs this offseason.
Las Vegas Raiders (7-9), missed playoffs
The Raiders are closer than you might think, provided you think they can win with Carr. Defensively, there are a couple notable holes that need to be addressed this offseason.
Before free agency:
- Wide receiver: Trading Amari Cooper left the Raiders without a clear top receiver and that was extremely evident last season. They have a home-run hitter at tight end with Darren Waller, but Carr needs a reliable weapon at receiver, and ideally, two or three new ones. Luckily, the draft is loaded at the position.
- Linebacker: The Raiders have been looking for help at linebacker for years now. They hoped that Vontaze Burfict would bring some stability to the position last season, but he missed the bulk of it due to a suspension that the Raiders probably should have seen coming. They also released Tahir Whitehead before the new league year. Las Vegas could bolster the linebacking corps in both free agency and the draft.
- Defensive end: The Raiders weren’t last in the league in sacks again, but they did finish in the bottom third and could still use some pass-rushing juice. The best place to get that is a reliable veteran, like Robert Quinn, to assist with the progress of Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby.
What Silver and Black Pride wants most this offseason: The Raiders were big spenders last year, highlighted by making Trent Brown the highest-paid tackle in NFL history, and I expect them to big spend as they move to Las Vegas. The Raiders’ two biggest needs are at linebacker and wide receiver. They may have to wait until the draft for a top receiver. But if they can get Rams inside linebacker Cory Littleton and a few more starting defensive players (all layers of the unit need to be upgraded), it would be a great start to the offseason. — Bill Williamson
After free agency:
Despite the strange addition of Jason Witten for $5 million to a crowded tight end depth chart, the Raiders added some huge pieces: linebackers Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski, and quarterback Marcus Mariota. The linebackers should make the unit a strength for the first time in many years. Here’s what they should be looking for going into the draft.
- Wide receiver: The Raiders signed Nelson Agholor to a one-year deal. It’s an interesting signing because Agholor was a first-round pick who still has a ton of upside, but he’s not the reliable target that Carr (or Mariota) need. They need a No. 1 guy, preferably with their top draft pick.
- Cornerback: While Trayvon Mullen is a promising young corner, he’s not proven to be a No. 1 guy yet. The Eli Apple signing fell through in free agency, so the Raiders would do well to seek out more cornerback help right away in the draft.
- Safety: Karl Joseph wasn’t a fit in the Raiders’ defense despite his high level of play. That means the Raiders needed someone to start opposite Johnathan Abram. Jeff Heath certainly isn’t the answer, while Damarious Randall is only on a one-year deal.
After the draft:
The Raiders were very on brand with this draft. They took the fastest receiver in the class (Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III) with the No. 12 pick and later added the extremely fun-to-watch RB/WR/QB Lynn Bowden Jr. from Kentucky and receiver Bryan Edwards from South Carolina in the third round.
With their other first-round pick, the Raiders selected cornerback Damon Arnette from Ohio State. Arnette had a terrific senior year but was also expected to be a Day 2 pick. Even if they reached there, cornerback Amik Robertson from Louisiana Tech is a great value in the fourth round. They didn’t do much at safety, though. They did draft yet another Clemson product, Tanner Muse, but he is projected to move to linebacker in the NFL.