Controversial RB Joe Mixon impressed Raiders during pre-draft visit

Controversial RB Joe Mixon impressed Raiders during pre-draft visit

ALAMEDA – The Raiders visited with former Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon at the team’s Alameda facility on March 21.

General manager Reggie McKenzie came away impressed by the controversial figure notorious for punching a female in 2014 while at Oklahoma, who has spent significant portions of the pre-NFL draft process trying to show that violent incident caught on video doesn't define him.

“We thought he was a really good kid. He came off very well and explained each and everything, the questions that we had,” McKenzie said Friday in a pre-draft press conference. “He had an explanation and he was up front about everything. The kid really came across as a good kid.”

Mixon is also a premiere talent going pro, but there’s no telling how far his off-field issues will drop him in next week’s NFL Draft. There’s debate where he’ll be taken, though many expect Mixon to go in the first two rounds.

He was not invited to the NFL scouting combine due to an incident where he punched victim Amelia Molitor and fractured several bones in her face. Mixon has made several pre-draft visits and met with dozens at Oklahoma’s Pro Day trying to explain his actions and why he’s a safe pick in this year’s NFL Draft.

Mixon and Molitor released a joint statement on Friday announcing the settlement of a civil suit, with both parties hoping to move on from an ugly incident after which the victim spoke out about being harassed.

“I am happy we were able to bring the lawsuit to an end,” Molitor said in a statement. “Joe and I were able to meet privately, without any attorneys, and talk about our experiences since that night. I am encouraged that we will both be able to move forward from here with our lives. From our private discussions I am satisfied that we are going to put this behind us and work towards helping others who may have found themselves in similar circumstances. I greatly appreciate his apology and I think the feelings he expressed were sincere. We both could have handled things differently. I believe if we had a chance to go back to that moment in time, the situation would not have ended the way it did.”

The running back is obviously a polarizing public figure, and the team that drafts him could take flak for selecting him.

“When stuff like this happens, whether it’s domestic violence or drunken driving, whatever issue that comes up, we’ll be prepared to answer questions,” McKenzie said. “We’ll do our research and if we make a decision, we’re going to prepare to have answers for each and every decision that we make.”

Raiders owner Mark Davis has taken a hardline stance against players involved in domestic violence incidents – this was technically assault of a man on a woman, as Mixon and Molitor were not in a relationship -- and he would have to okay a Mixon selection. The Raiders put considerable thought and research into select players with character concerns.

“What we do, we research everything. We get all of the information. We will not make a decision until all the information is in front of us,” McKenzie said. “With certain issues, like domestic violence, we consider that and we really look into everything that is surrounding that.

"Every decision will be well-researched so if it’s one way or the other, we are going to make it where that decision is based on all the facts, all the research and on the kid moving forward. But yes, we hold that very dear to what we do, as far as who we bring in, absolutely. We will not tolerate that at all.”

Gruden, McKenzie set to sell Suh on the Silver and Black


Gruden, McKenzie set to sell Suh on the Silver and Black

Ndamukong Suh’s coming to Alameda. Jon Gruden, Paul Guenther and Reggie McKenzie will have a chance to make a pitch, explaining exactly why the superstar defensive tackle belongs in the Silver and Black.

McKenzie (and owner Mark Davis) would’ve relished this opportunity last time Suh was a free agent. The Raiders had plenty of cap space in 2015 but oh, so many needs coming off a 3-13 campaign, and weren’t prepared for his market value to go nuclear. McKenzie steered clear of the mushroom cloud, and Suh’s deal set a new market for defensive players.

He made $60 million over three years in Miami, but didn’t see his contract’s second half after lackluster team results and hints of inconsistent effort. The Dolphins are reportedly angling for a culture change, and didn’t think Suh would help the transition.

That put him back on the open market, with more guaranteed dollars dancing in his head. Suh’s on a free-agent tour rare in the modern NFL, where dollars are committed quick once free agency opens. Suh’s slow playing this one, thus far hopping from New Orleans to Tennessee to L.A. to see the Rams on a private jet. His charter will land in Oakland Wednesday to see what the Raiders have to offer.

There’s little doubt what Suh can bring. He might be the best interior defensive lineman east of L.A.’s Aaron Donald -- yes, there are a few other top talents -- and would be a perfect fit for Guenther’s scheme. That system needs a Geno Atkins type. He made the Guenther’s Bengals go in recent seasons, and Suh’s certainly as good or better when going strong.

The real question’s what the Raiders can offer that others can’t. The Titans and Rams have more salary-cap space, as it stands right now. The Raiders are the only non-playoff team in his bunch, with the other three seemingly on the rise.

The Raiders could champion playing with Khalil Mack. The Rams have Donald, the Titans have Jurell Casey and the Saints have Cam Jordan. Suh has made reference to the final three in interviews with Yahoo! Sports.

Gruden, however, is certainly a selling point. Several signed free agents cited the A-list head coach as an attraction to joining the Raiders. A healthy, impactful Derek Carr and Suh’s addition to the defense could make the Raiders a real contender right away, something that will obviously get brought up in Wednesday’s visit.

Suh’s an Oregon kid, and the Raiders are the closest team to home. That might help.

He could make a pros and cons list about market, state tax issues, chances of winning, coach and locker room culture, but the almighty dollar can’t be ignored.

Can the Raiders put together an attractive financial package, one that would make them truly appealing? That’s the (multi-)million dollar question?

The Raiders don’t have tons of salary-cap space. In fact they're up against the threshold, though cutting veterans without guaranteed money easily creates space. The Raiders could keep Suh’s 2018 cap number lower through a signing bonus and fat roster bonuses in future years.

Make no mistake: the cap is not an impenetrable road block. The Raiders might have to get away from contract structuring practices that McKenzie’s people used to reach excellent salary-cap standing. That’s especially true considering the monster deal given to Carr last year and the mega-extension Mack will get soon.

We say all that with one caveat. Suh’s exact team-selection criteria aren’t clear. There’s no telling if this Alameda trip could help create a robust market, or if he’s taking the Raiders seriously. Making the trip means something, however, and will at least give Gruden and Co. a chance to woo Suh, lock him down and radically change expectations for the 2018 season.

Raiders remain on a receiver hunt as their top target signs elsewhere


Raiders remain on a receiver hunt as their top target signs elsewhere

The Raiders missed out on signing Ryan Grant. The former Washington receiver visited the team’s Alameda training complex, but left without a contract and ultimately chose to sign a one-year, $5 million deal with Indianapolis.

They lost that one, but are undeterred in their quest to upgrade the receiver corps.

They already signed Jordy Nelson and let Michael Crabtree walk, hoping for steady production and quality locker room leadership in the exchange.

Cordarrelle Patterson was traded to New England on Sunday, creating a spot in the position group.

The Raiders tried to fill it with Grant. No go, no matter.

They hosted veteran Eric Decker on Tuesday, according to multiple reports. They also declared interest in Allen Hurns, a player the Jaguars released Tuesday morning.

Hurns listed the Raiders among interested teams – he said there were 10 in total – in an interview with KFNZ radio in Charlotte, N.C.

Hurns has a 1,000-yard season to his credit – his biggest year came with now-Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson as Jacksonville's O.C. -- and two relative down years since. Injuries have also played a part in that.

Decker had a stellar four-year run with Denver and the New York Jets, but was less effective during two seasons in Tennessee. The 31-year old has experience in the slot, and could be a productive No. 3 option in Jon Gruden’s offense.

Gruden doesn't mind working with veteran receivers, something clear from his past and willingness to add Nelson as a major contributor. 

Even if the Raiders don't land a veteran receiver, they could also look for a receiver in the NFL draft.

Amari Cooper will remain the No. 1 option. Seth Roberts has $4.45 million guaranteed in 2018. Johnny Holton, Isaac Whitney and Keon Hatcher are also on the roster.