Del Rio vital in Raiders quest for long-term stability

Del Rio vital in Raiders quest for long-term stability

The Raiders competitive window is wide open, and the franchise is trying to keep it that way. Owner Mark Davis hopes to establish stability in his football product, something sorely missing during more than a decade of struggle.

He extended general manager Reggie McKenzie’s contract last summer, a year before it expired.

McKenzie said this offseason that extending franchise quarterback Derek Carr is a high priority. That deal could happen this offseason, with a year left on his rookie contract. The Raiders are also prepared to extend Khalil Mack when the time comes and work around some big cap numbers to keep central players in silver and black.

The same could go for Jack Del Rio. No NFL head coach currently makes less. 

He has two years left on his original four-year contract. Del Rio helped return the Raiders to prominence during the first half of that deal, with 19 total wins and the team’s first playoff appearance since 2002.

Might that be worth a raise?

Del Rio is popular among the players and in the front office, and it’s anticipated a deal will get done to keep this head coach in place beyond his current contract. That is anticipated soon, or farther into the future.

There is recent precedent for extending a trusted head coach before entering a contract year. The Minnesota Vikings gave Mike Zimmer an extension last summer, after just two years into his first deal with the club.

It helps that prospect that Davis is also a fan, and has supported his head coach with a new performance center, improved practice fields and upgrades to the primary facility itself.

He has a good working relationship with McKenzie, now under contract through the 2021 season.

Del Rio has done well keeping Las Vegas relocation talk away from his players, and his steady hand and his presence as a homegrown product might ease transitions if the Raiders are approved to move.

The Raiders have quality at several levels of the organization, and keeping their core together could help keep the Raiders in position to contend.

Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster


Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster

The Raiders have a lot of quarterbacks under contract, certainly more than they’ll have come September.

That means the battle to be Derek Carr’s backup should be fierce. EJ Manuel had that title last year, with a shot to retain it after re-signing with the club on Thursday afternoon.

Veteran Josh Johnson signed up Monday, and those two will join third-year man Connor Cook behind Carr on the depth chart.

New head coach Jon Gruden loved Cook coming out of the draft, but the Michigan State alum failed to earn the backup job last season and must make a move up the depth chart to kickstart his career.

Manuel has a strong arm and starting experience, making him a steady and solid backup option. He completed 24-of-43 passes for 265 yards, a touchdown and an interception in two games when Carr was hurt.

Johnson might be a camp arm at this point, though he’ll be given a chance to compete this spring and summer.

Carr has been hurt for at least a small stretch in each of the last two seasons. Having Manuel in that spot might offer stability.

Gruden addressed last year’s backup quarterbacks last month at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Gruden on Manuel: “I think EJ is a young, talented guy,” Gruden said. “He’s been in the facility working out on his own every day. There is a bright upside to him, too, as a young quarterback to keep working with. He’s a free agent, but the Philadelphia Eagles proved that’s a pretty damn important position, isn’t it? Right? So we have to address that and see where we are.”

Gruden on Cook: “I am kind of surprised Connor hasn’t played in two years, other than the playoff game he got in as a rookie. After Derek got hurt last year, they turned the ball to EJ. I don’t know where Connor Cook is. I am frustrated right now that I can’t spend any time with him, but, April 9th (when the Raiders offeseason program starts) will be an exciting day for me and Connor Cook.”

Raiders sign tackle Breno Giacomini


Raiders sign tackle Breno Giacomini

The Raiders need help at right tackle, the lone vacancy along their offensive line. They signed a veteran presence on Thursday afternoon, adding 32-year old Breno Giacomini as the frontrunner to join the starting five.

He has 86 starts in 94 career games, and has been a full-time starter three of the last four years. Giacomini spent 2017 in Houston and the previous three seasons with the New York Jets.

He was a Seattle Seahawk before that, working with Raiders offensive line coach Tom Cable for three of his four years there. Cable gave Giacomini his first chance to start in the second half of 2011, and held the post through 2012.

The bond between the two is clearly strong, considering what Giacomini tweeted shortly after Cable got fired in Seattle.

Coach and player will reunite, hoping to provide steadiness on the right side of the Raiders offensive line.

He’ll compete for a starting spot with Vadal Alexander, second-year pros David Sharpe and Jylan Ware and possibly a drafted player. Giacomini should be considered the favorite unless the Raiders use an early pick on an offensive lineman.

Giacomini has plenty of starts, but his Pro Football Focus numbers aren’t pretty. The analytics says he allowed nine sacks, eight quarterback hits and 64 pressures with Houston last year. He had some decent years under Cable, and a return to that form might push him into the starting lineup for good. Time will tell on that front.