Gruden an expensive wonder drug for Raiders franchise in transition

Gruden an expensive wonder drug for Raiders franchise in transition

Mark Davis paid a king’s ransom to get Jon Gruden. It cost $100 million over 10 years lure him out of the broadcast booth and back into Silver and Black.

Then factor four-year deals for his coordinators, and the $15 million remaining on Jack Del Rio’s contract.

That’s, well, a lot of money. It was also the going rate.

Gruden will reportedly sign his big, fat contract Monday and be knighted Raiders head coach in a Tuesday press conference.

As much as Gruden may have been primed for a return to coaching, he wasn’t coming for free. Gruden understood his place in the market, as a desired commodity and Davis’ white whale. That creates tremendous leverage and record-setting salary as a baseline.

Davis signed a check, left the rest blank and handed it over. He wasn’t going to let Gruden get away. Not this year. Not with this much at stake. 

Gruden was hired to win football games, and lots of ‘em. He was hired to upgrade personnel – the Raiders are tied to precious few players long-term -- and make the Raiders consistently relevant.

Gruden, in this time and place, is more than that. He’s a national celebrity liked by most everyone, now an ambassador to an East Bay market the Raiders want to keep long-term and a Las Vegas market the Raiders will join before long.

In short, Gruden is a wonder drug, a roll with loaded dice. Gruden can help the on-field product and ease a complicated off-field transition from Oakland to Sin City.

“The team has at least one, perhaps two or three more years in the Bay Area before heading to Las Vegas,” former Raiders CEO Amy Trask said on the Raiders Insider Podcast. “This is will excite the magnificent Bay Area fans, who have stuck with the team through thick and thin. I’ve loved those fans since from the day I joined organization and always will, and this will (energize) the fan base in Oakland, even while it knows the team is heading out the proverbial door.

“And for the Las Vegas market, this team is taking on a staggering, breathtaking amount of debt in conjunction with that (Vegas) stadium project, and thererfore has a lot of really, really expensive product to sell.”

Trask is referring to personal seat licenses, suites, club seat, sponsorships and maybe even naming rights in new digs just off the Las Vegas Strip.

“This will give them a little pizzazz to spark those sales,” Trask said. “From a business perspective, it could have some tremendous value to the team. Don’t get me wrong, though, it’s not only that. This has an good chance for the Raiders of working out on the field as well.”

That’s the mission. If Gruden can help all sides of the organization, he might have even come cheap.

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.