Mario Edwards Jr. hasn’t played many football games lately. The Raiders defensive lineman missed 16 straight over two seasons, with a neck injury cutting 2015 short and a hip injury giving 2016 an extremely late start.
Edwards has been good when healthy, allowing the Raiders to dream big when pairing him with Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin along the defensive front. Player and team hope to see those three playing together in 2017, with Edwards providing interior push while Mark and Irvin rush off the edge.
Edwards is a versatile piece who would primarily play end in the base defense and move inside on passing downs, giving the Raiders an inside threat they lacked last season.
General manager Reggie McKenzie says the 2015 second-round pick is ready to make a major impact this season. He’s leaner than before, which should help him use freakish athleticism to make plays up front.
“He’s extremely motivated,” McKenzie said Thursday in an interview with 95.7-The Game. “He wants to show the league that he can be dominant, not just a solid football player. He wants to be dominant. He’s healthy, he’s strong and in a good mindset. He’s ready to roll, and we’re extremely anxious to see him get going this season.”
Edwards had 42 tackles, two sacks and three forced fumbles as a rookie, when he played several techniques from defensive tackle to stand-up edge rusher. He only managed two tackles in two games last year, when he clearly wasn’t himself following a long recovery from a hip injury.
Staying healthy will be key this offseason, so he can make an impact when games count.
“With a healthy Mario we’ll be a better defense, no question,” McKenzie said in March at the NFL owners meetings. “That’s not just in the pass rush. He’s a very good run player. He’s going to be a good player for us.”
RAIDERS 2018 OFFSEASON SCORECARD
WR Jordy Nelson (cut by Green Bay): 2 years/$15 million, $13 million guaranteed
CB Rashaan Melvin (UFA; Indianapolis): 1 year/$6.5 million
LB Tahir Whitehead (UFA; Detroit): 3 years/$18 million, $9 million guaranteed)
S Marcus Gilchrist (UFA; Houston): 1 year
RB Doug Martin (cut by Tampa Bay): 1 year
FB Keith Smith (UFA; Dallas): 2 years/$4.2 million
TE Derek Carrier (UFA; L.A. Rams): 3 years/$7 million
DE Tank Carradine (UFA; San Francisco): 1 year
LB Kyle Wilbur (UFA; Dallas): 2 years/$3.25 million
LS Andrew DePaola (UFA; Chicago): 4 years/$4.27 million
WR Griff Whalen (but by Baltimore)
Re-signed/extensions/contract tenders offered
DT Justin Ellis (UFA): 3 years/$15 million; $6 million guaranteed)
TE Lee Smith (UFA): 3 years
K Giorgio Tavecchio (ERFA): 1 year/$555,000
DE/LB Shilique Calhoun (ERFA): 1 year/630,000
S Erik Harris (ERFA)
DE James Cowser (ERFA)
OL Denver Krikland (ERFA)
CB Sean Smith (released)
CB David Amerson (released; Kansas City)
RT Marshall Newhouse (released)
LB Aldon Smith (released)
WR Michael Crabtree (released; Baltimore)
DL Denico Autry (UFA; Indianapolis)
CB TJ Carrie (UFA; Cleveland)
UNSIGNED FREE AGENTS
S Reggie Nelson (UFA)
K Sebastian Janikowski (UFA)
LB NaVorro Bowman (UFA)
LS Jon Condo (UFA)
QB EJ Manuel (UFA)
S Keith McGill (UFA)
UFA-Unrestricted free agent: Free to sign with any team
ERFA-Exclusive rights free agent: Player has no outside negotiating power
NOTE: Contract figures obtained by, league sources, NFLPA sources or overthecap.com
* * *
RAIDERS 2018 DRAFT PICKS
1. First round: No. 10 overall
2. Second round:No. 41 overall
3. Third round: No. 75 overall
4. Fourth round: No. 110 overall
5. Sixth round: No. 185 overall
6. Sixth round: No. 192 overall
7. Sixth round: No. 210 overall*
8. Sixth round: No. 212 overall*
9. Sixth round: No. 216 overall*
10. Sixth round: No. 217 overall*
11. Seventh round: No. 228 overall
* compensatory pick
The Raiders signed veteran running back Doug Martin on Thursday, prompting many to believe the move meant the end of Marshawn Lynch's time in Oakland.
But as it has been expected, Martin is just another piece to go along with Lynch in the Raiders' backfield. According to multiple national reports, Lynch will remain in Silver and Black this upcoming season.
The news will become official when the Raiders pay Lynch his $1 million roster bonus on Sunday.
“One of the reasons I’m excited to be with the Raiders is to join forces with Lynch. We’ll see what happens," Jon Gruden told Insider Scott Bair at the NFL Scouting Combine. “We have to take a look at the entire roster, but I’m counting on him. I’m counting on him being a big part of this football team.”
Lynch, 31, rushed for 891 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per carry, and scored seven touchdowns for the Raiders in 2017.