Raiders embracing Mexico City fan base; 'it's going to be loud'

Raiders embracing Mexico City fan base; 'it's going to be loud'

MEXICO CITY – The Raiders must travel 1,876 miles to play a “home game.” That’s a required trek to face the Houston Texans at Estadio Azteca, the second regular-season NFL game south of the border and first since the 49ers and Arizona Cardinals played in Mexico City 11 years ago.

The Raiders willingly gave up a home game to play before a massive Mexican fan base in love with the Silver and Black.

“I think there are a lot of benefits for the league in that way,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I think for us, honestly, I prefer for that not to be our home game. Travel a couple of time zones, be hours away from our own place, but again I don’t worry too much about all of that. We just understand what it is, prepare ourselves for it and go down there and have fun competing. That’s how we do it.”

Del Rio said he expects it to be loud all the time, and has told his offense to prep for the noise of a road game and his defense to expect a home game’s energy.

The Raiders have sent a few ambassadors to Mexico City, including Latavius Murray, Taiwan Jones and TJ Carrie. Those guys expect a huge, vocal Raiders contingent to fill an Estadio Azteca that sold out minutes after tickets became available.

Houston is the closest NFL team to Mexico City so they’ll have supporters, but the Raiders should feel like the home team.

“The guys who have been down there already saw the passion and fire of Raiders fans firsthand,” Murray said. “It was incredible seeing all the support we have down there. It’s crazy, and it will be like a home game. I think we’re in for a treat.”

While the Raiders don't arrive until Sunday evening, they sent famous alumni like Mike Haynes, Marcus Allen and Tim Brown down early to headline the NFL International Series fan fest in Mexico City.

The Jack Del Rio Foundation, led by Del Rio’s wife Linda and daughter Lauren, also left early to donate backpacks, school supplies and playground balls to needy children. They are also giving money to charitable organizations doing work in Mexico year round.

Those events will build toward a game in front of 77,000 rabid fans who don’t get the chance to watch NFL football in person. .

“It’s going to be loud,” Del Rio said. “There’s a lot of people and it’s going to be very exciting. They’re looking forward to us playing a good game down there.”

Raiders restructure Marshawn Lynch's contract


Raiders restructure Marshawn Lynch's contract

Marshawn Lynch restructured his contract this week, virtually locking him in for the 2018 Raiders season.

The veteran exchanged some base salary for guaranteed funds and an increased incentive package, according to contract details obtained Wednesday by the Las Vegas Review Journal.

His base salary drops from $4 million to $2.5 million, but becomes guaranteed. None of the funds Lynch had coming in his previous deal were guaranteed. He has a $1 million roster bonus coming on Saturday, just six days after receiving a $1 million roster bonus as required in his old contract.

That essentially guarantees him $4.5 million, as sure a sign as any he’ll be the Raiders feature back. Lynch will lead his position group, with support from veteran addition Doug Martin. DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard are also on the roster, though it’s uncertain if both guys will remain there this fall.

Lynch can also earn $3.75 million in incentives, a significant increase from the $2 million available in the previous deal.

The Raiders saved $500,000 in salary cap space with the new deal.

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


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

UPDATE (March 21, 12:02 p.m.): Free-agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will no longer make a scheduled Wednesday trip to visit the Raiders, according to NFL Network. He is at home, considering the Rams, Titans and Saints. 


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, according to a Tuesday report from ESPN, 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.