Raiders excited that Marshawn Lynch could join 'the dark side'

Raiders excited that Marshawn Lynch could join 'the dark side'

ALAMEDA -- Quarterback Derek Carr is quite the recruiter. He generally meets those considering a Raiders tenure when they visit the team facility, especially offensive players looking to join the attack.

That was certainly the case on April 5, when Marshawn Lynch came to see what the Raiders are all about. The Oakland Tech grad and Cal alum is strongly considering a return to professional football after leaving the game a year, and would like to do so representing his hometown team.

The Seattle Seahawks own his rights but have given the Raiders permission to speak with him, with the end goal of Lynch becoming a Raiders with a reworked contract and a trade.

There’s optimism those things will occur, but Lynch officially remains retired at this point. That hasn’t kept Raiders fans from dreaming. Players are doing some of that, too.

“Marshawn is one of the best running backs I’ve played against in my short career so far,” Raiders edge rusher Khalil Mack said Monday, the start of the team’s offseason program. “He’s one hell of a player. It would be a great treat to have him on the dark side. That said, we’re focused on the now. We can’t really control what happens with that. Right now, we’re in the grind.”

Mack played against Lynch in 2015, a 30-24 loss to the Seahawks where he had 143 yard total offense and two touchdowns. Mack met Lynch at his absolute best, during a season when he averaged 4.7 yards per carry and led the league with 17 total touchdowns.

The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year came away impressed by Lynch’s raw physicality as a runner, and would like to play with him on the same side this time around.

“I think he’s the most physical guy I’ve played against,” Mack said. “We played him in the regular season my second year I believe, and he ran power right at me. I knew then he was one of the most physical guys I’ve played against in terms of running backs.

“Just knowing the type of player he is, he would be a good addition for us.”

Carr tried to sway Lynch into signing as a Raider, something player and team are still considering. There’s a long process involved in such a transaction, but it’s one the Raiders hope to complete in coming days.

“I was here talking to him when he was here,” Carr said. “He’s one heck of a football player. I hope to play with him, but I’m focused on the guys who are here today. Do I hope he gets here? Of course. Who wouldn’t want Marshawn Lynch? We have good running backs, but anyone would be open to adding a good player. You always need more.”

The Raiders have an expensive, hulking offensive line ranked among the best in football. Left guard Kelechi Osemele has tweeted about how he would love Lynch in his backfield. Center and team captain Rodney Hudson feels the same way.

“Great player. Ran for a lot of yards and a lot of touchdowns in the league,” Hudson said. “He’s a great player, but I guess it’s up to other people to figure out if he’s coming or not.”


How will free-agent moves impact Raiders' draft plans?


How will free-agent moves impact Raiders' draft plans?

The Raiders sat out free agency’s inital, hyper-expensive phase and then kicked into high gear. They signed players at a frenetic pace, adding 14 new guys with a shot to make the regular-season roster and four of their own unrestricted free agents in 11 days.

It’s still possible the Raiders sign a receiver or a rotational defensive tackle in free agency, but signing volume will slow to a trickle as we head toward the NFL Draft.

We’ll know more about these signings this week. The NFL owners meetings start Sunday in Orlando, Fla., and access to head coach Jon Gruden should offer insight into Raiders offseason plans. This day’s downtime makes it a perfect time for a Raiders mailbag, to catch up on what has happened and look ahead to what’s next this offseason.

I asked for questions on my Facebook page (please “like” this link for Raiders insight, updates and behind-the-scenes photos) and got a bunch of good ones. Let’s get to them:

Q: Have any of the free agent signings shifted what you thought was Raiders' NFL Draft priority? And if so what changed? – Michael Varnam
A: Great question, Michael. Good way to start this mailbag. Actions always speak louder than words, and free-agent signings are often an indicator of what the Raiders like in the NFL draft. I don’t think it has shifted my thinking too much, because the Raiders still need help at every level of their defense.

The focus remains defensive tackle, linebacker and cornerback. I could see the Raiders taking any of those positions at No. 10 overall, and we should add offensive tackle to the list if they trade down.

Attractive options at DT (Vita Vea, Maurice Hurst), LB (Roquan Smith, Tremaine Edmunds) and CB (Denzel Ward) that should be available at No. 10, in addition to some higher-ranked prospects at positions (Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpartick, for example) the Raiders couldn’t pass up.

I would say cornerback isn’t as pressing a need with Gareon Conley healthy and Rashaan Melvin now in the mix, but another long-term answer is required.

Tahir Whitehead doesn’t solve every linebacker issue but he’ll help lead that position group. NaVorro Bowman’s return would lessen that need. Defensive tackle, however, clearly needs an impact player.

A top-10 defensive tackle that can rush the passer could make the greatest immediate impact, especially after the Raiders stayed pat at the position in free agency.

Q: With the signing of Doug Martin, is it possible either Washington or Richard get traded? They are essentially the same player… -- Bubba Slim
A: They may not get traded, but it seems likely one of the two you mentioned won’t make the 53-man roster. DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard have similar styles, and both guys can return punts or kicks. Martin comes in as Lynch’s primary backup – he’ll have to earn that title -- and someone capable of shouldering a full load should Lynch be unavailable. Remember what happened in Buffalo when Lynch got suspended? Richard and Washington struggled as feature backs. The Raiders don’t want that situation to happen again.

Martin must prove better than the 2.9 yards per carry of his last two seasons. If he does that, Washington or (less likely) Richard could get cut or traded late in the preseason. It’s something to keep an eye on this summer.

Question: What’s the status on Bowman? – Jose Torres
A: I got several Bowman questions. Let’s address the situation by saying there isn’t much of an update. The Raiders hoped to have him signed before free agency began March 14, but numbers obviously didn’t match. Bowman’s camp has a certain value in mind that hasn’t been reached on the open market, and (this is just me talking here) he could slow play things and gain value to a team should an inside linebacker get hurt this offseason.

Last I heard, Bowman was training in Maryland – he’s from District Heights, Md. – and always stays in great shape. The Raiders still need help at linebacker, even after Whitehead signed up. They hope to have Bowman back. Room for a reunion still exists.

Question: Who is your sleeper free agent signing, Scott? One to watch IMHO could be Marcus Gilchrist.
Answer: Gilchrist is a good option, considering his versatility. He can play both safety spots, slot cornerback and is comfortable playing in the box.

That said, I’m going with fullback Keith Smith. He doesn’t have many stats, but Smith said Gruden has “big plans” for him. The Raiders head coach loves using the fullback in interesting ways, especially as a receiver. The athletic fullback and former San Jose State linebacker can handle those responsibilities, even with blocking as his primary mission. He could thrive in Gruden’s system.

Q: Are the Raiders going with the best player available approach in the draft? Could the first-round pick be an offensive player? – Thomas Davis
A: It’s possible the Raiders could go offense in the first round, with offensive tackle as a real prospect if they trade down. I still think defense is the play here, if they stick at No. 10. They have several quality options, especially if there’s a quarterback run in the top eight as expected. If four QBs go quick, the Raiders could be sitting at No. 10 getting the sixth-best non-quarterback on the board. There are lots of defenders that would work in that spot. That would satisfy need without needing to reach.

Q: What is your lock pick for us at No. 10, or are we trading down? – Manny Zaragoza
A: There isn’t a lock pick for anyone at No. 10 at this stage. Even the Raiders don’t know that. There should be a solid cluster available there the Raiders can choose from. I mention several options in the first answer. Reggie always likes trading down to get more picks. That could happen here, especially if a valued QB remains on the board a passer-starved team wants to come get him.

Q: As much as I’d love to bring it back to ’98 (as Gruden said at the combine), can that style of football still win? – Alec Rael
A: I think that’s a fun line said by a coach who’s a great quote. While some free-agent moves should help the Raiders protect well and run with power, Gruden is an innovator. He has studied and learned modern styles while broadcast Monday Night Football games. I believe the Raiders will be dynamic offensively, with an ability to run with power or operate with pace. Gruden has some tricks up his sleeve. It will be interesting to see them come out.

Q: Hey Scott, how high could WR be taken in the draft? – Richard Ramsawh
A: That’s a real wild card, and might depend what else, if anything, happens in free agency. It’s clear that Gruden wanted to remake the receiver corps, and did so in part by adding Jordy Nelson and subtracting Michael Crabtree. They’ve been involved in the free-agency receiver market – Ryan Grant and Eric Decker visited Alameda – and still have an eye on it.

They could sign another veteran this offseason. If they don’t, the Raiders could look for help relatively high in the draft or at some point before their picks are done.

Report: Raiders bring Reggie Nelson back


Report: Raiders bring Reggie Nelson back

Reggie Nelson has been on a reunion tour since signing with the Raiders. He first worked under Jack Del Rio, his head coach in Jacksonville and someone who choose to make him 2007’s No. 21 overall draft pick.

That link held for two years. Then Del Rio got run out in favor of Jon Gruden and Nelson hit the free-agent market. The 34-year old – he’ll be 35 in September – wasn’t expected back after a down year in 2017.

Another blast from the past created a road back to Oakland, where he reportedly signed a one-year deal with the Raiders. NFL Network reported news of Nelson’s pact.

Nelson thrived, with 23 interceptions and 62 passes defensed during six seasons in Cincinnati. New Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther was linebackers coach and then Bengals DC (for two years) during Nelson’s time in the Queen City.

Nelson had five picks in 2016, his first year with Oakland, but seemed to slow down some last season. He had 60 tackles, two forced fumbles and an interception in 2017.

Nelson will help teach a system familiar to him but foreign to most Raiders, but will certainly angle for steady snaps despite increased competition at his spot. 

He’ll compete for snaps at safety despite last week’s signing of Marcus Gilchrist, expected to take his spot, though it might be an uphilll climb. Gilchrist and Joseph should still be expected to start next season. The Raiders also have Obi Melifonwu at that position, though the second-year pro must earn a role in this defense. The other three have starter’s experience and will compete for that opportunity. Gilchrist also has experience covering the slot, which could help the secondary if a career cornerback isn't found to fill that role.