Raiders take step towards Vegas, but one wild card to consider


Raiders take step towards Vegas, but one wild card to consider

It is now time for Oakland Raiders fans to get less comfortable about the continued existence of the Oakland Raiders.

This is less than becoming resigned to losing them outright, because the National Football League and the political structures of the state of Nevada and the city of San Diego, plus the landlording power of Stan Kroenke and the indecisive soul of Dean Spanos, are all variables that have not yet shown their hands.

But with the news that the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee recommended legislative approval of a $750 million public money commitment to a new stadium that would pave and even gild the way toward the Raiders leaving for The Strip on the January stage.

The recommendation was a considerable hurdle because the money request was structured in such a way that the public at large doesn’t get to vote on the proposal. Instead, the state legislature will vote (and is expected to approve) and then send it on to Governor Brian Sandoval (who is expected to sign it).

At that point, the Raiders will have only one obstacle yet to clear before their midnight ride down Highway 99. The January NFL owners meeting.

As we know, the owners are not automatically disposed to do Mark Davis any favors, given the fact that they used him as a passenger-side floor mat during the meeting that greenlighted the Rams to move to Los Angeles rather than the Raiders and Chargers to Carson. They all but told Davis, in fact, “To us, your happiness is Job 38,108.”

So a vote to let the Raiders go to Las Vegas would have to clear the hurdles of the men who stood in Davis’ way in January, most notably Jerry Jones, Paul Allen, Danny Snyder, Jeff Lurie and, well, Kroenke. Jones has said publicly he supports the idea of an NFL team in Las Vegas, and this would seem to indicate that he would be willing not only to vote for the Raiders’ relocation but whip votes as he did for Kroenke before last January’s vote.

But the wild card – and there always is one – is whether the owners want to do Davis a solid when he really has only money to promise in return. And if they hesitate, as they did in January, they would need to find another team to take the Vegas spot instead of the Raiders and leave Davis more convinced than ever that his 31 partners really do hate his guts.

The two obvious choices would be the Jacksonville Jaguars, where owner Shahid Khan’s original goal, to move the Jags to London, seems pretty well dead, and the Chargers, who are going to be told in November that the voters will not approve a massive tax to help build a new stadium in San Diego. Spanos entered into a partnership with Davis once, found out that Davis was his biggest obstacle to approval, and took a humiliating defeat for that decision.

If Spanos is rebuffed, he has three choices – to pick up his option in Los Angeles against his better judgment and learn to be owned by Kroenke, to stay in San Diego without leverage forever and ever, or to do something particularly underhanded (well, except by NFL ownership standards) and make himself available for relocation to Las Vegas.

He could get that vote, because one of the other takeaways from the January meeting was that a lot of owners who voted for Kroenke felt bad for doing Spanos as they did. But Spanos would also have to decide if Vegas is worth it to him, because he wouldn’t have the movable fan base Davis would, so he would have to build interest from scratch. And he would have to pick up the (believed to be) $500 million relocation fee and contribute to the new stadium in Las Vegas. That’s a lot of jack to compete with the people who own Blackjack.

So there are still maneuvers to be maneuvered, arms to be twisted, billionaires to be schmoozed and promises to be broken before anyone can say the Oakland Raiders are about to become the Las Vegas Raiders. But Thursday’s committee recommendation did nothing to deter people from thinking that that’s the way the desert wind is blowing.

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.