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Raiders keeping an eye on running backs market, deep draft class

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Raiders keeping an eye on running backs market, deep draft class

Every incumbent Raiders running back remains under contract. That includes Marshawn Lynch, who is due roughly $6 million in salary and bonuses if he plays all year.

Head coach Jon Gruden said last week he’s counting on Lynch to contribute in 2018. Notice the wiggle room in there. There’s no firm commitment of a return despite the fact Gruden’s kind words last week (which you can read here).

Offensive line coach Tom Cable, especially, wants Lynch playing in silver and black next season.

Lynch is enigmatic, so uncertainty remains without a proclamation from team or player of a return. Some clarity could come soon. Lynch is due a $1 million roster bonus on March 18.

In addition to Lynch, The Raiders also have fullback Jamize Olawale in the mix. Young rushers DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard are coming off down years.

Gruden could certainly look for upgrades at the top or bottom of the depth chart. That’s why the Raiders will monitor the running back market in free agency and a deep draft class.

That’s why, according to NFL Network, Gruden met with former Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin. As a note, teams can meet and negotiate with players that get cut.

Teams can negotiate with pending free agents on Monday. Free agency formally opens Wednesday afternoon.

It’s uncertain whether Martin, who averaged 2.9 yards per carry the last two seasons, is a priority or a backup plan. Meeting with Martin and being associated with others could double as due diligence and leverage in a possible request to restructure Lynch’s contract. There are layers to all these associations. Some are real. Others are taken from the smallest scrap of information, used by agents to create a competitive market for their client. 

The Raiders are primarily focused on defense in free agency, but will explore upgrades at offensive skill positions. That includes running back, receiver and tight ends of various skill sets.

Wilkerson remains on McKenzie’s radar

General manager Reggie McKenzie has long been intrigued by defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson. Immense talent kept the New York Jets interested and the Temple grad handsomely paid over the years, but that time has passed. Wilkerson was released this week, and has started his free agent tour.

He has reportedly visited the Packers, Saints and Chiefs. ESPN reports the Raiders have interest, and could meet with Oakland in time. CBS Sports reports that Washington is next on his free-agent tour.

Wilkerson has had some dominant years, but his production has waned in recent seasons. He would be the three-down inside presence the Raiders need if he can find old form.

Raiders have “preliminary interest” in Sherman

The 49ers are putting effort into acquiring Richard Sherman, who was released Friday by Seattle. The Stanford product dined with Kyle Shanahan Friday night, the 49ers head coach told NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco, and he’ll reportedly visit the team’s Santa Clara complex on Saturday. If he leaves without a deal – it sure seems like the 49ers are pushing hard to land Sherman -- the Raiders could be a next stop.

Sherman, who represents himself, told ESPN’s Josina Anderson that he received preliminary interest from the 49ers, Raiders, Titans, Lions, Texans, Buccaneers and Packers. NFL Network reported Saturday afternoon that he'll visit the Lions next week if, of course, he leaves Santa Clara without a contract. 

Contract value (and health) could be an issue here. The Raiders don’t currently have tons of cap space, though it could be easily created with veteran cuts.

The Raiders are expected to address the cornerback position in free agency, either in the first or, more likely, second tier of the market.

What they're saying: Happy Father's Day

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What they're saying: Happy Mother's Day 2018

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