Del Rio vital in Raiders quest for long-term stability

Del Rio vital in Raiders quest for long-term stability

The Raiders competitive window is wide open, and the franchise is trying to keep it that way. Owner Mark Davis hopes to establish stability in his football product, something sorely missing during more than a decade of struggle.

He extended general manager Reggie McKenzie’s contract last summer, a year before it expired.

McKenzie said this offseason that extending franchise quarterback Derek Carr is a high priority. That deal could happen this offseason, with a year left on his rookie contract. The Raiders are also prepared to extend Khalil Mack when the time comes and work around some big cap numbers to keep central players in silver and black.

The same could go for Jack Del Rio. No NFL head coach currently makes less. 

He has two years left on his original four-year contract. Del Rio helped return the Raiders to prominence during the first half of that deal, with 19 total wins and the team’s first playoff appearance since 2002.

Might that be worth a raise?

Del Rio is popular among the players and in the front office, and it’s anticipated a deal will get done to keep this head coach in place beyond his current contract. That is anticipated soon, or farther into the future.

There is recent precedent for extending a trusted head coach before entering a contract year. The Minnesota Vikings gave Mike Zimmer an extension last summer, after just two years into his first deal with the club.

It helps that prospect that Davis is also a fan, and has supported his head coach with a new performance center, improved practice fields and upgrades to the primary facility itself.

He has a good working relationship with McKenzie, now under contract through the 2021 season.

Del Rio has done well keeping Las Vegas relocation talk away from his players, and his steady hand and his presence as a homegrown product might ease transitions if the Raiders are approved to move.

The Raiders have quality at several levels of the organization, and keeping their core together could help keep the Raiders in position to contend.

Raiders place Marshawn Lynch on injured reserve, out at least eight weeks

Raiders place Marshawn Lynch on injured reserve, out at least eight weeks

The hits just keep coming for the Raiders.

Just two hours after trading wide receiver Amari Cooper to the Cowboys, the Raiders announced that running back Marshawn Lynch has been placed on injured reserve.

Lynch suffered a groin injury last Sunday against the Seahawks in London.

Lynch, in his second season with the Raiders, carried the ball 90 times for 376 yards and three touchdowns before suffering the injury.

The 32-year-old signed a two-year contract with the Raiders prior to the 2017 season and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

The one dismal truth about Raiders trading Amari Cooper to Dallas

The one dismal truth about Raiders trading Amari Cooper to Dallas

It is time to get over the “Jon Gruden Broke Faith With Oakland” thing, because (a) we know he did and is comfortable having done so, (b) he views his mandate differently than anyone else because Mark Davis told him he could, and (c) he gets first round draft picks for things he doesn’t like.

But if you’re bothered by the “But he said Amari Cooper would be the centerpiece of the offense” part of the thing, well, now you know that when he speaks, he speaks with the kiss of death. The next time he says something glowing about an Oakland Raider he didn't bring in, Allied Van Lines is getting the first call.

Gruden extracted a first round draft choice from the Dallas Cowboys for Cooper Monday, reiterating that anyone currently a Raider not named Marshawn Lynch can be an ex-Raider in a heartbeat. That he got a first-rounder for Cooper speaks to Dallas owner Jerry Jones’ own desperation as the team’s gasbaggy general manager, but it is also the latest in a series of reminders that the Raiders in their current state of disarray are essentially a giant 53-person couch placed out on the front lawn for anyone to grab.

The surprise here is that Cooper fetched such a price, because his glow had faded (from star to desk lamp) so quickly in Oakland that he seemed like a particularly distressed piece. Once you accept the fact that the Raiders are for sale, as a set or in pieces, and that your hopes for something great and parade-ish to come out of these last 25 years of Raider football, the Cooper deal seems a lot less offensive than the Khalil Mack trade.

Of course, Mack is an elite player. Cooper never was, at least not as a Raider. Maybe there is a new life for him in Texas, but at least as a Cowboy, he won’t be expected to become the offensive focus (see Elliott, Ezekiel) as he was in Oakland when the franchise had no face at all.

That’s the one dismal truth – that a player who came with so many promises made on his behalf never delivered (or was allowed to deliver) on those promises. He struggled to catch the ball early, had a brief renaissance as Derek Carr’s first target and then lost more and more favor until Gruden came and finished the deal by saying how important Cooper was to the team’s future.

You can say that Gruden was correct about Cooper in one way, though – he is important to the team’s future, just as someone else.

It also serves as a handy reminder to all of us that all the hand-wringing about the Raiders’ inability to target Cooper more often was another example that what you see is very often exactly what you get. It wasn’t that the Raiders couldn’t target Cooper nearly as much as it was they decided they didn't want to target Cooper. Targets are choices, and Cooper stopped being a prime choice in Oakland even before Gruden arrived.

So as part of the deep clean in Alameda, Gruden found in Jones someone who had turned on his own receivers and whose impatience is, if anything, greater than Gruden’s. Hence, Cooper the Cowboy.

And hence Gruden increasing his draft choice total to a more reasonable for rebuilding purposes to nine, including three firsts and a second.

And there will be more, because not even local outrage will serve as a deterrent to further fire sales -- not that it ever did, of course. Local outrage has already largely morphed into local apathy anyway, so the Cooper trade comes with another knowing nod about the value of taking praise in sports and thinking it constitutes anything but empty words meant to fill in the time between one impertinent question and the next.

So now that’s done, and the speculation about who is next on General Manager Jonny’s list of ex-Raiders can begin. All we know is this – the asking price always starts with a first-round draft choice, and sometimes when you least expect it, he’ll get it.