Raiders

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

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USATSI

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. 

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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.

Raiders discussions with Oakland Coliseum progressing, could resolve soon

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AP

Raiders discussions with Oakland Coliseum progressing, could resolve soon

The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority board met on Friday morning, and executive director Scott McKibben provided a closed-session update on talks to host the Raiders during the 2019 NFL season.

No Raiders officials were present, but it was still a small and productive step towards keeping the Silver and Black in Oakland for one more year. The board liked the direction of talks between McKibben and Raiders brass.

“I updated the board on where I’ve been with the Raiders management and ownership,” McKibben said on Friday afternoon. “It’s fair to say that the talks are progressing.”

Talks will continue soon, with a resolution expected in the relatively near future.

“We’ll talk against next week,” McKibben said. “Again, this will come to a conclusion one way or another in the next week or so. It’s fair to say that discussions have been meaningful and productive and, after the update with our board, things are progressing.”

Continued progress will have the Raiders remaining at the Oakland Coliseum for another season, the last before formally moving to Las Vegas in 2020. The Raiders have remained in the East Bay since being approved for relocation prior to the 2017 season.

They preferred to remain in Oakland until the Vegas move – they had a 2017 lease at Oakland Coliseum, with a team option for ’18 – but halted negotiations for 2019 after the city of Oakland sued the Raiders and the NFL for antitrust violations and breach of contract.

The Raiders and the Coliseum Authority were working on a $7.5 million deal for 2019, but the team walked away after the lawsuit was filed.

[RELATED: Raiders have lots of flexibility ahead of pivotal offseason]

The Silver and Black explored several options, including some outside the market, but their preference was to continue playing in the Bay Area. The 49ers halted work on a deal to play at Oracle Park by refusing to waive their territorial rights, leaving Levi’s Stadium – owner Mark Davis doesn’t like the venue – and a return to Oakland Coliseum as the only viable local options.

Talks with McKibben ramped up a bit last week, and the foundation of previous extension talks has made a return to the table easier.

There’s plenty of work left to be done on a 2019 deal, but a resolution is closer following productive and meaningful talks to this stage.

Raiders, 49ers less affected by Jaylon Ferguson's NFL Scouting Combine ban

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USATSI

Raiders, 49ers less affected by Jaylon Ferguson's NFL Scouting Combine ban

The Raiders and 49ers have already spent significant time with Jaylon Ferguson during the pre-NFL-draft process.

The Senior Bowl provided both teams an opportunity to evaluate him up close during an intense practice week and the college all-star game itself. The Louisiana Tech edge rusher worked with the 49ers-led South squad, which spent part of one day with North coaches from the Raiders.

“(The Senior Bowl) is a great opportunity because both teams coaching here are looking for pass rushers,” Ferguson said early in the Senior Bowl week. “I feel like I’m one of the top pass rushers in this class, and I get my chance to show that I’m coachable and that I can rush the passer.”

Ferguson’s right. The Raiders and 49ers need help off the edge, and the NCAA’s all-time sack leader can certainly rush the passer. Ferguson also had a chance to showcase that quality, his work ethic and character working with the Bay Area teams at the Senior Bowl, something that will prove harder to do with others after getting his NFL Scouting Combine invite revoked.

Ferguson was disinvited after a background check turned up a simple battery conviction that disqualified him from combine participation, per NFL rules. According to NFL Network, the league told clubs that players wouldn’t be invited if they had prior convictions involving violence.

Ferguson's incident was not news to those working with him at the Senior Bowl.

Missing the combine is a major blow to Ferguson, a smaller-school talent hoping to show he has the tools to compete with top competition. He also planned to use the combine to show he has grown from past mistakes.

The NFL’s decision was unpopular around the league and with Ferguson’s agency, STL Sports Group, which issued this statement Thursday morning:

“We disagree with the NFL’s position with regards to Jaylon Ferguson. Jaylon is a great person who made a mistake 4 years ago before he started playing college football. He was involved in a scuffle that resulted in him being charged with misdemeanor simple battery. He received a deferred judgment and $189.00 fine, A Proper punishment for a fight between two teenagers. Since that day Jaylon has been a fine and upstanding student-athlete that personifies the things we are trying to teach our young people today. The past four years at Louisiana Tech Jaylon has been a team leader who has led on and off the field clearly learning from the lessons of his past. As opposed to penalizing and vilifying the future players of the league, we would hope the league would allow Jaylon and other similarly situated players the opportunity to prove to potential employers that they are remorseful, and have learned from their mistakes, accepted responsibility, want to be good role models and are better people now for it. No person is perfect, and people are entitled to second chances and opportunities and one would hope the NFL as an open-minded Industry Leader, Diverse League and Business would want to see the best in their players, educate them and help them mature, learn and be better people.”

[RELATED: Flacco trade could impact Raiders, 49ers in NFL draft]

Ferguson will still have opportunities to speak with teams during private facility visits and show physical skill at Louisiana Tech’s pro day.

That will be important after missing combine drills, so he can prove similar to a role model the Raiders drafted and the 49ers tried to acquire via trade.

“I model my game after Khalil Mack,” Ferguson said at the Senior Bowl. “He’s an aggressive guy who can transfer speed to power and is a big, strong man. That’s my game right there.”