Raiders

Jon Gruden, Raiders could return to glory with expanded NFL playoffs

Jon Gruden, Raiders could return to glory with expanded NFL playoffs

The Raiders were a two-point conversion away from ending their 2019 campaign on a high note. Derek Carr and Hunter Renfrow connected in the end zone with 11 seconds left in the regular-season finale at Denver but couldn’t replicate success on the game’s decisive play.

Carr’s pass fell to the turf, essentially securing the Raiders’ 16-15 loss to the Broncos. The result didn’t matter much. The Raiders would’ve finished the season 8-8 with a win. Their NFL draft picks improved with a loss.

If the Raiders would have won that game and NFL operated under a new and expanded playoff format approved Tuesday in a conference call with league owners, the Raiders would’ve made the postseason.

The Silver and Black would have claimed the AFC’s No. 7 seed and the final playoff spot in a format that includes an extra team and an extra game in each conference. A total of 14 teams now make the playoffs, with only the No. 1 seed granted a first-round bye and three games per conference in the wild-card round.

They would’ve advanced on a strength of victory tiebreaker over the Steelers. Creating that alternate reality entailed a lot of woulda, coulda, shoulda, enough to make your head spin.

Plain and simple: The Raiders didn’t deserve to make the playoffs after fading down the stretch, with ample opportunity to right the ship and get in. They ran out of gas due to poor depth and a rash of injuries to vital players, and couldn’t get the job done. 

But the Silver and Black should be contenders for a 2020 postseason berth if things go right with their improved defense and an offense that could be dynamic if the Raiders pick the right receiver(s) in next month’s NFL draft.

The extra playoff spot will certainly help the Raiders and similar teams trying to get from the middle of the pack to the AFC’s top tier.

[RELATED: Vegas could host 2022 draft]

It’ll be beneficial for the Raiders playing in the AFC West. The Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs should be good for a long time, especially with Patrick Mahomes behind center. Adding an extra wild-card spot should help the Raiders make the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and just the second time since the 2002 season.

The Raiders were 6-4 and in great standing before falling on hard times and finishing 2019 with a whimper despite receiving tons of help in their playoff quest. They were formally eliminated from playoff contention entering that 2019 finale in Denver but would’ve been alive if there were a seventh spot.

They could be in a similar situation next season and should be better suited to perform well down the stretch while fighting for the playoffs.

Raiders sign ex-practice squad tight end Paul Butler to bolster depth

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Raiders sign ex-practice squad tight end Paul Butler to bolster depth

The Raiders signed free agent tight end Paul Butler on Thursday.

Butler spent most of the previous two years on the Raiders’ practice squad, but was picked up late last season by the Detroit Lions as a reserve/future free agent. Butler (6 feet 6 inches, 250 pounds) also was promoted to the Raiders’ active roster in Week 17 of the 2018 season.

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Eli Apple, Panthers agree to deal after Raiders pact scrapped in April

Eli Apple, Panthers agree to deal after Raiders pact scrapped in April

Eli Apple never finalized a contract with the Raiders, and the free-agent cornerback has agreed to join their scheduled Week 1 opponents.

Apple reached an agreement on a one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers on Thursday, the team announced.

The Raiders are set to play the Panthers in Charlotte on Sept. 13, and the Silver and Black could line up against the man the front office initially pegged to have a shot to start opposite Trayvon Mullen. A league source confirmed to NBC Sports Bay Area's Scott Bair on March 18 that Apple and the Raiders agreed to terms on a deal.

[RELATED: Where Carr ranks among NFL starting quarterbacks]

But Apple never put pen to paper, and the deal officially fell apart on April 2 due in part to an inability to get a physical. The Raiders quickly changed course to bolster their secondary, adding Damarious Randall that same day and selecting defensive backs Damon Arnette (first round, No. 19 overall) and Amik Robertson (fourth round, No. 129 overall) in the draft a few weeks later. They also officially signed veteran corner Prince Amukamara on May 18.

Will the Raiders regret not bringing Apple in? It will be too early to tell after Week 1, but the Silver and Black will have all the more reason to want to take a bite out of the Panthers with Apple on the roster.

[RAIDERS TALK: Listen to the latest episode]