Raiders

NFL rumors: Jets favorites to sign reported Raiders target Le'Veon Bell

NFL rumors: Jets favorites to sign reported Raiders target Le'Veon Bell

Despite Oakland native Damian Lillard's best efforts, the Raiders reportedly are not the favorites to sign Le'Veon Bell in free agency. 

The New York Jets are "undeniably the favorite" to sign the running back, a "high-profile agent" told The Athletic's Connor Hughes. The Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are "also in the running," Hughes reported citing another agent.

The Jets are armed with over $102 million in salary-cap space, according to OverTheCap.com, which is the second-most of any NFL team this offseason. But as it stands right now, the Raiders have much more space ($72,915,680) than the Bucs ($15,633,489) or the Eagles ($4,183,815).

All four teams have a clear need in the offensive backfield, too, and boast coaching staffs that like to get the running back involved in the passing game. Raiders running back Jalen Richard, for instance, was targeted more times (81) than all but two offensive players on the team last season. In the last three seasons in which he played at least 12 games, Bell was targeted no fewer than 94 times.

[RELATED: Raiders make most sense for Antonio Brown, Peter King says]

It's conceivable that Richard's presence on the roster would help the Raiders' pitch, too. Part of the reason Bell sat out of all of 2018 was because he was concerned about his workload with the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2017, Ball had 406 touches (rushes and receptions) and become one of only 43 players in NFL history to have 400-plus touches in a season.

Should Richard re-sign as a restricted free agent, he could take some off of Bell's plate. The Jets, Eagles, and Bucs don't exactly have alternatives in place on their rosters to share (some of) the load, but that could change in free agency. 

The Raiders might not be among the reported frontrunners, but they remain a good fit on paper.

2020 NFL mock draft: Mel Kiper Jr. explains his two Raiders selections

2020 NFL mock draft: Mel Kiper Jr. explains his two Raiders selections

In an offseason full of Tom Brady-to-Las-Vegas rumors, one thing is for certain: The Raiders must find upgrades at receiver and linebacker. 

With two first-round picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Raiders can do exactly that in slightly over two months. They're sure to look at the free-agent market as well, but finding instant contributors on rookie contracts is a must for a team looking to make the leap next season. 

This is especially true with the Raiders reportedly willing to offer Brady a two-year, $60 million contract.

Still, Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock can shore up their two biggest positions of need right away in the draft. That's exactly what ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. did in his latest mock draft. Kiper gave the Raiders receiver Jerry Jeudy at No. 12 and linebacker Kenneth Murray at No. 19. 

The longtime draft expert explained his selections in a conference call on Wednesday. 

"I have Kenneth Murray going there at 19, linebacker from Oklahoma, and have them taking Jerry Jeudy from Alabama at 12," Kiper said. "So you get the linebacker -- whether it's Murray or Patrick Queen from LSU at 19, then you get the receiver. I think it's CeeDee Lamb from Oklahoma or it's Jeudy from Alabama at No. 12." 

In an ideal world for the Raiders, Clemson's do-it-all hybrid linebacker Isaiah Simmons would fall right in their lap. Kiper said he simply can't see that happening without a major trade from Mayock. He has the Jacksonville Jaguars selecting Simmons with the No. 9 pick. 

Myself and Josh Schrock, however, have Simmons going even higher at No. 4 to the New York Giants in our latest mock draft. We do agree with the positions Kiper has the Raiders targeting, but gave the Silver and Black his second options. 

While Kiper has Lamb going to the New York Jets at No. 11 and Jeudy to the Raiders one pick later, we sent Lamb to Las Vegas and Jeudy being taken by the Indianapolis Colts with the next pick. The two are that close and either one would instantly boost the Raiders' receiver corps. 

[RELATED: How Raiders' 2019 rookies are laying bedrock for success]

Murray originally wound up as a Raider in our first two editions of our mock draft, but Queen seems like he has more upside and is a better fit for the modern NFL. Murray is a fine athlete in his own regard, but Queen is much more explosive and better in coverage.

Queen's side-to-side range is what truly sets him apart. 

Either way, the consensus is out that the Raiders likely will target receivers and linebackers in this year's draft. Any combination of Jeudy, Lamb, Murray or Queen will be huge for the Raiders' rise after a seven-win season. 

Why one NFL exec sees Tom Brady-to-Raiders as QB’s 'fallback position'

Why one NFL exec sees Tom Brady-to-Raiders as QB’s 'fallback position'

When there's smoke, there's fire. And until Tom Brady re-signs with the New England Patriots, rumors will keep swirling regarding him joining the Raiders in Las Vegas. 

Brady has spent his entire 20-year NFL career with the Patriots, but if he does move on, the Raiders could make sense. The Raiders' stellar rookie class from last season should take another step forward in 2020 and between coach Jon Gruden, general manager Mike Mayock and owner Mark Davis, the Silver and Black want to start their Las Vegas tenure with a bang.

This team still might be going through a bit of a rebuild, but there the above trio won't wait forever. They want wins. And nobody is better at that then Brady. 

But one NFL executive believes the Raiders aren't quite yet Brady's first option. 

“The Raiders become a fallback position for Brady in my view," the anonymous exec said to The Athletic's Mike Sando. "If it turns out Brady really wants to get away from Bill Belichick and he is out of there no matter what, then I think the Raiders become the next best possibility.”

The Patriots reportedly are willing to offer Brady upward of $30 million a year, but NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported earlier this month that Patriots owner Robert Kraft is willing to let the six-time Super Bowl champion see what's out on the market before coming back to the Patriots with his demands. If that's the case, it sounds like the Raiders are ready to open their wallets for the future Hall of Famer. 

longtime sportswriter Larry Fitzgerald Sr., -- who also is the father of Arizona Cardinals star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald Jr. -- dropped an eye-opener on Valentine's Day. 

Would the Raiders really be willing to give $60 million to a QB who will be 43 years old next season? The Raiders are slated to have around $55 million in salary cap room entering the offseason. Though they'd prefer to get Brady on a cheaper deal, the Raiders, in theory, can afford to give him a hefty sum. 

[RELATED: Why Raiders signing Brady could make sense for both sides]

This of course all depends on if Gruden and Co. are ready to move on from a much-younger quarterback Derek Carr. When you have a chance to add Tom Brady, though, you at least take a long look at the possibility. 

The Raiders certainly seem to have their eyes on Brady. But it could take a lot to break up a long marriage between a legendary QB and legendary coach in Brady and Bill Belichick.