The Raiders have made several huge trades during the Jon Gruden era. The latest came Monday, shipping former first-round draft pick Gareon Conley to Houston for a third-round pick.
A full week remains before the Oct. 29 NFL trade deadline, leaving plenty of time to make more moves to either acquire talent or draft capital vital to this roster rebuild.
The Raiders are in an interesting spot at 3-3, currently the AFC’s No. 7 seed, sitting just outside the playoff picture. They’re a half-game behind Houston for a coveted postseason spot and play the Texans on Sunday in a pivotal conference matchup nearing the season’s halfway point.
The Raiders will be active discussing trade possibilities over the next week and are expected to be buyers, armed with two first-round picks and three third-rounders. They can go after most anyone they want, though the capital is vital to the long-term plan of building a young foundation through the NFL draft.
It’s hard to see the Raiders shipping a first-round pick, but those third-round selections could come in handy this week. That could mean they essentially trade Conley from a position of strength -- they’re deep and young at cornerback -- and use one of the third-rounders to fortify a position of weakness without hindering them much on draft day.
It’s hard to predict what Gruden will do, except this: He’s not afraid to be bold. Whether the deal works out is another matter, but he could try to accelerate the team’s progress with a big move in trade.
Here are a few targets the Raiders should consider, that could help rush the passer, add linebacker depth or even contribute to a receiver corps being revamped as this season goes along, with pros and cons of adding a particular player.
DL Michael Bennett, New England Patriots
Pros: Bennett doesn’t seem thrilled with his role in New England and was suspended against the Jets after an argument with his position coach. He’s well into his 30s but has always gotten to the quarterback and would have a huge presence along the Raiders defensive front. He would naturally fit a four-man front and help against the run and pass.
Given his perceived dissatisfaction in New England and willingness to speak his mind, the price might not be excessive to land someone so talented. He’s older, but can still play at a high level.
Cons: He’s set to make $7 million in his age 34 season, but his 2020 employment is based on a team option, per overthecap.com. While an increased role in Oakland is a lock, continued winning is not. Might he be upset getting shipped from a Super Bowl favorite to a team that could fall out of the playoff picture?
DE Carlos Dunlap, Cincinnati Bengals
Pros: Dunlap worked with Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther for years and should be able to step right in and contribute due to his scheme knowledge. He’s a massive player at 6-foot-6 and 280 pounds. He only had one sack this season but has been getting pressure and is a guy who has at least eight sacks for six straight seasons. He’s going to produce.
He’s 30 now, and should still have some good years left. Dunlap could also mentor a fleet of young Raiders pass rushers while anchoring one end. He’s also under contract and could be an expensive, yet controllable asset they could move on from if thing don’t work out long term.
Cons: This is a big one. Dunlap hasn’t played since Week 5 due to a knee injury but has been shockingly durable throughout his career. He also doesn’t come cheap, with hefty base salaries of $7.8 million in 2020 and $10.1 million in 2021. They can afford those sums or get out from under them if he doesn’t work out long term.
Edge rusher Ryan Kerrigan, Washington
Pros: The Raiders need production up front, and Kerrigan could certainly provide that. He has never had less than nine sacks in his career and has 97 over eight-plus seasons. He isn’t cheap but is coming up on the end of his deal, with Washington unlikely to be competitive before it expires.
The Raiders could add a leader and regular producer up front to anchor the line and take pressure off younger players to make an instant impact. He’s owed $11.5 million in base salary next season but the number isn’t guaranteed. The Raiders could rent, or lock in his 2020 salary and keep him around to start their Las Vegas run.
Cons: Kerrigan has logged a lot of miles already, hovering around 850 snaps a season since his rookie year. He also isn’t a perfect scheme fit, generally known as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He is 249 pounds and could rush off the edge in a more tradition 4-3 Raiders front. He also only has three sacks thus far, but production could increase by getting off a bad team.
Another hitch: Washington might make a Kerrigan trade cost prohibitive considering how well liked this long-tenured edge rusher is. It takes two to tango. Will Washington dance?
LB Preston Brown, Cincinnati Bengals
Pros: Brown seems to have fallen out of favor in Cincinnati and could be available for cheap. That’s because he has struggled this season, so he should be available for cheap. The Raiders don’t necessarily need a starting linebacker, with Tahir Whitehead and Nicholas Morrow playing most every snap.
They are woefully thin at that spot, however, and Brown could learn the scheme while providing depth and injury protection at an important spot. It might cost a draft pick way down the board, which might make this depth acquisition a possibility.
Cons: Will this move change the Raiders fortunes? Probably not, unless Morrow or Whitehead get hurt. One could argue for saving the draft pick over making the trade, but the Raiders are so thin there. It depends on how much confidence they have in Justin Phillips to play significant snaps if a player goes down.
WR A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
Pros: When healthy, he’s a true No. 1 receiver who must be respected and feared. That’s something the Raiders don’t have and is the missing link for a truly dominant offense. Green would also set the receiver corps right, with Tyrell Williams as a No. 2 and solid options in Zay Jones and Trevor Davis after that.
If he can get healthy soon after a bad ankle injury, he could help the Raiders down the stretch and become a free agent at season’s end.
Cons: There are a few problems with this move. Green won’t be cheap despite possibly being a rental. He also isn’t expected to return until after the trade deadline, so there’s no sure thing he gets back to 100 percent this season.
Also, how many receivers should the Raiders trade for? They’ve acquired three since March. And don’t forget that this NFL draft class is loaded with quality receivers.
They’re better off standing pat at the position and grabbing an excellent, controllable prospect this spring.