With no playoffs for Raiders, a timeline of how the 2018 season fell apart


With no playoffs for Raiders, a timeline of how the 2018 season fell apart

We’ve finally reached the Raiders offseason, bringing a tortuous period to a close where Jon Gruden tore his roster down to the studs. The team finished 4-12, with far less talent than it had this time a year ago. The Raiders weren’t any good, but could’ve been better without several setbacks over the course of the season itself. There were some contributing incidents that took place during the offseason, but will start in training camp and work our way forward in a timeline of where things went south for the Silver and Black in 2018:

July 29: Raiders veterans report to training camp in Napa, but edge rusher Khalil Mack refused to do so without a new contract. The All-Pro was looking for a market-resetting deal for defensive players, and didn’t want to risk injury in football-related activities without long-term security. This prolonged Mack’s absence, which began by skipping the offseason program. There was tension between Mack’s camp and the Raiders, which would only escalate as time advanced.

Aug. 15: Jon Gruden calls Martavis Bryant the “white tiger,” referring to immense talent rarely on display after the receiver missed several camp practices battling migrane headaches. Bryant was also chided for not picking up the offensive system quickly, foreshadowing a messy relationship between player and team.

He was subsequently cut before the regular season and signed shortly thereafter. He was never a consistent target before ending up on injured reserve. He was there when the NFL banned him for violating conditions of his reinstatement following a suspension under the substance abuse policy.

That ended Bryant’s tenure with the team, making the third-round pick the Raiders traded to Pittsburgh for him a complete waste.

Sept. 1: Mack was traded to Chicago for a compensation package that included two first-round picks, though a second-rounder was shockingly given back to the Bears.

The season hinged on this trade, when optimism went out the window and Gruden started a roster teardown to acquire tools necessary for a full-scale roster rebuild this offseason. It was controversial -- many say ill-advised, even with a long holdout possible. The timing was odd, considering the Bears’ draft slot was a variable. That has proved to be a major flaw in the deal, with Mack making the Bears so good the 2019 first-round pick will fall near the bottom.

Sept. 19: Gruden and the Raiders tried to put the Mack trade in the past quickly, though his nationally-televised performances made that hard to do. Gruden didn’t help matters by saying, “pass rushers are hard to find.” That was played on loops across the country, reminding everyone the Raiders traded an elite pass rusher before the regular season began. The Mack trade was an overarching theme that hung over the season, and will until the Raiders start using the draft picks acquired for him to improve the roster.

Sept. 30: Donald Penn suffered a season-ending groin injury that thrust third-round pick Brandon Parker into the starting lineup at right tackle. Parker wasn’t all bad, but protection was an issue that wouldn’t have been as big if Penn were available all year, even at a new position.

Oct. 14: Marshawn Lynch was the team’s best offensive player early this season, and a leader on the field with his aggressive rushing style. His loss due to injury sent the offense into a bad place, struggling for first downs and touchdowns alike. This was a big blow to an offense that lost direction after Lynch went down.

Oct. 16: Derrick Johnson wasn’t used much and was given his release, a sign that some of the aging veterans signed in free agency weren’t going to work out. That left the Raiders to play young kids at key spots and let them grow up on the job.

Oct. 22 A.M.: Amari Cooper was traded to Dallas for a first-round pick, furthering the belief that Gruden was in the midst of a full-scale teardown and a pervading, though inaccurate theory that the Raiders were tanking.

The Raiders got great value for Cooper, a dynamic talent who can blow up at times and disappear at others. He would’ve cost a pretty penny when eligible for an extension, maybe more than he was worth. The Raiders cut bait when a first-round pick was offered. The Raiders got another top draft slot, and the Cowboys got a player who led them to the NFC East title. That’s a virtual win-win, though the Raiders were slammed for trading yet another superstar.

Oct. 22 P.M.: The Cooper trade went over like a lead balloon, and was followed with reports that quarterback Derek Carr had lost parts of the locker room and that Gruden’s moves had frustrated veteran portions of the roster. It was yet another distraction weighing the midseason down, forcing tight end Lee Smith to come to Carr’s defense. Gruden’s plan and the face of the Raiders' franchise were under siege at this point, and it would get worse before things got better.

Oct. 30 A.M.: Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie retired, becoming an example of veteran frustration with the Raiders and their direction under Jon Gruden. This 1-6 team was in the midst of a teardown and suddenly skewing younger, with many veterans disenchanted with Gruden’s vision for the season.

Oct. 30: The NFL trade deadline passed without any more Raiders shipped out, despite Karl Joseph and Gareon Conley reportedly on the block late in the trading window.

The Raiders tried to move Bruce Irvin and couldn’t do it, upsetting a veteran who was clearly being phased out of the Raiders plans.

Nov. 1: The Raiders reached rock bottom against the geographic rival 49ers on national television. They got beat in every way by a crappy team starting undrafted former practice squad quarterback Nick Mullens for the first time. He carved the Raiders up, and the 49ers run game ate the Raiders alive.

There were rational questions about whether players had given up, disproven only by improved effort in later games.

Nov. 3: Irvin wasn’t happy about a lack of playing time in recent games, and was finally waived when he couldn’t be traded. He ended up signing with his hometown Atlanta Falcons, and threw shade on his former team by saying, “I’m free!!” upon joining his first Falcons practice.

Nov. 11: The Raiders lost their fifth straight game by at least 14 points, a franchise record that was one short of the longest lopsided-loss stretch in NFL history. This was the toughest on-field sequence, including three games in which the offense failed to score a touchdown.

Dec. 10: Owner Mark Davis fired Reggie McKenzie with three games left in the season when the longtime GM decided to walk rather than finish out the season as a lame duck. Gruden made criticizing McKenzie’s draft picks a regular thing over the course of the season. He wasn’t often wrong about a lack of production from three classes starting in 2015, but it portended a Gruden-McKenzie fracture at season’s end. This breakup came as no surprise. Davis hoped Gruden and McKenzie could work together, but that didn’t pan out, and the Raiders have now replaced him with former NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock. Letting McKenzie walk was the final end of the previous era, and the new one is completely under Gruden’s control.

[RELATED: Report: Raiders to hire former Colts GM to support Mayock]

Dec. 11: The hits just kept on coming for the Silver and Black. The City of Oakland sued the Raiders and the NFL for antitrust violations and breach of contract, which prompted the Raiders to pull their lease offer to play the 2019 season at Oakland Coliseum. The Raiders are still looking for a place to play this fall.

Dec. 24: The Raiders finally had a good night at the office, beating Denver in what may have been their last game at Oakland Coliseum. The crowd was into it and partying well after the final whistle. Carr had a great night, and the Raiders defense played its best game all year. If it was the last game at the aging stadium, the Raiders sent it out right.

How Raiders' 2019 draft class is laying bedrock for sustained success

How Raiders' 2019 draft class is laying bedrock for sustained success

The Raiders assembled quite a collection of talent during last year’s NFL draft. Everyone knows that by now.

First-round safety Johnathan Abram, however, doesn’t want you to forget about those who came directly after.

“Don’t forget Alec Ingold. He’s the man,” Abram said on the Raiders Talk Podcast. “And don’t sleep on A.J. Cole, either. That guy can punt. He’s the real deal.”

Abram’s right. The Raiders even got significant contributions from undrafted players in 2019. Ingold’s the long-term solution at fullback, and Cole’s a specialist off to a good start.

The 2019 rookie class was highlighted by rookie of the year candidates in feature running back Josh Jacobs and 10-sack sensation/defensive end Maxx Crosby. Both guys were runners-up for the offensive and defensive awards, making the Raiders one of two teams in the last 15 years with top-two finishes in both, per the Associated Press' Josh Dubow.

This group showed great depth. Cornerback Trayvon Mullen excelled after assuming a starter’s role following the Gareon Conley trade. Hunter Renfrow proved a quality slot receiver all season but found great form and chemistry with quarterback Derek Carr at its end.

Tight end Foster Moreau was a significant contributor as a run blocker and red-zone receiving target.

The Raiders' rookie class was awesome, despite No. 4 overall pick Clelin Ferrell not quite living up to his draft slot in where he moved around the defensive line and got really sick before midseason. Abram was a non-factor in 2019 after missing 15 games with a shoulder injury.

Members of this Raiders rookie class believe they’re the bedrock of the Raiders rebuild, and 2019 ended with the arrow pointing up. They understand that fact, even if it goes unspoken.

“We talk about it here and there, but it’s more of something we just know,” Crosby said. “We know what we’re here for and how good we can be. Me and John and Josh and Cle and everybody else, we’re all close. For us, we know what Gruden brought us here to do. We’re grinding away and preparing to get in the playoffs and go win some games and eventually win a Super Bowl.”

[RELATED: Raiders safety Abram learned 'valuable lessons' after injury]

The Raiders draft class is recognized among last year’s best, if not right at the top. The group was first in sacks and total yards from scrimmage. They were first in receptions and rushing yards.

It has growth potential, with high ceilings and improvement all around. Ferrell vowed to return a completely different player. Abram will be back and healthy in 2020.

And while offseason rankings don’t mean much, Moreau took umbrage with an NFL Media list placing the Raiders rookie class at No. 7 in the league.

That could fuel fire down the line as the Raiders try to build a roster capable of sustained success. The group had high hopes, with expectations even higher with a season’s experience in hand. It doesn’t just fall on the higher picks. The entire group sees good days ahead.

“That was the best part of it,” Abram said. “No matter what round we came in, we put all that behind us the day we showed up at the facility. We were all hand-selected and brought here for a purpose. We just have to get the job done.”

Are Raiders willing to offer Tom Brady two-year, $60M contract?

Are Raiders willing to offer Tom Brady two-year, $60M contract?

It's February and those Tom Brady-Raiders rumors aren't going anywhere.

The 42-year-old quarterback, who will be 43 when the 2020 season starts, will become a free agent when the new league year starts in March. While conventional wisdom dictates that Brady will return to the New England Patriots, along with a souped-up supporting cast, the Raiders reportedly are set to pursue the six-time Super Bowl champion should he make it to free agency.

It likely will take a hefty sum to lure Brady away from Foxboro, Mass., and longtime sportswriter Larry Fitzgerald Sr., -- who also is the father of Arizona Cardinals star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald Jr. -- dropped this nugget on Twitter on Friday.

It's worth noting, obviously, that Fitzgerald didn't say who told him that or give any reason to believe this is a legitimate rumor.

But, that number -- $30 million -- likely is around what it will take in reality for Jon Gruden to have a chance at luring Brady to Las Vegas, which he absolutely should try to do if TB12 will hear him out. The Raiders are slated to have around $55 million in salary cap room entering the offseason. While they'd prefer to get Brady a touch cheaper price tag in order to spend on a defense that needs severe upgrades, the Raiders, in theory, can afford to hand over the king's ransom to Brady if that's what it takes. 

Of course, two years and $60 million is a lot to give a quarterback who could lose his fastball and battle with Father Time at any moment. 

[RELATED: AB won't close door on Raiders return]

The smart money is on Brady returning to New England, Derek Carr being the starter in Las Vegas and Gruden using his cap money to improve his defense. But if Brady is thinking about leaving the Patriots, the Raiders know they'll have to put their money where their playoff hopes are.