Raiders

Raiders agree to deal with former first-round running back

Raiders agree to deal with former first-round running back

Update (3:09 p.m.): The Raiders have officially signed running back Doug Martin to a one-year contract.

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The Raiders entered this offseason with five running backs under contract.

Now they have seven. For the time being, anyway.

Former Tampa Bay rusher Doug Martin agreed on terms of a one-year contract with the Silver and Black, NFL Network reported on Thursday. The Raiders also added fullback Keith Smith on a two-year deal. The Martin contract, however, should spark some upheaval on the depth chart. 

Team and player have been working towards a deal for weeks, after Martin and head coach Jon Gruden met in person. Gruden came away with a positive impression, and believes Martin’s ready to rebound after consecutive disappointing seasons.

Martin, 29, has averaged 2.9 yards per carry over the past two seasons, after being suspended for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drugs policy.

The Oakland native, who grew up in Stockton, has exceeded 1,400 yards twice in six professional seasons. He had 1,402 yards (4.9 ypc) in 2015, his last season as a dominant rusher.

Martin’s addition should push someone off the depth chart. Many will assume that’s feature back Marshawn Lynch. Don't go there. Lynch was productive in the season’s second half especially, and still has it a roughly a month from his 32nd birthday. Raiders coaches want him on the team, as their feature back.

Lynch’s future could find clarity on Sunday, when he’s owed a $1 million roster bonus. Raider coaches hope Lynch is their feature back next season. 

Martin could provide depth behind him, or another feature back. 

DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard have similar rushing styles, and Martin could be a secondary option over one of those guys if Lynch is retained.

The Raiders also employ fullback Jamize Olawale and first-year player Elijah Hood.

Another running back could still be added in the draft, as the Raiders look for long-term solutions at this pivotal spot.

Smith should aid the Raiders' special teams effort at the least. 

Why Raiders will keep close eye on NFL franchise tags in 2019 offseason

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AP

Why Raiders will keep close eye on NFL franchise tags in 2019 offseason

NFL teams can start tagging players Tuesday. Don’t expect the Raiders to slap one on any of their prospective free agents during this two-week tagging window, but they will keep a close eye on others who do.

There’s a glut of top-flight edge rushers set to hit the market, and though most won’t reach it thanks to franchise (and, far less likely) transition tags. There are backup plans enacted when teams can’t reach a long-term pact with an elite player.

As a quick refresher, players who sign and play on the tag get a lofty sum (it varies based upon the tag designation) for one year of service. It’s a tool teams use to retain a top player’s rights – the Raiders could’ve used one on Khalil Mack this offseason had they played hardball and retained his rights without a long-term contract – but it’s not a long-term solution.

It’s typically a security blanket to keep a star player, and tags could get applied in volume this offseason on edge rushers especially. Dallas (DeMarcus Lawrence), Houston (Jadeveon Clowney), Seattle (Frank Clark) and Kansas City (Dee Ford) could all essentially take pass rushers off the market. Other teams can sign franchise players, but it costs a pretty penny and draft compensation.

The Raiders wouldn’t go that big to sign a veteran free agent, especially after being unwilling to lock Mack down last summer.

Detroit’s Ziggy Ansah, New England’s Trey Flowers and Minnesota’s Anthony Barr are also possible tag targets, though those guys seem less likely to receive a designation.

The more guys who get tagged, the more competitive things could get for remaining veteran free agents. There are plenty available in the NFL draft – the Raiders could snag one with the No. 4 overall pick – but adding a veteran leader up front might help a young defensive line.

The Raiders might go after tag prospects at other positions, so they’ll want as few as possible to open options when free agents can sign with other teams in mid-March.

[RELATED: Raiders less affected by Jaylon Ferguson's NFL Scouting Combine ban]

For those who don’t think the Raiders are out of the tag business on spec, only Jared Cook could be considered a tag candidate. He’s coming off a career year, but he’ll be 32 soon and the franchise tag for tight ends is approximately $10.9 million. That’s too steep for one year of Cook, who could end up leaving Oakland after two solid seasons for the Raiders.

The tag window opens Tuesday and closes March 5, and the Raiders will keep an eye on what the tags do to shrink the available free-agent talent pool.

2019 NFL mock draft: Mel Kiper Jr. first-round picks for 49ers, Raiders

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USATSI/AP

2019 NFL mock draft: Mel Kiper Jr. first-round picks for 49ers, Raiders

No team will change the fortunes of the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft quite like the Oakland Raiders, and that much is clear in the latest mock draft from ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.

In his second mock draft of the year, Kiper Jr. projected the Raiders would select three different players in the first round than he did a month ago. Oakland has three selections after trading edge rusher Khalil Mack and wide receiver Amari Cooper, both of whom were first-round picks themselves. 

Meanwhile, the Raiders' counterparts across the Bay are projected to maintain their focus on the edge. Here's how Kiper Jr. thinks the first round will shake out for the 49ers and Raiders. 

49ers, No. 2: Josh Allen, OLB, Kentucky

What Kiper Jr. is saying: "Two former first-round picks along the defensive line (Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas) have struggled in San Francisco, but neither has the pure pass-rushing ability of Allen, who had 17 sacks and five forced fumbles last season. Allen would fill a glaring need."

Analysis: San Francisco ranked in the bottom-third of the league in sacks (37) in 2018. There are options in free agency, but adding a cost-controlled top prospect would help the 49ers preserve their already abundant salary-cap space and allow them to address their pass-rushing deficiency immediately. Allen appears as pro-ready as any player in this draft, and is a strong consolation prize for missing out on Nick Bosa.

Raiders, No. 4: Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan

What Kiper Jr. is saying: "Expect coach Jon Gruden and new [general manager] Mike Mayock to target a pass-rusher with one of their three first-round picks. Gary (6-6, 283) has some versatility to kick inside and play tackle, but he has a high ceiling as an end. When he's locked in, he can dominate a game."

Analysis: Kiper Jr. had Gary seventh on his big board a couple weeks ago, and projected him to be selected ninth in his first mock draft.  Gary said last week he is "the best player in the draft," and although that confidence probably isn't why he's moved in Kiper Jr.'s eyes, the Raiders could certainly use some bravado on the edge after trading Mack just before the season.

Raiders, No. 24: Byron Murphy, CB, Washington

What Kiper Jr. is saying: "We know that Jon Gruden loves playmakers -- I heard him talk about them for years. And Murphy is one of the best defensive playmakers in this class, a ball hawk who had seven interceptions over two seasons at Washington."

Analysis: Murphy might have been the best college cornerback in 2018, and he was a first-team All-American by Pro Football Focus' estimation. Kiper Jr. projected Murphy as the third CB off of the board in his latest mock draft, so the redshirt sophomore could represent great value for Oakland if he falls to the back end of the first round.

Raiders, No. 27, Brian Burns, Florida State

What Kiper Jr. is saying: "This match is all about helping the Raiders improve their pass rush, as the 6-5, 235-pound Burns is a pure speed edge rusher. He needs to get a little bigger, but time in an NFL strength and conditioning program should help. "

Analysis: Two edge rushers in Silver and Black? After the Raiders posted the fewest sacks by a team in the last 10 years, that'd be music to Mayock and Gruden's ears. Last year, Burns recorded three fewer sacks (10) by himself than Oakland's entire pass rush.