Raiders keeping a close eye on standout edge rushers at Senior Bowl


Raiders keeping a close eye on standout edge rushers at Senior Bowl

MOBILE, Ala. -- University of Texas defensive end Charles Omenihu spent his Senior Bowl week working with Jon Gruden and the Raiders coaching staff.

His primary goal was to replicate what he had put on tape as the Big XII defensive lineman of the year.

There wasn’t any extra incentive to perform well specifically for the Raiders, who desperately need pass rushers. Omenihu didn’t know just how deficient the Silver and Black are at his position, and was shocked to hear the Raiders had just 13 sacks last year.

“Really? Wow,” Omenihu said in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. “I had 9.5 myself.”

Rookie defensive tackle Maurice Hurst led the team with four from the inside. There was little to no pressure off the edge, even before Bruce Irvin got released.

Edge rusher is obviously the team’s largest and most pressing need this offseason. It’s likely the Raiders acquire more than one edge rusher, likely two and possibly three, through free agency and the draft. They are keeping a close eye on that position during the pre-draft process.

"Are we focused in on defensive ends at [the Senior Bowl]? Of course,” Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said. “We’d be dumb if we weren’t. But we need pretty much everything on defense. We’re looking at every position."

[RELATED: Mayock aims to unify all coaches and scouts]

The Raiders own the No. 4 overall NFL draft pick and have four selections in the top 35, meaning they could take more than one pass rusher high.

Will that be Omenihu, one of six defensive ends featured on the North squad? He stood out during the week, and expects his name to be called early in the NFL draft.

[RELATED: Here's who stood out the most during Senior Bowl practice]

“I’d like to be drafted as high as possible,” the former Longhorn said. “I wanted to show that, if you draft me, you won’t regret it.”

Should the Raiders select an edge rusher from the Senior Bowl ranks, they’ll do so with a high level of confidence. They spent three practice days and countless meetings working with the North squad, which features Omenihu, Boston College’s Zach Allen and Oregon’s Jalen Jelks.

Jelks and Omenihu had strong showings, though Allen was a smidge more inconsistent than the other two as a pass rusher according to sources at the Senior Bowl. Allen was moved around quite a bit, and fared well at times versus the run. Charleston’s John Cominsky also jumped on the radar from a small school. TCU's L.J. Collier may have been the most consistent of the bunch, CBS Sports mentioned, and moved around quite a bit. 

The Senior Bowl’s best edge rushers might be on the 49er-run South squad. Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat was the best edge rusher in Mobile during the practice week. Louisiana Tech’s Jaylon Ferguson had some moments, though there were some mixed opinions about him talking to scouts and coaches who watched practice. Old Dominion’s Oshane Ximines also caught some eyes working with the 49ers staff.

The Raiders had prolonged meetings with the South team on Friday, allowing them to leave with solid background and insight from everyone who plays here at the Senior Bowl.

“We have some guys who we’re watching, guys who we’re moving around on the line,” Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “The other team has some really exciting guys who could go in the top half of the draft.”

The Raiders are keeping a close eye on all of those players, though only a few would be considerations with their Nos. 24 and 27 overall picks. The No. 4 slot will most assuredly go to a talent who didn’t play in the Senior Bowl this week, but there solid players here who could help the Raiders in terms of depth and productivity off the edge.

Their 13 sacks in 2018 were 17 fewer than the NFL’s second-worst team. They need more, and will likely need an immediate impact from one or more of the edge rushers imported this offseason.

Omenihu wants to leave the entire league with a good impression after the Senior Bowl, heading into the NFL scouting combine and pro days.

“I want my performance here to echo what I’ve put on tape,” he said. “I believe I have tape showing me screaming off the edge.”

Tom Brady says he's 'open-minded' about uncertain future with Patriots

Tom Brady says he's 'open-minded' about uncertain future with Patriots

When you think about the New England Patriots, you don't see Steve Grogan, you picture Tom Brady. Aside from six Super Bowl rings for Brady and a trophy case full of accolades and records, there could be one big difference between the two quarterbacks. 

Grogan was a late-round draft pick who spent his entire 16-year career as a Patriots QB. Brady famously was a late-round draft pick who has spent his entire 20-year career as a Pats QB. But that could change. 

With rumors swirling that Brady might move on from New England this offseason, the 42-year-old addressed his future in his weekly interview with Westwood One Sports Radio on Sunday. 

"It's only been a couple weeks and I've had a lot of time with my family the last couple weeks and just been decompressing from the season," Brady said. "I've said earlier I'm open-minded about the process, and at the same time I love playing football and I want to continue to play and do a great job. I'm looking forward to what's ahead.

"Whatever the future may bring, I'll embrace it with open arms."

Brady is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career on March 18. The Athletic's Jay Glazer recently called the Raiders going after Brady with their move to Las Vegas a "no-brainer." And Brady was spotted in Sin City on Saturday night talking to none other than Raiders owner Mark Davis at UFC 246. 

The Las Vegas Review-Journal's Adam Hill spoke with UFC president Dana White -- who's a friend of Brady -- Saturday night after the fights, and White said a Raiders-Brady pairing absolutely "has legs." 

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is set to make $18.9 million next season, but the Raiders would save $16.5 million and take a cap hit of just $5 million if they trade or release Carr prior to June 1. 

[RELATED: Brady offers Jimmy G advice before NFC Championship Game]

Brady wouldn't come cheap, even at his age, though he certainly would create an insane amount of buzz and sell boatloads of tickets in the Silver and Black's first season in Las Vegas. Raider fans might also finally have reason to forget about the Tuck Rule, 18 years after the fact. 

Buckle up, things could get interesting. This is Las Vegas, after all.

Tom Brady to Las Vegas Raiders 'has legs,' UFC's Dana White believes

Tom Brady to Las Vegas Raiders 'has legs,' UFC's Dana White believes

Given the uneven performance Derek Carr had in the Raiders' final season in Oakland, it wouldn't be surprising if the team brought in another quarterback to start for the franchise' in its first season in Las Vegas.

Whether it's veterans like Cam Newton and Marcus Mariota or draft prospects like Tua Tagovaiola and Justin Herbert, there's no shortage of possibilities for Jon Gruden to consider as Carr's replacement and/or backup.

By the looks of the Connor McGregor-Cowboy Cerrone UFC fight Saturday night, it appears there's another name on the list, and it's the biggest one possible.

Yep. That would be Raiders owner Mark Davis in the white, and six-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady in the black leather jacket on the right. If that doesn't get the rumor mill swirling, the following context might do the trick.

According to Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, UFC president Dana White -- who is a friend of Brady's and already is a suiteholder at Allegiant Stadium -- believes a Brady-Raiders pairing isn't all that farfetched. 

Carr is set to make $18.9 million in base salary in 2020, so it's difficult to see a scenario in which he and Brady are on the same team. Brady might be the best QB of all-time, and simply put, he's not taking a major pay cut. However, the Raiders would save $16.5 million and take a cap hit of just $5 million if they trade or release Carr prior to June 1, which would appear to be a precondition for bringing Brady to Sin City.

Of course, if the Raiders did that, it would be under the assumption that Brady could regain some of his three-time MVP form -- which, if you watched him in New England this past season, is nowhere near a certainty. In fact, one could argue that Carr is a superior QB to Brady right now, thus making that hypothetical move both illogical and unnecessary. While throwing for nearly an identical number of passing yards in 2019, Carr posted a far superior completion percentage than Brady (70.4 percent to 60.8 percent) and averaged 1.3 more yards per pass attempt. Of the 30 quarterbacks that qualified for ESPN's Total QBR rating -- which values the quarterback on all play types on a 0-100 scale adjusted for the strength of opposing defenses faced -- Carr was ranked ninth (62.4), while Brady was ranked 17th (53.7)

[RELATED: Mayock gives glowing review of Carr's 2019 with Raiders]

One would imagine that Gruden knows what he has in Carr, and considering his lukewarm-at-best endorsement of the Raiders' incumbent QB at the conclusion of the season, it wouldn't be surprising if the team opted to go in another direction. Brady certainly would provide plenty of excitement -- and would sell plenty of tickets -- but it would also be a big gamble on the Raiders' part.

Given it's Las Vegas, maybe that's the way to go.