Raiders' Maxx Crosby proves an NFL draft steal with 10-sack rookie season


Raiders' Maxx Crosby proves an NFL draft steal with 10-sack rookie season

Maxx Crosby took Drew Lock down twice in the Raiders' regular-season finale. He split the first sack with Johnathan Hankins and claimed the second as his own. He flung the Broncos quarterback to the ground and forced a fumble in the process, with Clelin Ferrell recovering to give the Raiders a chance to erase a deficit.

The Silver and Black weren’t able to complete a comeback and lost 16-15 that day in Denver, but those plays illustrate the profound impact Crosby had on the Raiders this season.

They also hit a milestone, giving Crosby 10 sacks on the season.

“You know, that to me is a jaw-dropping number not a lot of people know about,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “I mean, he had 10 sacks as a rookie.”

That’s a massive number for a fourth-round NFL draft pick from a small school you’ve never heard of scheduled to be a situational pass rusher. Crosby thrived in a full-time role earned in Week 4 and sustained is throughout an excellent season.

He finished with 46 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and four passes defensed. He was a solid edge run defender and proved a prolific pass rusher with an always-revving motor. Crosby had 10 sacks, five quarterback hits and 29 hurries. He won on 6.4 percent of his pressures as a rookie, a number that improved as the season wore on. His rookie sack total was second only to Josh Allen.

Those numbers vaulted Crosby into the Defensive Rookie of the Year conversation. That award’s going to 49ers rookie Nick Bosa and deservedly so, but that shouldn’t discount Crosby’s season or the Raiders’ excellent return on investment for a fourth-round pick.

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Crosby’s progress was slowed by a broken hand in the preseason, but he quickly found his way and made significant progress on the job.

“I think I’ve taken strides,” Crosby said. “The main thing is mentally being confident and trusting my technique and trusting coaches. That allows you to play 100 miles per hour. That takes time, and I feel like I finally started to get in a groove.

Crosby hit a groove around midseason, where the pressures were more consistent. That ramped the entire Raiders pass rush up a notch, especially during a three-game winning streak that pushed the Silver and Black into serious playoff contention. His best game came in Week 11, when he had eight pressures, including four sacks, against the Cincinnati Bengals. That capped a run of at least seven pressures in three of four games and showed how impactful he could be.

Fellow rookie edge rusher Clelin Ferrell had a monster game in that mix, and those two leaned on each other during good times just as they had in early-season struggles.

“I’ve seen growth in Maxx,” Ferrell said. “We keep each other grounded. We’ve been through the ups and downs and everything people have said about us, and he has always kept a level head through this whole entire thing. That’s the biggest thing, and I feel like I aid into that. If I’m having a bad day, he keeps my spirits high. If he’s having a bad day, I keep his spirits high. We both know that, at the end of the day, we need to get it done together. Me and Maxx, we’re the future.”

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Crosby wasn’t content with his huge rookie season, knowing there’s better ahead for him and the entire Raiders defensive line.

“We’re off to a good start, but we have tons of room to grow,” Crosby said. “It didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to [with a playoff spot], but we’re going to keep working hard and get one.”

Jadeveon Clowney-Raiders rumors more fantasy than reality at moment

Jadeveon Clowney-Raiders rumors more fantasy than reality at moment

The Raiders made massive improvements to their defense during the offseason, hoping to inject some life into a unit that ranked 30th in DVOA in 2019.

But with one big fish still swimming in the free agency ocean, the Silver and Black might not be done yet.

Jadeveon Clowney has been biding his time during free agency, waiting for an offer that matches what he believes he is worth. That number started at between $20-22 million and reportedly has been lowered to around $18 million. Clowney reportedly has an offer from the Cleveland Browns with the Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans also in the mix. On Monday. Cecil Lammey of 104.3 The Fan in Denver reported that the Raiders had joined the party and offered Clowney a contract. He also reported that head coach Jon Gruden would like to up the offer to get Clowney. Lammey reports the offer is lower than two or three other teams and owner Mark Davis and general manager Mike Mayock are hesitant to increase it.

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This is where we need to separate fantasy from reality.

Clowney is a talented player and he undoubtedly would help a Silver and Black pass rush that has struggled since Khalil Mack was shipped off to the Chicago Bears. Clowney is a sexy name and it's easy to automatically plug him on the Raiders' defensive line along with Maliek Collins, Maurice Hurst and Clelin Ferrell/Maxx Crosby and see an improved unit that can give teams problems in the AFC West.

But that $18-20 million is a massive price tag for a player whose production doesn't match the number he's currently asking for. Clowney notched just three sacks last season for the Seahawks and has yet to record a double-digit sack season since being draft with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Per Spotrac, Clowney's projected open-market is around $17.1 million. So his initial asking price already overshoots his on-field production and it's fair to see a number of teams asking to see more sacks, pressures and QB hits before paying the $17 million.

Clowney's health also is of concern. While the South Carolina product only has missed nine games in five seasons, there are some issues about the core and knee injuries he's sustained during his career. Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it's difficult for players to travel and get evaluated by a team's medical staff and that makes owners unwilling to open their checkbook.

This brings us to the second hurdle in any Clowney-Raiders marriage. According to the NFL Player's Association public salary cap report, the Raiders currently have $7.9 million in cap space. But that number will shrink once the Raiders have agreed to terms with all of their recent draft picks, including first-round picks Henry Ruggs and Damon Arnette. At the moment, the Raiders still need to clear some cap space in order to sign their entire rookie class. They simply lack the cap space, at the moment, to add Clowney at the number he's been demanding.

Of course, there are always to fit a player in. But for the Raiders to add Clowney at the number he wants, it likely would require a large chunk of the cash to come in the form of a signing bonus and the Raiders still would have to clear space by cutting some players. Right guard Gabe Jackson's contract became guaranteed last month. Quarterback Derek Carr's contract is the Raiders' most pliable but he's set for what could be a career year in Las Vegas.

Plain and simple: It's difficult to see the Raiders finding a way to fit Clowney in at his preferred number.

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The Raiders currently are relying on Crosby, Ferrell and free-agent addition Carl Nassib to provide the heat off the edge. Last season, the Raiders recorded just 32 sacks, a number that must improve for them to make way in a tough AFC West.

Increasing pressure on the quarterback is paramount for the Raiders, but Clowney isn't a double-digit sack maven. He's been more of a run-stopper during his NFL career and his production hasn't been equal to the contract he desires. He's a big name who will come with a price tag he hasn't earned.

If the Raiders can find a way to get him at a discount as the season approaches it obviously would be worth it. But right now, any pact between Clowney and the Raiders is more fiction than reality.

Raiders discussing fan options at Allegiant as 2020 NFL season nears


Raiders discussing fan options at Allegiant as 2020 NFL season nears

As the NFL regular season approaches, assuming the rise in COVID-19 cases doesn’t cancel it, the Raiders are having ongoing internal discussions about a number of different options and approaches for a rabid season-ticket base that completely sold out brand new Allegiant Stadium.

As the Raiders continue to sort through the situation, they have indefinitely pushed back the deadline for final payment on 2020 season tickets. Meanwhile, longtime Raiders fans like Kenny King Jr., a Northern California resident and 2020 season-ticket holder, is holding out hope he will be front and center when the Raiders play their first season in Las Vegas.

“I definitely do intend to go to games this year and have already booked for the opener and Chiefs games,” said King, the son of former Raiders running back Kenny King.

Read more at the Las Vegas Review-Journal