The Raiders had so many needs heading into this offseason that they couldn’t simply check boxes in order on a priority list.
General manager Mike Mayock wants his staff to be nimble, to read the room and react appropriately. See a talent you can’t pass up? Get him. See a perfect scheme fit? See a bargain? Get him. Even if it means some gaping holes remain.
That’s how the Raiders have navigated the initial waves of NFL free agency. They have added talent in its prime, with trades and contracts with eight-figure payouts that maybe aren’t as daunting as they first appeared.
They can get out from under deals with Trent Brown, Lamarcus Joyner and Tyrell Williams after two years, one for Williams if they so choose. We’re still not sure about Antonio Brown’s contract restructure, the details of which haven’t been made public.
Contract specifics, however, are for another day and another story. This one’s about a Raiders team that got better over the last week, with a long way yet to go.
The Raiders have gaping holes left on their roster, especially at edge rusher. They have to figure out their running back situation, who will step in if tight end Jared Cook leaves, and who will be quarterback Derek Carr’s primary backup. A middle linebacker might be nice. So would some cornerback depth. And maybe another interior lineman with experience at center.
Avenues remain to improve the roster from here. Several of them, actually. The Raiders will continue fleshing out the roster with lower-tier free agents, before an NFL draft in which they have four picks in the top 35.
Starters must be found in that bunch for the Raiders to be competitive, and that’s a tough ask, even for talent rookies who will become quality pros in time.
"We need to hit on a high, high percentage,” Mayock said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “Free agency, draft, college free agency, everywhere.”
These free agents should help the Raiders significantly, but the draft will decide how competitive they’ll be. It’s tough to imagine a worst-to-first scenario that’s become relatively common in this modern NFL. There was too far to go in one offseason.
Even notoriously impatient coach Jon Gruden understands Rome wasn’t built in a day. The Raiders have played it smart during early portions of free agency, but they still have a long ways to go in this roster rebuild.
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“There’s a lot of urgency, since I’ve been here,” Gruden said. “We have obvious areas on this roster that we want to improve. … We have some resources in the draft to continue that process.
"As I’ve said all along, I don’t think you can rush this. You have to do what you think is right. Players don’t become available all the time. You can’t make all the necessary improvements [at once]. It takes a bit of time, but we’re confident we’re headed in the right direction.”