What's standing in the way of Raiders' quest for Jon Gruden reunion

What's standing in the way of Raiders' quest for Jon Gruden reunion

The Raiders are officially in the midst of a coaching search.

Well, sort of. The technical term both applies and doesn’t, considering they need a new head coach after firing Jack Del Rio Sunday yet have already locked in on their guy.

Jon Gruden is expected to become the next head coach, though the Raiders weren’t thrilled that became common knowledge before the regular-season finale. Owner Mark Davis captained the ship and the circle was kept tight – even trusted confidant and general manager Reggie McKenzie was kept in the dark -- but obviously expanded as a Gruden-Raiders reunion moved farther down the road.

ESPN broke news about Gruden, an ESPN employee, being tempted by a blockbuster offer to coach the team he ran from 1998-2001. Al Davis traded him to Tampa Bay, and he led the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory over the Raiders.

It’s become clear that Raiders owner Mark Davis has a plan to lock Gruden down. That plan, it seems, is going to work.

There are a few hurdles to clear before that happens.

The Raiders have to interview at least one minority candidate to satisfy the Rooney Rule. They’d like to interview a few more options as well, though it might be tough getting good candidates through the door with Gruden as the real target.

Gruden is also scheduled to call Saturday’s AFC playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans for ESPN, and will reportedly honor that commitment.

That’ll likely push a formal announcement into next week. 

The Raiders took care of one piece of business on Monday, a source said, telling Del Rio’s assistants they can start looking for other jobs and get out of their contract should they find one.

Gruden has reached out to possible assistants in recent weeks, with reports streaming in about possible additions to the staff.

Gruden will obviously construct his own coaching staff, but personnel people could be added to McKenzie’s department. McKenzie’s influence will be dulled once Gruden’s on board. It’s uncertain whether Gruden will have complete control over personnel decisions, but he’ll have significant say and influence at the least, maybe more that McKenzie. We’ll have to wait and see on that front.

The Raiders said in a statement announcing Del Rio’s departure they won’t have further comment until an announcement is made.

Arden Key signs, entire Raiders 2018 draft class now under contract


Arden Key signs, entire Raiders 2018 draft class now under contract

The Raiders drafted nine players back in April. Now they’re all under contract.

Third-round edge rusher Arden Key was the last to ink his rookie deal, putting pen to paper on a four-year rookie deal Friday morning.

Key will make an estimated $3.57 million over the league of the deal with a $834k signing bonus, per athletic salary site

The current collective bargaining agreement and its rookie wage scale makes signing draft picks far easier, with little wiggle room to negotiate deals.

The Raiders locked up their last rookie the day after the offseason program’s conclusion. NFL teams largely go quiet during this time, until training camps begin in late July.

The Raiders are excited about Key’s potential. The LSU product believes he’s a first-round talent who dropped due to off-field concerns and a drop in his 2017 production over the previous year.

Key has flashed great athleticism, quickness and bend. He could make an immediate impact as a third edge rusher behind Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin.

“Arden Key,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said, “has got some special pass-rush ability.”

Reports: Raiders WR Martavis Bryant's standing with NFL in question

Reports: Raiders WR Martavis Bryant's standing with NFL in question

The Raiders gave up significant draft capital to acquire receiver Martavis Bryant. The trade cost a third-round pick, something the Silver and Black were willing to sacrifice for a game-breaking talent missing from their arsenal.

They might've traded for a player who will be unavailable. The Las Vegas Review Journal reported Thursday night that the Raiders are concerned the NFL will discipline Bryant. The report also states discipline is believed to stem from poor standing with the substance abuse policy.

That would be news to Bryant. As of late Friday morning, a source told NBC Sports Bay Area, the NFL had not notified Bryant about issues with his standing with the league.

An NFL spokesman declined comment when asked if the league was considering discipline for Bryant.

Bryant violated the NFL substance abuse policy multiple times while playing in Pittsburgh. The Clemson product has been suspended twice over failed drug tests, and missed the entire 2016 season as a repeat offender of the substance abuse policy.

He was conditionally reinstated prior to the 2017 campaign. The receiver must now follow stringent guidelines, including tests and meetings, to remain compliant with the substance abuse policy. In short, more than a failed drug test can get a player in some trouble.

The NFL Network reports the league has identified an issue with Bryant, but that it is not clear if it will result in a delay in his availability – he was held out for the start of training camp last year with Pittsburgh – if the issue can be simply remedied clerically or if it will result in a suspension. NFL Network also reports Bryant met with the league at its New York office in late April, and was in good standing at that time.

Bryant did not participate in Thursday’s Raiders minicamp practice, the last session of their offseason program.

Bryant has not spoken to the press since April 27, when he said the Raiders trade offered a “clean slate” he planned to maximize.

“I’ve had my difficulties in my past, but I’ve come a long way from that,” Bryant said. “It’s all about keeping the right resources around me and continuing to stay on the right path. I’m going to make sure I get that done.”

Bryant has one season left on his contract, originally signed with Pittsburgh. He has looked good in practices open to the press, flashing great speed and an ability to use his 6-foot, 5-inch frame well.