Why Raiders' defensive coordinator should be happy with free-agent haul

Why Raiders' defensive coordinator should be happy with free-agent haul

The Raiders spent tons of money in free agency last year, but their investments were certainly skewed. They promised massive sums to Trent Brown and Tyrell Williams and Antonio Brown after he was acquired in a trade.

The defense, by contrast, was largely left alone.

Lamarcus Joyner and Vontaze Burfict were the only presumed impact players given to the defensive side, and coordinator Paul Guenther didn’t get much return on either investment.

He got six of the first seven NFL draft picks, a clear sign the Raiders were going young on defense and committed to a longer-term rebuild on that side of the ball.

This spring’s efforts have expedited that a bit.

The Raiders have agreed on terms with eight unrestricted free agents through Thursday morning. Six of them play defense.

Somewhere in the East Bay, Guenther might be celebrating a free-agent haul that’s talented, young and able to instantly upgrade a unit that just wasn’t good enough in recent seasons.

General manager Mike Mayock was candid about his team’s defensive deficiencies while speaking at the NFL scouting combine, hoisting blame on that unit for the team’s struggles in 2019. He didn’t just complain. Mayock did something about it.

Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden threw good money at the problem, shoring up glaring weaknesses at every level.

They brought in quality, complimentary three-down linebackers in Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski as part of a positional overhaul.

They added Maliek Collins to generate pressure inside. Carl Nassib will bring heat off the edge.

Jeff Heath adds depth and competition at safety. Eli Apple brings talent and untapped potential at cornerback.

Some of those additions were ideal. Most, however, were not.

The Raiders went after Jimmie Ward at safety. He stayed with the 49ers. They went hard after top cornerback Bryon Jones, a near-perfect scheme fit who took Miami’s money instead of a huge Raiders offer. Chris Harris Jr. cashed a Chargers paycheck despite the Raiders putting forth a longer-term deal.

The Silver and Black kicked the tires a Darius Slay trade, but the Lions shipped him to Philadelphia after a long-term deal was reached.

The Raiders are still pondering cornerback upgrades even with Apple in the fold, though the NFL draft might ultimately be the best venue for that now.

The Raiders have some offensive needs, especially at receiver. There’s a generational draft class to mine in late April, and it’s expected the Raiders take at least one of those pass-catchers.

That doesn’t mean they won’t think defense early in the draft. This analysis also doesn’t mean the Raiders are done adding to the defense in free agency. They’ll continue looking for options to strengthen the depth chart and give Guenther the weapons required to execute his scheme well.

Gruden and Mayock have done a commendable job adding talent to that side of the ball, by spending big and adjusting when original plans went awry. They’ll have to keep grinding through the offseason to find a proper mix that makes the defense a respectable unit capable of winning games when required.

Raiders QB Derek Carr vents frustration about death of George Floyd


Raiders QB Derek Carr vents frustration about death of George Floyd

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr tweeted Friday that he was “disgusted, mad and brokenhearted” after watching the video of an unarmed African-American man dying at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

That video sparked outrage in Minnesota and beyond, leading to protests nationwide, including in Las Vegas. Rioting Thursday night resulted in the burning of a Minneapolis police station.

All four officers were fired. Derek Chauvin, a white officer seen on the video with his knee pinning the neck of George Floyd 46, to the pavement, was charged Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

“I don’t know what it’s like to have a different skin color, so I won’t pretend to know,” wrote Carr, who is white. “My mentor and friends have told me stories, and it breaks my heart to hear some of the things that have happened.

“I was raised to love everyone, no matter their gender, skin color, political beliefs, socioeconomic background, or religious beliefs.”

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Ranking Raiders fans' most hated players, coaches from recent history

Ranking Raiders fans' most hated players, coaches from recent history

In their heyday, the Raiders were the wild renegades of the NFL with Al Davis unafraid to challenge or confront any and all.

That will earn you a lot of enemies. And it did. Raiders history is filled with opposing players and coaches who got a dose of vitriol and anger flung at them from Raider Nation.

Of course, Pittsburgh legend Franco Harris would be atop the list with the "Immaculate Reception" proving to be a forever dagger in the hearts of the Silver and Black. One that sparked a Raiders-Steelers rivalry whose embers still flicker.

But let's focus on the past 25 years and take a trip down memory lane to look at opponents and former Raiders who drew the ire of Raider fans from Los Angeles to Canada and Oakland to Australia.

[RAIDERS TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

5. John Elway and Mike Shanahan, Denver Broncos

The first on our list of opponents is a dual AFC West threat which bruised the Raiders for almost two decades.

While Elway's career 13-15 record against the Raiders isn't a big issue, the golden boy still diced up plenty of Raiders' defenses and finally got over the hump with Shanahan when they won back-to-back Super Bowls in the late 90s.

Of course, Elway was meant to be a Raider. The Silver and Black were primed to send three first-round picks and two second-round picks to the Baltimore Colts to draft Elway in 1983, but NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle vetoed the deal.

Almost two decades later, Shanahan, a former Raiders head coach who had a long, ugly history with Davis, helped get the monkey off Elway and the Broncos' back. Salt in the wound all around.

4. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

We don't need to spend too much time on Kelce. His personality itself is one that will draw the ire of opposing fans everywhere.

Add to it that the Raiders see Kelce twice a season, and he constantly carves them up and never lets them forget it and you have a very hated division rival. He's the type of player who gets into a beef with the opposing punter (shoutout Marquette King) and has a reality television show in which he tries to find love. No one outside of Kansas City is going to be a huge fan.

Imagine Kelce could move hire as his career draws on.

3. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers/Indianapolis Colts

Newer Raider fans might look at the past two seasons and see a washed quarterback whose arm had fallen off and wonder why he makes the list.

Long-time Raider fans know the pain Rivers brought to the Silver and Black during his prime with the Bolts. Rivers is 18-10 against the Raiders in his career and an impressive 9-5 at the Coliseum. Like a gnat at a barbecue buzzing around your head, Rivers never failed to talk as much trash as possible whether the score was 34-3 or 17-16. Couple that with the "golly gee whillikers" and the "gosh darn its" that replaced normal swear words (Rivers doesn't cuss), and you've got one annoying division rival who owns you.

2. LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers

LT ran all over the Raiders during his time as a Bolt, and he wasn't shy about letting the folks in the Black Hole know about his dominance.

He ran for over 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns against the Raiders while his teams went 14-5 against the Silver and Black. Tomlinson is an all-time great, and those are fun to have on your side. Less so when they are tearing your defense apart on two Sundays every season.

1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Some hatred is born from familiarity and 1,000 cuts. With the division rivals listed above, you're forced to see them twice a year and born to hate htem.

Others are born from circumstance. The Raiders have only faced Brady six times in his legendary career, but once was more than enough.

The 2001 AFC Divisional Round game between the Patriots and Raiders, more aptly known as "The Tuck Rule Game," helped spark the NFL's next dynasty and kept the Raiders from what they believe was a trip to the Super Bowl.

Brady, as dorky as he might be on social media, never will let the Raiders forget the play either. Last time the Raiders arrived in Foxboro, Mass., Brady posted a cheeky jab at the Silver and Black over a play that still pains their loyal followers and Jon Gruden.

"The Tuck Rule," much like "The Immaculate Reception" is a play that will always live in Raiders lore with Brady playing the role of the central villain.

Now, we transition to former members of the Silver and Black who Raider Nation might not be so fond of. This list was a lot easier to make than the above one, for obvious reasons (You probably know No. 1).

5. Lane Kiffin

The dislike for Kiffin might stem from the fact that he was the only one in the building who didn't want to draft JaMarcus Russell, or from the fact that he was just the wrong guy for the job.

Regardless, a 5-15 record was enough for Al Davis to send Kiffin packing and put him on Raider Nation's bad side.

4. Rolando McClain

Hatred for former players normally comes from two places. They either underperformed given their ability or gave the impression they didn't care.

McClain was the latter. While his stats weren't awful, the Alabama product had motivation issues that stopped him from growing into the type of player a top-10 pick is expected to be. Couple that with some legal troubles, and McClain is seen as one of the Raiders' worst draft busts who sent them into a linebacker hell that they are just digging themselves out of.

3. Randy Moss

One of the greatest receivers of all-time had a solid year for the Silver and Black in 2005. Then, 2006 came around and Moss completely mailed it in.

In a career filled with impressive numbers, Moss caught 42 passes for 553 yards and three touchdowns. He was traded to the New England Patriots in the offseason and promptly put up historic numbers, catching 98 passes for 1,493 yards and 23 touchdowns.

The Raiders acquired the legendary receiver for a first-round pick, and he quit on them before turning into a touchdown machine in New England.

Like Roger Clemens getting in shape after he left the Boston Red Sox, Moss' clear disinterest in trying with the Raiders still burns those who bleed Silver and Black.

2. JaMarcus Russell

Russell might be the biggest draft bust in NFL history and even that might be forgiven if he seemed to put an ounce of effort into being a good NFL quarterback.

The Raiders drafted Russell over Calvin Johnson (ouch). Russell cared so little about becoming a good quarterback that Raiders coaches famously sent him home with blank film tapes to see if he would watch them and then would call on him the next day to see what he thought. He claimed he had watched the film. Bruce Gradkowski, Russell's former backup, has said he had to bribe Russell with 10 Wendy's cheeseburgers to get him to go to film study.

In 2009, Russell had the lowest quarterback rating, lowed completion percentage, fewest touchdowns and fewest yards of any qualified quarterback.

He went 7-18 as Raiders starter and was released after the 2009 season.

[RELATED: Five Raiders not named Carr who are vital to playoff dreams]

1. Antonio Brown

Maybe it's just because this one is fresh, or maybe it's because the antics and insanity were so far off the board it remains hard to believe.

There were the frostbitten feet. There was the helmet grievance where Brown painted his own lid to fool the training staff and got made when they took it from him. There was the second helmet grievance and the altercation with general manager Mike Mayock. Don't forget the illegal recording of Gruden that got turned into a guerilla marketing video on Instagram. Oh, and the clearly choreographed celebratory post when he finally was released.

It has to be among the most insane tenures any athlete has had for a franchise and never suited up for the club.

The venom from Raider Nation was on display during their Week 1 win over the Broncos when chants of "f--k AB" rang out across the Coliseum.

Safe to say he's not welcome in the Bay, Las Vegas, Los Angeles or anywhere Raider Nation has a strong foothold.