Raiders

Why Raiders must exercise (some) restraint pursuing Jalen Ramsey trade

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USATSI

Why Raiders must exercise (some) restraint pursuing Jalen Ramsey trade

Jalen Ramsey played possibly his last game as a Jacksonville Jaguar on Thursday night, an action that involved some risk. The All-Pro cornerback was on the trading block after asking to be dealt, and an injury against the Tennessee Titans could’ve ruined a prospective deal. Ramsey going down would’ve hurt the Jaguars as well, but Ramsey played anyway.

And he played hard. Ramsey was his usual, awesome self for the Jaguars, helping his teammates earn their first win of the season. He had nine tackles and forced a fumble. He was targeted seven times by Tennessee, but allowed only four catches for 74 yards.

Ramsey played without reservation for his teammates, knowing he it’s likely won’t be with them much longer. As a note, it’s reportedly possible the Jaguars simply keep Ramsey.

He could be traded as soon as Friday, per reports, and is expected to have a new team by next week.

There’s also a big-time payday coming sometime between the expected trade and next season. That didn’t matter Thursday night. He just helped the Jaguars get a win.

Jon Gruden must’ve liked that. The Raiders are among a long line of teams hoping to acquire Ramsey in trade, sources said. The Raiders head coach didn’t need convincing – the cornerback is amazing -- but Thursday night’s relatively selfless act didn’t hurt Ramsey’s stock.

The Raiders have the draft capital to make this deal, which reportedly could cost a first-round draft pick plus more picks and/or a player. Ramsey’s new team also will have to pay up despite him still having a year left on his rookie deal, plus a fifth-year option in 2020 and franchise tags after that.

A team could play contractual hardball, but keeping him happy seems the way to go.

Gruden could and would make this deal, dwindling his draft cache and future salary-cap space for a truly dynamic player. Let’s not forget: they have a cushion after breaking free of the Antonio Brown deal without paying a dime.

This isn’t another column about whether the Raiders should trade for Jalen Ramsey. Esteemed colleague Josh Schrock did that already and did it well. I agreed with his stance, and believe Gruden should try to make this deal.

Not, however, at any cost. Some restraint is required in moments like this.

There will be competition for Ramsey’s rights, but it’s unwise to get into a bidding war. The Raiders are interested and it’s believed the have inquired about Ramsey, but it’s uncertain what they’d be willing to give up.

They shouldn’t get into a bidding war with other teams. The Raiders should stick to their valuation, make an attractive offer if one hasn’t already been made and then keep fingers crossed.

Emotionally competing with others, especially if a rival’s involved, could hinder a roster rebuild with significant work left to be done.

The Raiders need another wide receiver, a top-flight edge rusher, a young linebacker and maybe another safety, and it’s only September. Those deficiencies won’t change if Ramsey comes aboard.

General manager Mike Mayock has exerted some influence and discipline in recent acquisitions, including the Brown trade – it didn’t work out but it was thought to be a good deal at the time, with third- and fifth-round draft picks certainly worth the opportunity to acquire a great player – and a few instances in the NFL draft.

[RELATED: Raiders plan to expand Jacobs' role in passing game]

If the Raiders get Ramsey at a price Mayock and Gruden consider affordable both financially and through trade compensation without setting an overall rebuild back, they’ll celebrate. If they have to re-up, sacrifice and spend beyond their means, it could slow things down for a Raiders roster that still needs significant upgrades.

The Raiders can’t lose sight of the big picture while pushing to acquire a truly elite talent. Lots of good cornerbacks have played on bad defenses. The Raiders need a talented depth chart, and have several moves left to complete it.

How Raiders' Isaiah Johnson improved his game while on injured reserve

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AP

How Raiders' Isaiah Johnson improved his game while on injured reserve

ALAMEDA – Raiders cornerback Isaiah Johnson lost valuable development time during his rookie season through no fault of his own. It was stolen from an inadvertent knee to the head by teammate Marquel Lee in the first preseason game, where Johnson suffered a concussion and a facial fracture that put his professional career on hold.

He didn’t play or practice again during the preseason and was placed on injured reserve right after the 53-man roster was set. That final act gave Johnson belief that the entire season was not lost.

The Raiders planned to designate him for return near midseason, when he was healthy and able to contribute on defense and special teams. Defensive contributions will be harder without nine weeks of practice and playing time, especially for a former receiver with just two seasons experience at cornerback, but Johnson isn’t bitter about that.

He applied proper perspective to his downtime and set to handle this setback as best he could.

“I feel like everything happens for a reason,” Johnson said Monday. “I believe in marathons, not sprints. Everybody has a time and place for something to happen. My time just wasn’t then. When I got hurt, it didn’t really destroy me mentally. I knew there were steps to take to get where I want to go. I used it as a learning experience.”

That wasn’t always easy. Johnson was merely watching others practice and play, trying to learn conceptually without an ability to apply it on a practice field.

“I’m going to be honest: It’s really hard sitting in meetings, watching tape that you’re not on,” Johnson said. “After a while you mature and learn how to be a pro. Once you do that, you watch all that film and start applying it to yourself, so when you come back [to practice], you can use that knowledge.

"I kind of felt that today. I found myself applying some of the tools I learned during the six weeks I wasn’t playing.”

Johnson started practicing on Monday, opening a 21-day window for the Raiders to activate him or place him on season-ending injured reserve. Johnson expects activation when he’s eligible to play after eight weeks on IR.

He’ll have nine regular-season games left if all goes to plan, offering plenty of time to accomplish this year’s primary objective.

“My only goal is to help the team win games,” Johnson said. “That has always been the case, so I can do everything I set out to do. Whatever they need me to do, I’m going to come in and do it.”

Johnson is a top-tier athlete perfectly built for press-man coverage, though some development was required and understandable for someone who took up the cornerback position as a junior at the University of Houston. The Raiders need cornerback depth with Daryl Worley moving into more of a hybrid role, with Nevin Lawson and Trayvon Mullen as options to pick up Worley’s outside cornerback snaps when he roves across the defensive backfield.

Johnson will be involved in that but should be an immediate contributor on special teams.

[RELATED: Jackson, Johnson practice as Raiders prepare for Packers]

He was known as an excellent gunner in punt coverage and should give special teams a lift the moment he’s eligible to play. That’s a role he’s ready for right away.

“I have always enjoyed playing special teams,” Johnson said. “I feel like [special teams coordinator Rich] Bisaccia has a great system, and I feel like I can contribute the moment he puts me back on the field. I’m trying to show the coaches that I’m ready to go.

"I know I’ve been out, but I’m working to come back.”

Why Gabe Jackson sees plenty of potential in Raiders offensive line

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AP

Why Gabe Jackson sees plenty of potential in Raiders offensive line

ALAMEDA -- Gabe Jackson was back in action after a long layoff Monday. The Raiders' star right guard hurt his knee during a joint training camp practice with the Los Angeles Rams and hadn’t worked out with the team since.

Just being back with his team was an accomplishment, an important step in his return to action after missing five games. The Raiders left him on the 53-man roster hoping he could be back before midseason.

That should happen. Jackson said he hopes to return Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. If that doesn’t work out, he should be ready for a Week 8 clash with the Houston Texans.

“I feel pretty good,” Jackson said Monday. “I’m excited to be back with my brothers. It has been a long time.”

Jackson went more than nine weeks between practices, a layoff that sent his position into flux. The Raiders tried several at right guard, settling on Denzelle Good as a quality placeholder on an offensive line off to a great start. The Raiders are averaging 4.9 yards per carry and rank fourth in pass-blocking efficiency.

Jackson will pair with longtime running mate Rodney Hudson on the interior and work with Trent Brown on what should be a dominant right side.

The 28-year-old was part of a dominant offensive line in 2016 that was integral to the Raiders' lone trip to the playoffs this decade. He believes this year’s line could compete with that one.

“I think we could be even better,” Jackson said. “If everybody stays the course and grinds it out, I think we could be pretty good.”

This offensive line operates in a different scheme but has executed well to this point. Jackson will energize and fortify the unit, which has been bolstered by Brown’s addition in free agency.

“I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I can say for sure Trent is a beast,” Jackson said. “When he first came here, I knew it would be fun to play with him. Watching the things he has done recently and since he has been here, he’s impressive.”

[RELATED: Raiders' Jones ready to make impact after 'shocking' trade]

Raiders coach Jon Gruden said that Jackson might be in his best shape, certainly over the past two seasons. Jackson did shy away from that compliment. He believes it’s warranted after training hard during this down period.

“I had some time to work on myself,” Jackson said. “There are some things I’m still working on, but I feel like I have gotten better. Now, I’m ready to get back at it and play.”