LAS VEGAS — The Las Vegas Raiders ended the season on a low note, losing to the division rival Kansas City Chiefs 13-31. A team still trying to find their identity after an up-and-down season, their focus has quickly shifted to the 2023 season, as the loss secures them a top-10 pick in this year’s draft.
Still, many questions need to be answered within the organization. Will the team re-sign Pro Bowl RB Josh Jacobs? Will they slap the franchise tag instead? What happens with the team’s all-time passing leader QB Derek Carr? Does a team move all-in for a trade or will they understand the leverage game, and play the risk-reward game, knowing Carr’s contract becomes $40.5M guaranteed three days after the Super Bowl, should he remain on the Raiders roster.
Those are just two parameters, the club must assess when evaluating their current personnel. Then there’s the expiring contracts. What happens to team-captain S Duron Harmon? I’m told the club has already began “talks of an extension,” but nothing has materialized as of yet.
No question, Raiders GM Dave Ziegler needs to find a serviceable right tackle to pair with 2018 R1 pick (No. 15) OT Kolton Miller. The UCLA product had a down season in 2022, but I’m fully confident in his ability to bounce back in 2023. A good locker room guy that the team respects, look for Miller to turn the page, as he takes his game up a notch in 2023.
The team invested a late-round pick on rookie OT Thayer Munford but outside of being used as a “heavy” formation player–he was seldomly used throughout the year.
They could build the team from the inside/out and get a guy like OT Peter Skoronski (Northwestern) or Paris Johnson Jr. (Ohio St.). I already looked at potential free-agents and the 2023 free-agent class for offensive tackles currently is tier 2-3 at best.
The team has the skill players, that box is checked. The combination of two-time first-team All-Pro WR Davante Adams, top-10 slot machine WR Hunter Renfrow and Pro Bowl TE Darren Waller are all under contract. A positive sign for Coach McDaniels, as he looks toward the future.
The defense is a problem. We saw it today, as the Chiefs racked up 168 rushing yards. It doesn’t matter if you have a premier EDGE rushing duo in DE Maxx Crosby and DE Chandler Jones if you don’t get to third down or create obvious passing situations from negative plays within a drive.
The Raiders may trade up to draft DT Jalen Carter (Georgia) or trade back to stockpile picks, in an concerted effort to rebuild the defense.
MLB Denzel Perryman is a free-agent. Does Perryman return in 2023 or will they continue to invest in UDFAs LB Luke Masterson or LB Darien Butler to fill that void? Do they invest a day-two pick in a developmental player or swing for the fences in free-agency or trade? A lot of holes to fill and how the chips fall will greatly determine how they decide on building this defense.
Remember, the team still has ILB Divine Deablo, who coach Graham loves in his scheme. A converted safety, Deablo was a tackling machine before suffering a season-ending forearm injury.
But, who stays and who goes? So many unknowns in a season where National media was crowning them Super Bowl favorites, seems like a distant memory. It’s not.
The 6-11 season was four games off from my 10-7 prediction. The Cardinals game Week 2, Chiefs game Week 5, Rams game Week 14, Steelers game Week 16, and 49ers game Week 17 were all winnable games.
In fact, you do the math, those five games combined resulted in only a 14-point differential. The team may seem they are light years away from being contenders, but I’m very confident in the team’s direction.
I already went on record saying this, and not afraid to say it again, GM Dave Ziegler, HC Josh McDaniels, and the scouting department are all top-5. Say what you want, do the research, grades the other 31 GMs and head coaches around the league, then come back to me and provide your analysis. I’m ready. The burden of proof falls on you to prove me wrong.
I get it. From a fan’s perspective the future looks bleak, but I can assure you, as I said it earlier in the year before Raiders owner Mark Davis echoed the same analysis, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” It’s true. Fostering the “Raider Way” cultural identity isn’t a one-size fits-all.
Just like a tech start-up in Silicon Valley, it takes time to build up your company’s core principles. You need the right leadership, like-minded people, and ownership from the top, to fulfill the vision set forth by the CEO.
Not everyone is going to “buy-in,” to the program. Let’s face it. We all work with people today, who don’t buy into the company’s they work for. But you weed those people out and bring in those who do. It’s the Jack Welch 20-70-10 rule.
Business management is my background, so using it here for the perspective from the NFL personnel dynamic is fair game.
You keep the top 20 percent (best players who buy-in and amplify their strengths), middle 70 percent is the (meat-and-potatoes), they are the ones who have the potential to be top 20 percent players and buy-in to the program, then you have the 10 percent (bottom producers) you need to cut because they don’t buy-in or can’t produce at the perceived level you set forth.
In the end, the Raider Way is coming together. There are some who disagree. That’s ok. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However, I can’t speak for anyone else but myself, and from what I see and hear from GM Dave Ziegler, personnel department, scouting department, Coach McDaniels, and this coaching staff is one that is trending in the right direction despite what others may think.
As the season comes to a close, we turn the page to 2023, as I already covered the strong plays that Ziegler has made in gaining much needed draft capital in leveraging this upcoming draft, how he sees fit.
College bowl games are upon us, free-agency is always wild, and what the Raiders do in 2023 will be closely monitored by yours truly, starting with the East West Shrine Bowl, as I plan on covering the festivities right here in lovely Las Vegas, where there is no offseason.