NFL: Pro Bowl-Team Irvin Practice
Jan 23, 2015; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; ESPN broadcaster and Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders former coach Jon Gruden at Team Irvin practice at Scottsdale Community College in advance of the 2015 Pro Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Home » Blog » Raiders are confusing experience for value in free agency

Raiders are confusing experience for value in free agency

The NFL is currently on fire, with teams throwing fistfuls of cash at players throughout free agency. It’s a rite of spring, with 32 clubs hoping to improve their chances for an appearance in the Super Bowl 11 months from now, and more often than not, it’s an exercise in futility.That said, there are plenty of teams that do improve themselves. Some go from doormats to respectable, while others go from a fringe contender to squarely in the mix. Right now, the Oakland Raiders are going from average (at best) to worse.

Oakland finished 6-10 last year, underperforming badly enough to see head coach Jack Del Rio fired, despite having signed a four-year contract extension last February. To replace him, owner Mark Davis went for broke, luring Jon Gruden out of retirement with a 10-year, $100 million deal. Gruden, who won Super Bowl XXXVII with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, seemed to be the answer.

So far, Gruden’s presence has only created more questions. In the early stages of free agency, the Raiders figured to be aggressive in the defensive market. Instead, Oakland has only made modest signings on that side with safety Marcus Gilchrist and linebacker Tahir Whitehead. The bigger names have been on the offensive side, with wide receiver Jordy Nelson and running back Doug Martin coming to town. Nelson signed for two years and $15.5 million, while Martin’s terms are not known.

As if the signing of Nelson wasn’t questionable enough, the Raiders released Michael Crabtree only minutes later, saving $7.7 million against the cap. In essence, Oakland traded Crabtree for Nelson, even-up financially, and got two years older.


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The biggest problem for Oakland is the implied direction of the team. The defense is still lacking at every level, and the offense is getting old and slow. Instead of adding speed around Derek Carr and Amari Cooper, the Oakland Raiders brought in Martin, who is a plodding, aging back. Martin has averaged 2.9 yards per carry in each of the past two seasons. The 29-year-old is basically a less sturdy version of Marshawn Lynch.

Factor in the signings of blocking tight ends Lee Smith and Derek Carrier, and fullback Keith Smith, and Gruden is living up to his comment about 1998. If the coach could find a way to play “23” personnel all game long, he might be in favor of it.

With the Kansas City Chiefs loading up on offensive skill and the Los Angeles Chargers teeming its potential on both sides of the ball, the Oakland Raiders will have a tough time doing better than third in the AFC West without an outstanding draft.

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