Raiders to Flip Over Roster, but Could Do So Gradually
Updated March 4, 2018
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.
At the combine, Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden has suggested that veteran wide receiver Michael Crabtree and running back Marshawn Lynch will be back playing in the Black Hole next season. Gruden is hoping that Oakland can compete quickly, but sources with the Raiders say that they expect a gradual large overhaul of the roster over the next few years. They say they will take their time to do it right, but they want to flip the roster over and make it more talented, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Every year, there are some teams in the NFL that have a big roster purge, releasing high-priced veterans in a dramatic upheaval. The Raiders could have gone that route, but with Gruden getting a 10-year contract, Oakland is going to take a long-term approach to their team building. The staff feels it can still get production out of players like Lynch and Crabtree. Money and salary cap considerations could make for a different consideration, but from a football perspective, Lynch and Crabtree seem to be very likely to return. In meeting with the veterans, Lynch said he is working to come back in better shape, as he was too heavy entering the season last year. Crabtree also has been working hard on his conditioning along with trying to get the receivers and Derek Carr back on the same page after last season went off the rails. From speaking with Raiders staffers, they plan to be selectively active in free agency.
Sources say that the defensive side of the ball is the focus for this offseason. They feel they need a lot of help with the defensive line, linebackers, and secondary all needing talent upgrades. A lot of the new staff feel the past three Raider drafts haven't produced enough for the team, and it is a vital year to show improvement for draft picks like Obi Melifonwu, Karl Joseph, Jihad Ward, Eddie Vanderdoes and Mario Edwards Jr. Oakland feels it needs talent upgrades at positions they've just drafted, and that is never a good sign for those draft picks.
Gruden is an ultra competitor who wants to win above all else, yet he and the Raider brain trust are planning for the long term with their cornerstone pieces of Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack. Contract extension talks are underway with Mack. However, over the next few offseasons, one can expect their to be a gradual revamp of the Raiders roster with a team that fits Gruden's vision.