QB Marques Tuiasosopo, FB Luke Lawton, WR Javon Walker, WR Drew Carter, OT Kwame Harris, C John Wade, DE Kalimba Edwards, DT William Joseph, ILB Edgerton Hartwell, CB DeAngelo Hall, CB Michael Waddell, FS Gibril Wilson, S Adam Archuleta, S Marviel Underwood, K Aaron Elling.
RB Darren McFadden, WR Arman Shields, WR Chaz Schilens, DE Trevor Scott, CB/FS/KR Tyvon Branch.
QB Josh McCown, QB Daunte Culpepper, RB LaMont Jordan, RB Dominic Rhodes, RB ReShard Lee, WR Jerry Porter, WR Tim Dwight, OT Barry Sims, C Jeremy Newberry, DE Chris Clemons, DE Tyler Brayton, DT Warren Sapp, OLB Grant Irons ILB Edgerton Hartwell, CB Fabian Washington, CB Chris Carr, S Stuart Schweigert, S Greg Wesley, S Jarrod Cooper.
2008 Oakland Raiders Offense:
You really have to hand it to Al Davis. He's single-handedly revolutionizing pro football with his offseason tactics. In 2006, Davis paired together the most erratic quarterback ever to walk the planet (Aaron Brooks), two malcontent receivers (Randy Moss and Jerry Porter), the worst offensive line in the history of football on any level, and a head coach who may or may not have been a corpse who wandered off from his grave.
But Davis didn't stop there! Nearly every free agent he signed this offseason is coming off a serious knee injury. Oakland inked Javon Walker to a 6-year, $55 million deal despite the fact that he's coming off microsurgery on his knee. Walker, expected to be the team's No. 1 receiver, has missed 23 games the past three years. Walker had the second-best year of his career in 2006, catching 69 passes for 1,084 yards, but there were reports that Walker had problems walking about a month ago.
If I'm JaMarcus Russell, I'm really concerned. Then again, if I were Russell, I'd probably be too busy eating Doritos and Oreos to care. It was alleged that Russell weighed in at 300 pounds this offseason. That was a stretch, but his ballooning up to 270 pounds (from 255) is a fact. Thanks to his long holdout last year and foolish decision-making on the Raiders' part, Russell has only full game under his extra-large belt. Russell played well in Week 17, going 23-of-31 for 224 yards, one touchdown and one pick. It should be noted, however, that Oakland was playing the Chargers, who had their playoff berth locked up and consequently had nothing to play for. We still have no idea how Russell's going to perform, especially behind a horrendous offensive front.
Another of Al Davis' offseason follies was signing Kwame Harris to a 3-year, $16.3 million contract. Harris, chosen in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft, has really struggled in pass protection since going pro. He's a reject of San Francisco's 32nd-ranked offense, which should tell you how dumb this move was.
The addition of Harris moves fellow bust Robert Gallery inside. Gallery was horrendous as Oakland's left tackle, but he wasn't half bad at the left guard position. Oakland running backs rushed for 4.1 yards per carry, and I'm sure Gallery and right guard Cooper Carlisle had something to do with that. Meanwhile, it shouldn't be a surprise that two Raiders linemen are coming off the IR. Mediocre right tackle Cornell Green missed the final six games of the season, while bust Jake Grove suffered a nasty knee injury. Grove will "compete" with 33-year-old Tampa Bay reject John Wade at center.
Perhaps even more enigmatic than Russell at this point is Darren McFadden. People seem torn on the No. 4 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Some praise him to no end and compare him to Adrian Peterson. Others already have labeled him a bust, calling him the next Reggie Bush. In my opinion, McFadden is somewhere in between, perhaps closer to the latter of the two predictions. McFadden isn't projected to carry the ball 25 times per game. He'll be an extremely lethal complementary back to Justin Fargas, who rushed for 1,009 yards on 4.5 yards per carry last year. McFadden is a threat to go the distance on every play, which is a dimension Oakland's offense has lacked for years.
Safe to say the Raiders don't have such a threat in their receiving corps. Ronald Curry was their top wide out last season, as he caught 55 passes for 717 yards. Tight end Zach Miller came on at the end of his rookie year. A very good sign was Miller's eight-catch, 84-yard performance in Week 17 - the only game Russell started and finished. Meanwhile, if Walker isn't healthy enough to be the No. 2 receiver, which is very probable, Drew Carter will step into that role. Carter never developed into a potent target in Carolina; his seasonal highs include 38 receptions, 517 yards and four touchdowns.
2008 Oakland Raiders Defense:
Oakland's defense was supposed to carry the team last season. Instead, it was ranked 26th in points allowed and 31st versus the run. Al Davis naturally responded by throwing tons of cash at mediocre players. Tommy Kelly was solid for the Raiders in 2007, but I'm listing him under the mediocre category because he's coming off reconstructive knee surgery. Undaunted by this, Davis re-signed him to a 7-year, $50.5 deal. Kelly is now the highest-paid defensive tackle in the NFL. Is he the best? Not even close. Even further away from that is the guy slated to play next to him, Terdell Sands. Sands received a 4-year, $17 million contract last spring. He was benched in September.
Save for Derrick Burgess, I can't say I'm confident in the rest of Oakland's defensive line. Backups at defensive tackle include busts Gerard Warren and William Joseph. Left end Jay Richardson started 11 games as a rookie last year, but as far as I'm concerned, he was partly responsible for the team's second-to-last ranking against ground attacks (even though he's stronger versus the run than getting to the quarterback). Meanwhile, with Chris Clemons gone, the Raiders don't have anyone to complement Burgess as a potent pass rusher. Burgess and Clemons both had eight sacks last season. Warren was next with four. As a whole, Oakland had 27 sacks in 2007, a figure which will decrease with Clemons defecting for Philadelphia.
You have to love the Raiders' back seven. Thomas Howard was the team's most productive linebacker, picking off six passes and taking two back to the house. The scary thing is that he only turns 25 in July. Kirk Morrison chipped in with four interceptions and 120 tackles, the most on the roster. Morrison is one of the better middle linebackers in the NFL, but because he plays for a terrible squad, no one really knows about him. Robert Thomas is the weakest link of this linebacking corps. Thomas is an athletic player, but at about 230 pounds, he's way too small for strongside linebacker. He's yet another reason the Raiders sucked against the run in 2007.
The strength of Oakland's defense is the secondary, especially considering the two blockbuster moves the team made this offseason. The Raiders traded their second-round pick to the Falcons for cornerback DeAngelo Hall. Hall, one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL when he's not committing 67 yards in penalties on single drives, isn't even as good as his counterpart, Nnamdi Asomugha. For my money, Asomugha is the best corner in the league. You may question that because he had just one interception, but the fact is that no quarterback dared to throw at him.
The Raiders' other major signing was safety Gibril Wilson, who was the Giants' top defensive back during their Super Bowl run. Wilson brings some stability to the strong safety position, where Stuart Schweigert and Hiram Eugene split playing time last season. The extremely talented Michael Huff will move to free safety. It's safe to say opposing offenses are going to have a great deal of difficulty throwing against Oakland's defense. Luckily for them, the Raiders didn't really address their inability to stop the run.
2008 Oakland Raiders Schedule and Intangibles:
The Black Hole seems like an intimidating place to play, but the Raiders are surprisingly a sub-.500 team (50-54) as hosts since 1995. Last year, Oakland lost to a few terrible teams at home, including Detroit, Kansas City, Houston (without Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson) and Chicago.
Sebastian Janikowski hit only 71.9 percent of his field goals last year, but he didn't have a bad season when you consider that he was 6-of-11 from beyond 50 yards. He was also 7-of-10 from 40-49, and missed only one attempt inside 40.
Shane Lechler is the best punter in the NFL. He averaged 49.1 yards per kick, which includes 25 punts inside the opponents' 20.
It should be no surprise that the Raiders surrendered three touchdowns on special teams, while scoring none of their own. In fact, they haven't returned a punt or a kickoff since 2003. Oakland averaged 5.5 yards on its punt returns, which is less than half of what its opponents managed (11.1). The man responsible for that number is Johnnie Lee Higgins, who is once again slated to be the Raiders' return specialist.
The Raiders have a pretty balanced schedule. Tough opponents include the Chargers (twice), Broncos (twice), Saints, Bills, Patriots and Buccaneers. Beatable opponents include the Chiefs (twice), Jets, Ravens, Falcons, Panthers and Dolphins.
2008 Oakland Raiders Analysis: This will be another losing season for the Silver and Black, but their fans have a lot to look forward to, namely JaMarcus Russell's growth, Darren McFadden's play-making skills and the young secondary's ability to completely frustrate opposing quarterbacks.
Projection: 4-12 (3rd in AFC West)
2008 Fantasy Football Rankings:
JaMarcus Russell: I don't know what to expect from JaMarcus Russell this year. Boasting a powerful arm, Russell will have an opportunity to start all 16 games. With this weight gain, however, there is some concern about his work ethic. If a quarterback can't watch his weight, is he putting the necessary time to study film? Furthermore, Russell doesn't really have any potent targets outside of Zach Miller and Ronald Curry, as Javon Walker is coming off knee surgery.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 2,900 passing yards. 16 passing TDs. 75 rushing yards. 2 rushing TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 260.
Darren McFadden: Al Davis didn't draft Darren McFadden to sit on the bench. He won't carry the ball 25 times per game, but he'll get about 20 touches (carrying and catching the ball out of the backfield). He's a threat to go the distance and Oakland's offensive line run blocks well. However, McFadden doesn't hold much value in fantasy leagues because everyone knows about him. He may go too early in your drafts.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 810 rushing yards. 325 receiving yards. 4 total TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 137.
Justin Fargas: Justin Fargas eclipsed the 1,000-yard barrier for the first time in his career despite the fact that he didn't start until November. Fargas was rewarded with a new contract and looked to be a very solid fantasy option until the Raiders drafted Darren McFadden. Fargas is still worth drafting because he'll get all the carries if McFadden gets hurt; just don't take him too early.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 750 rushing yards. 150 receiving yards. 5 total TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 120.
Zach Miller: Zach Miller is worth drafting as a sleeper tight end because he had his best performance (eight receptions, 84 yards) in the final week of the season - JaMarcus Russell's only full game.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 750 receiving yards. 5 TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 105.
Ronald Curry: Ronald Curry opened the 2007 campaign with a 10-catch, 133-yard performance. Of course, he was playing the Lions' defense, so his numbers were bound to decrease. Curry finished the season with 717 yards and four scores. Nothing spectacular. His stats won't increase with a first-year starting quarterback.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 625 receiving yards. 3 TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 80.
Javon Walker: If you're thinking about drafting Javon Walker, you're probably stuck in 2006. Walker is coming off knee surgery. He can't even walk! Al Davis threw tons of cash his way, but Al Davis does crazy things because, well, he's Al Davis.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 500 receiving yards. 1 TD.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 56.
Drew Carter: Drew Carter is Oakland's No. 3 receiver right now. Once Javon Walker misses some time nursing his knee or another injury, Carter will get the opportunity to start. So, what does all this mean? Absolutely nothing!
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 400 receiving yards. 1 TD.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 46.
Sebastian Janikowski: "Sea Bass" nailed 6-of-11 field goals from 50-plus, but I wouldn't take him because he's really unreliable. There's always a chance he could get arrested or drunkenly crash his car into a telephone pole.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 23-30 FG (3-7 50+). 28 XP.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 110.
Oakland Defense: Theoretically, if the Raiders establish a solid lead, their back seven should be able to accumulate a lot of turnovers. That's all theory, however, as Oakland's offense is incapable of doing so. The Raiders' ineptness against the run doesn't help either. Use this stop unit only when it goes against teams with terrible offenses (i.e. Kansas City and Miami).
Projected Fantasy Ranking: Spot-Starting Defense.
2008 NFL Draft Grade:
Tyvon Branch should be a decent return specialist for the Raiders ... Arman Shields and Trevor Scott are two decent mid-round picks. I especially like the latter; Scott, who's physically gifted but raw at defensive end, will be able to take Chris Clemons' place.
I've had Darren McFadden going to the Raiders for a while because it was too obvious. I don't agree with the move though; in a very deep running back class, I don't think you can take one in the top five, especially with Justin Fargas on the roster. But what can I say? Al Davis loves 40 times ... Other than as a return specialist, where does Tyvon Branch fit in? The Raiders have tons of corners, while Gibril Wilson and Michael Huff are cemented at safety ... Al Davis failed to address his pedestrian offensive line. JaMarcus Russell is going to get killed with Kwame Harris protecting his blind side.
Grade give on 4/29/08: C
2008 NFL Draft Picks:
4. Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas
No surprise here. The Raiders need defense and offensive line help. Bah, who cares!? Let's take a running back who runs a 4.3! You have to love the logic that comes out of Al Davis' office. I know I had this pick in my mock, but I never agreed with it. McFadden's a talented runner, but Oakland had too many other needs. (Pick Grade: C)
100. Tyvon Branch, CB/FS/KR, Connecticut
Look, I like Tyvon Branch, but how many corners do the Raiders need? The only reason this isn't a C is because Branch can help a lot on special teams. (Pick Grade: B)
125. Arman Shields, WR, Richmond
I am shocked - SHOCKED - the Raiders took another guy with a great 40. At least it was at a position of need this time. (Pick Grade: B)
169. Trevor Scott, DE, Buffalo
Trevor Scott is an intriguing player out of Buffalo. He doesn't have much experience at end, but he's looked great in limited playing time. A solid replacement for Chris Clemons. (Pick Grade: A)
226. Chaz Schilens, WR, San Diego State
Not on my board, but it's the seventh round. (Pick Grade: C)
An alarm clock sounds. A bony arm with its flesh hanging on for its dear life reaches for the buzzer. The elderly man steps out of his coffin, slumps down to his kitchen and opens the fridge. He grimaces as he notices the last remains of his goat blood were used as last night's midnight snack. A pause. Frustrated, the geezer slams the fridge door, causing the sound to echo throughout the house, eventually reaching the baby's room. Suddenly, the infant begins to whine. As the piercing noise ricochets back through his hearing aid, the frail NFL owner looks at his hot 20-year-old girlfriend and says, "Honey, can you please give Lane Kiffin his pacifier? And what the hell happened to that quarterback guy that we drafted!? Is he still in the league!?" Ladies and gentlemen, the 2007 Oakland Raiders.
Raiders sign FB Luke Lawton
Raiders sign S Marviel Underwood
Raiders cut DE Greg Spires
Raiders cut S Jarrod Cooper
Raiders cut OLB Grant Irons
Raiders cut ILB Edgerton Hartwell
Raiders cut S Greg Wesley
Raiders sign S Adam Archuleta
Raiders sign K Aaron Elling
Raiders cut RB LaMont Jordan
Raiders sign QB Marques Tuiasosopo
Raiders cut S Stuart Schweigert
Raiders cut DE Akbar Gbaja-Biamila
Raiders cut CB Duane Starks
Raiders sign DE Greg Spires
Raiders sign ILB Edgerton Hartwell
Raiders cut RB Dominic Rhodes
Raiders trade CB Fabian Washington to the Ravens for a 2008 pick
Raiders sign CB Michael Waddell
Raiders re-sign S Jarrod Cooper
Raiders sign CB Duane Starks
Raiders re-sign S Hiram Eugene
Raiders sign C John Wade
Raiders sign DE Akbar Gbaja-Biamila
Raiders sign DE Kalimba Edwards
Raiders re-sign S Jon Alston
Raiders re-sign TE John Madsen
Raiders re-sign MLB Ricky Brown
Raiders re-sign WR Chris McFoy
Raiders re-sign LS Jon Condo
Raiders re-sign OT Mark Wilson
Raiders acquire CB DeAngelo Hall from the Falcons for a 2nd-round pick and a 2009 5th-round pick
Raiders sign DT William Joseph
Raiders sign WR Drew Carter
Raiders re-sign OT Cornell Green
Raiders sign WR Javon Walker
Raiders sign OT Kwame Harris
Raiders sign FS Gibril Wilson
Raiders tender (low) CB Chris Carr
Raiders tender (low) OLB Isaiah Ekejiuba
Raiders cut OT Barry Sims
Raiders re-sign DT Tommy Kelly
Raiders re-signed OLB Sam Williams
Raiders franchise CB Nnamdi Asomugha
Raiders re-sign RB Justin Fargas
Left Tackle: The Raiders drafted JaMarcus Russell, so they can't allow him to turn into the next David Carr. They need someone to protect his blind side. If they don't take Jake Long in the first round - which is unlikely because Robert Gallery was such a huge bust - they could go with Sam Baker or Anthony Collins in Round 2. Signed Kwame Harris
Two Defensive Tackles: Oakland needed a defensive tackle even before Warren Sapp retired. Now it needs two to rotate with Terdell Sands. Luckily for them, they'll get to choose between Glenn Dorsey and Sedrick Ellis at No. 4 overall. Re-signed Tommy Kelly; signed William Joseph
Wide Receiver: I like Ronald Curry, but I feel as though he's more of a No. 2 than a top receiver. I'd like to see Oakland go after someone like Early Doucet or Mario Manningham atop the second round, or Lavelle Hawkins in the fourth. Signed Javon Walker and Drew Carter; drafted Arman Shields
Defensive End: Take away Derrick Burgess' eight sacks, and the Raiders had just 19. Pathetic. Oakland must acquire a top-notch pass rusher across from Burgess. Signed Kalimba Edwards, Greg Spires and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila; drafted Trevor Scott
Center: Jeremy Newberry, a free agent, is way too injury-prone to be relied upon. Jake Grove, meanwhile, has been a huge disappointment and is nothing more than a backup. Another upgrade up front is needed. Signed John Wade
Special Teams: The Raiders surrendered three touchdowns on special teams, so they need to find guys who can cover kickoff and punt returns.
Punt Returner: And speaking of special teams, Johnnie Lee Higgins wasn't especially effective as Oakland's punt returner. Drafted Tyvon Branch
Free Safety: Hiram Eugene played OK in relief of the mediocre Stuart Schweigert at free safety. That said, the Raiders could stand to find someone to compete with Eugene in the middle rounds of April's draft. Signed Gibril Wilson; drafted Tyvon Branch
Strongside Linebacker: Robert Thomas and Sam Williams are adequate, but can be upgraded. This is way down the list of Oakland's needs, however.
If Nnamdi Asomugha asks for Nate Clements money, the Raiders could be forced to give it to him. He deserves it. Franchising him is another option.
Justin Fargas, RB. Age: 28. Re-signed with Raiders (3 years, $12 million).
Justin Fargas is a solid running back, but he's 28 and injury-prone. The Raiders said they're not going to spend a lot of money on him, so look for him to sign elsewhere.
Tommy Kelly, DT. Age: 27. Raiders re-sign Tommy Kelly (7 years, $50.5 million)
One of the better defensive tackles against the run in the NFL, Tommy Kelly spent a good portion of 2007 on injured reserve in the wake of tearing his ACL.
Chris Clemons, DE. Age: 26. Signed with Eagles (5 years, $18.5 million)
Chris Clemons did a solid job as a third-down pass rusher, notching eight sacks on the year.
Hiram Eugene (RFA), S. Age: 27. Re-signed with Raiders (1 year, $370,000)
Took over the starting free safety spot late in the year. Hiram Eugene did a solid job, but the Raiders could use an upgrade.
Cornell Green, OT. Age: 32. Re-signed with Raiders (2 years)
Cornell Green's first year as a full-time starter was ruined by a season-ending foot injury.
Jeremy Newberry, C. Age: 32. Signed with Chargers (1 year)
Call me crazy, but I wouldn't give big money to a 32-year-old with chronic knee problems. Jeremy Newberry has missed 39 games the past four years.
Josh McCown, QB. Age: 29. Signed with Dolphins (2 years, $6.25 million)
Josh McCown's a solid backup, but nothing more. He got a second star because he looks like Ivan Drago.
Daunte Culpepper, QB. Age: 31.
Daunte Culpepper said he'd love to play for the Dolphins again. But why would the Dolphins want an injury-prone, interception-throwing, has-been fumbling machine? Culpepper's damaged goods. He's done nothing since 2004.
Greg Spires, DE. Age: 34.
Greg Spires, one of two Buccaneers defensive ends released on Feb. 28, is too old to be a starter. He's also coming off injury.
LaMont Jordan, RB. Age: 30. - Signed with Patriots
Jerry Porter, WR. Age: 30. - Signed with Jaguars (6 years, $30 million - WTF?)
Sam Williams, OLB. Age: 28. - Re-signed with Raiders (1 year, $700,000)
Tyler Brayton, DE. Age: 28. - Signed with Panthers (2 years)
Chris Carr (RFA), CB. Age: 25. - Signed with Titans
Jon Alston (ERFA), S. Age: 25. - Re-signed with Raiders (1 year)
Dominic Rhodes, RB. Age: 29. - Signed with Colts (1 year, $605,000)
Jarrod Cooper, Raiders. Age: 30.
John Madsen (ERFA), TE. Age: 25. - Re-signed with Raiders (1 year)
Ricky Brown (ERFA), MLB. Age: 24. - Re-signed with Raiders (1 year)
Chris Johnson, CB. Age: 28.
Tim Dwight, WR. Age: 33.
Barry Sims, OT. Age: 33. - Signed with 49ers (2 years)
Divisional Rival History: Denver Broncos: Mike Shanahan owns Al Davis. Maybe Davis shouldn't have fired Shanahan in 1989. Oops. The Broncos have won 16 of the past 21 meetings. Kansas City Chiefs: Kansas City has dominated Oakland the past five years, claiming nine of the past 10 games. San Diego Chargers: Not even close. The Chargers have won the previous nine meetings. That number will increase to 11 in the near future.