QB Jeff Garcia, RB Gary Russell, WR Will Franklin, OT Khalif Barnes, OT Erik Pears, G Marcus Johnson, C Samson Satele, DE Greg Ellis, DT Ryan Boschetti, OLB Marlon Greenwood.
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, SS Michael Mitchell, DE Matt Shaughnessy, WR Louis Murphy, OLB Slade Norris, DE Stryker Sulak, TE Brandon Myers.
QB Andrew Walter, FB Justin Griffith, WR Ronald Curry, WR Drew Carter, WR Ashley Lelie, OT Kwame Harris, C Jake Grove, DE Derrick Burgess, DE Kalimba Edwards, OLB Robert Thomas, SS Gibril Wilson.
2009 Oakland Raiders Offense:
I wrote last year that Al Davis should be commended for 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.
Last spring, nearly early every free agent Davis signed was coming off a serious knee injury. Oakland inked Javon Walker to a 6-year, $55 million deal despite the fact that he was coming off microsurgery on his knee. Going into 2008, Walker had missed 23 games the past three years.
This offseason, Undead Al did a great job screening free agents who were coming off ACL and MCL tears. That's the good news. The bad news is that he spent the No. 7 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft on a receiver who can't catch the football and never produced in college. Davis' second-round selection was used on a seventh-round prospect (at best). Oh, and there were also rumors that JaMarcus Russell once again reported to minicamp at a svelte 350 pounds. Rumors are there were Cheetos stains on his practice jersey.
Per the Oakland Tribune, Russell looked more like a lineman than a quarterback at minicamp. He was consistently horrific in practice, throwing picks at nearly every opportunity. Russell has an incredible arm, but he has not shown that he has the work ethic to stay in shape, and thus far he hasn't put in the time and effort into studying film.
It also hurts that Russell doesn't have much to work with in terms of downfield targets. The Heyward-Bey experiment will likely fail; Walker is still a mess; Louis Murphy has to transition into a pro-style offense, which has proven to be difficult for Florida wideouts; Johnnie Lee Higgins is excellent on special teams, but isn't much of an offensive threat... in fact, Chaz Schilens appears to be Russell's top wideout. This, of course, excludes Zach Miller, who trumped every Oakland receiver with 56 catches and 778 yards.
Oakland's offensive strength (by default) is its running game. Darren McFadden, Justin Fargas and Michael Bush are all really talented and complement each other well. McFadden is an elusive back who can catch passes out of the backfield (29 receptions, 285 rec. yards as a rookie); Fargas had 853 rushing yards in 2008; while Bush simply ran over Tampa Bay's defense, rushing for 177 yards and two scores on 27 carries in Week 17.
The three runners figure to maintain a solid YPC behind a stout run-blocking offensive line. Newly acquired Khalif Barnes is a sieve in pass protection (7.5 sacks in 2008) but he's a powerful run-blocker who will open huge lanes for McFadden, Fargas and Bush. Once the Raiders come to their senses, they'll move Barnes to right tackle, allowing Mario Henderson to step into the blindside role. As a second-year player, Henderson surrendered just 1.25 sacks in five starts.
Though left guard Robert Gallery is one of the top players at his position in the NFL, the interior of the Raiders' offensive line leaves much to be desired. Cooper Carlisle is 32 and just gave up four sacks in 2008. Center John Wade, meanwhile, is 34 and played in only five games last year. Samson Satele was signed to compete with Wade for the starting center position, but he really struggled with the Dolphins. If Satele runs a great 40 in practice, he may sneak his way into the starting lineup.
2009 Oakland Raiders Defense:
Oakland's defense had some fundamental flaws going into the offseason, and as you would expect, Al Davis failed to address them. In fact, he only made things worse.
While the Raiders weren't terrible versus the pass, they couldn't stop the run to save their lives. The team gave up 4.5 yards per carry, good for 24th in the NFL. This had to be a huge disappointment for Undead Al, who signed defensive tackles Tommy Kelly and Terdell Sands for a combined $67.5 million. Kelly had 4.5 sacks, but was coming off a torn ACL. Still, you have to wonder why a guy coming off a torn ACL received a 7-year, $50.5 million contract in the first place. Sands' greatest accomplishment in 2008, meanwhile, was punching punter Shane Lechler in the face during a flight home from a road game.
Despite this glaring lack of talent at defensive tackle, the Raiders did nothing in terms of finding an upgrade.
Other problem areas for Oakland include the two safety and strongside linebacker positions. Michael Huff, a former first-round pick, was benched in 2008. Gibril Wilson, a high-priced signing a year ago, was cut. Hiram Eugene and Tyvon Branch are nothing to write home about. And given how much the selection was made fun of on Draft Day, Michael Mitchell might emerge as the greatest safety in NFL history. Meanwhile, Jon Alston and Ricky Brown are stiffs and completely ruin what could be a dominant linebacking corps (Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard combined for 232 tackles, two sacks, two picks and four forced fumbles last year).
With all that said, Oakland's defense actually has its strength, which is defending the pass. That's pretty easy when you have Nnamdi Asomugha, the top cornerback in the NFL. Playing across from Asomugha, Chris Johnson had a very surprising year, as he emerged as one of the better No. 2 corners in the league.
Johnson's play was especially shocking when you consider Oakland's lackluster safeties and mediocre pass rush. The Raiders mustered 32 sacks in 2008, led by Kalimba Edwards and Trevor Scott (five each). Scott, a mere rookie in 2008, was the reason Al Davis didn't pick Michael Johnson in the 2009 NFL Draft. Per a source, Davis believes that Scott is the greatest thing since sliced virgin, and is willing to hand over the right defensive end position to him once Derrick Burgess leaves.
Burgess had 16, 11 and 8.5 sacks from 2005 to 2007, but managed just 3.5 sacks in 10 games last year. If Burgess isn't moved and can regain his 2005-2007 form, the Raiders will be even better against the pass with their added quarterback pressure. Unfortunately, it'll be a miracle if they don't finish out of the bottom 10 in run defense.
2009 Oakland Raiders Schedule and Intangibles:
The Black Hole seems like an intimidating place to play, but the Raiders are surprisingly a sub-.500 team (52-60) as hosts since 1995. They were 2-6 in 2008.
Though Sebastian Janikowski was just 2-of-4 from 40-49 in 2008, he actually had his best season since 2004. Janikowski was 24-of-30, including 3-of-7 from beyond 50. His kicking percentage marked the first time he at least matched 80 percent since 2004.
Though Terdell Sands punched him in the face, Shane Lechler is the best punter in the NFL. He averaged 48.8 yards per kick, which includes 33 punts inside the opponents' 20.
The Raiders have two of the most dangerous return men in the NFL. Johnnie Lee Higgins took three punt returns back to the house, while Justin Miller scored on two kickoffs. Oakland surrendered just one special teams touchdown of its own. The team allowed three in 2007.
Oakland begins the season with three games against its divisional opponents, which is huge. If the team finally wants to make the doggone playoff, it has to come out of that stretch with a 2-1 record. In terms of their non-divisional foes, the Raiders have a pretty tough slate. They get the Giants, Eagles, Redskins, Cowboys, Steelers, Ravens, Jets and Texans.
2009 Oakland Raiders Analysis: The Raiders haven't won more than five games in six years, and based on Al Davis' draft reaches and JaMarcus Russell's apparent lethargy, I think it's safe to say that Oakland has a better shot at extending its dubious streak to seven years than making the postseason.
If Russell can grow up, if Darrius Heyward-Bey can actually catch the football, and if the defensive tackles can play as well as they're paid, the Raiders could make a playoff push. But that all seems pretty far fetched to me.
Raider fans can no longer send me serious e-mails, criticizing me that I make fun of Al Davis for reaching for the best 40 times available. Undead Al's performance at the 2009 NFL Draft was very amusing. I really don't know what was funnier - the actual picks, Mel Kiper's reaction to the selections or the fact that Tom Cable looked completely defeated in an interview with ESPN.
Grade given on 4/27/09: FAIL
2009 NFL Draft Picks:
7. Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland
No production. Inconsistent hands. And Michael Crabtree was on the board!!! Al Davis - FAIL. (Pick Grade: Z-)
47. Michael Mitchell, SS, Ohio
Al Davis is out of control. I don't care if Michael Mitchell becomes the best safety in NFL history. This is a horrible pick. Mitchell was a sixth-round prospect at best. This selection is so horrendous, forum user Mycarman invented a new grade appropriate for a pick like this: (Pick Grade: MILLEN)
71. Matt Shaughnessy, DE, Wisconsin
The Raiders needed a defensive end, but that doesn't mean you should draft a late-round prospect in Round 3. It's now apparent more than ever that Al Davis is living in his own delusional world. (Pick Grade: F)
124. Louis Murphy, WR, Florida
Finally - a player who isn't a reach. I actually love this pick from a value standpoint. Maybe Al Davis is finally turning things around... (Pick Grade: A)
126. Slade Norris, OLB, Oregon State
...OK, maybe not. This is yet another reach by Oakland. Al Davis really needs to bring someone in to run things. (Pick Grade: F)
199. Stryker Sulak, DE, Missouri
No surprise here. Stryker Sulak is a quick pass-rusher. Unlike Darrius Heyward-Bey and Michael Mitchell, this is not a reach. (Pick Grade: B)
202. Brandon Myers, TE, Iowa
Not a great 40 time, so you have to wonder if someone else made this pick. Still a reach though. (Pick Grade: C)
The Raiders predictably finished with another losing season, their sixth in as many years. On the bright side, they played well down the stretch, knocking off Denver, Houston and Tampa Bay as massive underdogs. Whether this team progresses depends on JaMarcus Russell's effort, which has been lacking thus far in his young career. Of course, if Oakland has another losing campaign, Al Davis may unleash Glandor!
Raiders cut ILB Napoleon Harris
Raiders cut CB Ricky Manning Jr.
Raiders sign ILB Napoleon Harris
Raiders cut FB Lorenzo Neal
Raiders re-sign S Rashad Baker
Chiefs sign WR Ashley Lelie
Raiders sign OLB Marlon Greenwood
Raiders sign CB Ricky Manning Jr.
Patriots acquire DE/OLB Derrick Burgess from Raiders for 2010 3rd- and 5th-round picks
Patriots sign QB Andrew Walter
Raiders cut QB Andrew Walter
Raiders cut S Keith Davis
Raiders sign DE Greg Ellis
Raiders sign QB Charlie Frye
Raiders sign S Keith Davis
Raiders sign WR Will Franklin
Raiders sign FB Lorenzo Neal
Raiders sign RB Gary Russell
Seahawks sign FB Justin Griffith
Lions sign WR Ronald Curry
Redskins sign OLB Robert Thomas
Raiders sign OT Marcus Johnson
Raiders sign QB Jeff Garcia
Raiders re-sign DT Ryan Boschetti
Raiders re-sign OLB Sam Williams
Raiders acquire C Samson Satele from Dolphins for a 6th-round pick
Raiders re-sign CB/KR Justin Miller
Raiders re-sign OLB Ricky Brown
Raiders re-sign DT William Joseph
Raiders re-sign OLB Jon Alston
Raiders sign OT Khalif Barnes
Eagles sign S Rashad Baker
Raiders re-sign G Cooper Carlisle
Raiders re-sign TE Tony Stewart
Raiders sign OT Erik Pears
Dolphins sign C Jake Grove
Raiders re-sign ILB Isaiah Ekejiuba
Raiders tender OLB Ricky Brown (2nd round)
Dolphins sign SS Gibril Wilson
Raiders cut OT Kwame Harris
Raiders cut FB Justin Griffith
Raiders cut WR Ronald Curry
Raiders cut DE Kalimba Edwards
Raiders cut SS Gibril Wilson
Raiders re-sign CB Nnamdi Asomugha
Raiders re-sign P Shane Lechler
Raiders re-sign CB Chris Johnson
Raiders sign QB Bruce Gradkowski
Raiders name Tom Cable head coach
Right Tackle: Mario Henderson played really well at left tackle when he finally replaced the dreadfully ineffective Kwame Harris. Meanwhile, right tackle Cornell Green surrendered 7.5 sacks and was whistled for eight penalties. He'll be upgraded - possibly with Michael Oher. Signed Khalif Barnes, Erik Pears and Marcus Johnson
Wide Receiver: Why draft a quarterback No. 1 overall and surround him with the likes of Javon Walker, Ashley Lelie, Ronald Curry and Chaz Schilens? It doesn't make any sense. Well, neither does drinking goat blood, sacrificing virgin maidens and hiring corpses as head coaches. Raider fans will be praying for Michael Crabtree to fall to them, but a wideout with a fast 40 in the second round is a much more likely scenario. Drafted Darrius Heyward-Bey, Louis Murphy and Will Franklin
Nose Tackle: While Oakland's defense improved in 2008, it still struggled against the rush. Despite all the money that Al Davis foolishly shelled out to Tommy Kelly and Terdell Sands, the Raiders need a nose tackle to clog the interior running lanes.
Free Safety: Michael Huff looks like a bust and there's a very good chance that Oakland will release him. If Taylor Mays had declared for the 2009 NFL Draft, he'd be the pick at No. 7. Signed Keith Davis
Defensive End: The good news is that Trevor Scott looked promising as a rookie with five sacks. The bad news is that Derrick Burgess has regressed; the former Pro Bowler mustered just 3.5 sacks in 2008. Oakland needs another guy who can get to the quarterback. Signed Greg Ellis; drafted Matt Shaughnessy and Stryker Sulak
Strongside Linebacker: As a first-year starter, Ricky Brown played in only seven games, missing the other nine with a groin injury. He's not a starting-caliber linebacker, so Oakland may decide to upgrade this position. Tendered Ricky Brown; drafted Slade Norris
Center: Jake Grove, a free agent, may not be back next year. Regardless, a reliable center who doesn't get hurt every year would help. Traded for Samson Satele
Right Guard: Cooper Carlisle, 32 in August, will be hitting free agency this spring. Re-signed Cooper Carlisle
Special Teamers: The Raiders surrendered a touchdown, 24.4 yards per kickoff and 9.9 yards per punt return. Those numbers must improve.
2009 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Greg Ellis, DE, Cowboys. Age: 34. Signed with Raiders (3 years)
Greg Ellis has recorded 21 sacks in the past two seasons, including eight in 2008. He's 34, but he's fully capable of playing in both the 4-3 and 3-4. The Patriots should be really interested.
Khalif Barnes, OT, Jaguars. Age: 27. Signed with Raiders (1 year)
What happened to this guy? Khalif Barnes had a brilliant rookie year, but has since completely fallen apart. He gave up 7.5 sacks and was whistled for nine penalties in 2008. Maybe a change of scenery will help him.
Jeff Garcia, QB, Buccaneers. Age: 39. Signed with Raiders
Jeff Garcia's had a great career, but at 39, his days of starting are over. Garcia is one of the top potential backups on the market, but if he starts more than two games for your team in 2009, you know you're in trouble.
Morlon Greenwood, OLB, Texans. Age: 31. Signed with Raiders
A reliable, versatile reserve linebacker, but not much else.
Will Franklin, WR, Lions. Age: 23. Signed with Raiders
New regimes mean new quarterbacks. In Kansas City, however, a new regime means complete ineptness. Why in the world would you cut a lightning-quick 23-year-old receiver with potential?
Gary Russell, RB, Bengals. Age: 22. - Signed with Raiders
Erik Pears (RFA), OT, Broncos. Age: 27. - Signed with Raiders
Ryan Boschetti, DT, Redskins. Age: 27. - Signed with Raiders
Marcus Johnson, G, Vikings. Age: 27. - Signed with Raiders
Charlie Frye, QB, Seahawks. Age: 28. - Signed with Raiders
Bruce Gradkowski, QB, Browns. Age: 26. - Signed with Raiders
Oakland Raiders Free Agents:
Salary Cap (As of Feb. 8): $4 million
Nnamdi Asomugha, CB. Age: 28. Re-signed with Raiders (3 years, $45 million; $26 million guaranteed)
Nnamdi Asomugha had fantasy owners benching star receivers in their leagues. He's unquestionably the top corner in the NFL right now.
Shane Lechler, P. Age: 33. Re-signed with Raiders (4 years, $12 million)
Shane Lechler boomed 90 of his punts on a 48.8 average, and still managed to pin 33 of them inside the 20.
Chris Johnson, CB. Age: 29. Re-signed with Raiders (4 years)
Where did this come from? Chris Johnson, nothing more than practice-squad fodder before DeAngelo Hall was cut, emerged as a great corner across from Nnamdi Asomugha.
Gibril Wilson, SS. Age: 27. Signed with Dolphins (5 years, $27.5 million)
The poor Raiders had to cut Gibril Wilson because they overpaid for him a year ago and could no longer afford him. That's great news for the other 31 teams in the league. Wilson is one of the top safeties on the market.
Lorenzo Neal, FB. Age: 38.
Meanwhile, it's also no coincidence that LaDainian Tomlinson just had the worst season in his career the year after Lorenzo Neal defected for Baltimore.
Justin Miller, KR. Age: 25. Re-signed with Raiders (2 years)
Not much of a cornerback, but Justin Miller had two kickoff returns for touchdowns in seven games with Oakland this year.
Cooper Carlisle, G. Age: 32. Re-signed with Raiders
Cooper Carlisle's age is a factor here, but he has started all but one possible game in the past four years.
Kalimba Edwards, DE. Age: 29.
A situational pass-rusher, Kalimba Edwards should be good for 4-6 sacks in 2009.
Jake Grove, C. Age: 29. Signed with Dolphins (5 years, $29.5 million; $14 million guaranteed)
Effective... when he's actually in the lineup. In a five-year span, Grove has missed 24 games.
Ronald Curry, WR. Age: 30. Signed with Lions (1 year)
Ronald Curry had back-to-back 700-yard seasons. It should be interesting to see how Curry fares in a real passing attack.
Keith Davis, S. Age: 31.
Keith Davis took over as Dallas' starter once Roy Williams and Pat Watkins went on the IR. He's a reliable backup, but he shouldn't be starting for anyone at this point.
Drew Carter, Raiders. Age: 27.
Ricky Brown (RFA), OLB. Age: 25. - Re-signed with Raiders
William Joseph, DT. Age: 29. - Re-signed with Raiders
Jon Alston (RFA), OLB. Age: 26. - Re-signed with Raiders
Napoleon Harris, ILB. Age: 30.
Rashad Baker, S. Age: 27. - Re-signed with Raiders
Divisional Rival History: Denver Broncos: Mike Shanahan owned Al Davis. Maybe Davis shouldn't have fired Shanahan in 1989. Oops. The Broncos had won 17 of the past 23 meetings, but Denver also fired Shanahan. Oops. Kansas City Chiefs: Kansas City has dominated Oakland the past six years, claiming 10 of the past 12 games. San Diego Chargers: Not even close. The Chargers have won the previous 11 meetings. That number will increase to 13 in the near future.
Features to be Posted This Offseason:
2009 NFL Draft Grades (Pick-by-Pick NFL Draft Grades as well - Live on Draft Day!)