The Las Vegas Raiders will kick off their new era of football this September, and before then, there is work to do, but not as much as a year ago.
At the end of the 2018 NFL season, the Oakland Raiders franchise appeared to be in shambles. Coming off a four-win season, fans were wondering whether or not Jon Gruden knew what he was doing, and whether or not the league had passed him by.
January brought the addition of Mike Mayock as general manager, another piece that people rolled their eyes about. Remember, this was a guy who was a television personality, and had no experience as a general manager at the NFL level.
Well, Mayock did one heck of a job building up this roster, and despite the whole Antonio Brown debacle, was able to put a very competitive team on the field. In fact, ten games into the season, the Raiders looked like they would be a playoff team, before losing five of their last six games to end the year.
Still, this is a franchise in a much better position entering the 2020 offseason, and while there are some pieces to bring in, it is nowhere near the task at hand at this time last year. The Raiders had a monster draft class, brought in incredible undrafted free agent rookies, and most of the free agents they swung at played well in 2019.
Looking ahead, the Raiders hold five of the first 100 selections in the 2020 NFL Draft, including two first rounders. In addition, they have a ton of cap space, and have already locked up both Rodney Hudson and Richie Incognito for the next few seasons.
The offensive line is set, the quarterback is in place, and they have an incredible weapon in running back Josh Jacobs, who should win the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year honor. On the defensive side of the ball, the Raiders have a dangerous defensive end combination in Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell, who just may combine for 20 sacks in 2020.
The attraction of coming to Las Vegas has to be big for free agents as well, as there is no state tax, and the team is moving into a brand new, beautiful $2 billion building. The pieces are in place for this team to be good for a very long time, and this may be the most important offseason for this franchise ever.
After nearly making the playoffs last season, and with draft capital and salary cap space entering this offseason, the Raiders have the ammunition to continue to bolster this roster. Seven wins was a step in the right direction in 2019, but 2020 could net the Raiders their first playoff appearance since 2016, and only their second since 2002.