The Las Vegas Raiders have pieces in place to challenge in the AFC in 2020, but this offseason will prove to be one of the biggest in team history.
Last season, the Oakland Raiders made a three-win improvement, and at one point in the year, they looked destined to make the playoffs in their final season in the Bay Area. Unfortunately, they would go on to win only one of their last six games, finishing up at 7-9, and leaving Oakland once again with a record below .500.
In fact, this is a franchise with only one winning season since 2002, and in that year, their starting quarterback broke his leg late in the season, ending any chance of making a serious run in the playoffs. That quarterback, Derek Carr, is still the presumed starter as the team moves to Las Vegas, but he has already been the subject of trade rumors entering his seventh season in the NFL.
Over the next couple of months, the Raiders franchise will have their most important offseason in team history, as the pieces are in place for them to be good for a very long time. While Carr remains a question mark in terms of whether he can lead this team back to the playoffs, a strong offseason should give him the remaining players needed to make a run.
During the 2019 NFL Draft, the Raiders put together one of the better rookie classes in football, and general manager Mike Mayock continued to wield his magic wand by bringing in starting caliber players as undrafted rookies. Guys like A.J. Cole and Alec Ingold put their stamp on this team in 2019, and will both play a huge role in the organization moving forward.
We have already talked a ton about those drafted players, including Maxx Crosby and Josh Jacobs, both finalists for Rookie of the Year honors this past season. Trayvon Mullen, Clelin Ferrell, Jonathan Abram, and Hunter Renfrow are all guys who will be expected to be a part of the long-term solution in Las Vegas, and all look to be legitimate starters at the NFL level.
Entering the offseason, the Raiders are No. 11 in salary cap money available, to go along with the fact they once again have more than one first round pick. Overall, the franchise holds five of the first 91 selections in the 2020 NFL Draft, and after seeing what Mayock can do with draft capital last April, the Raiders have to be excited about what he does with draft No. 2.
Las Vegas also has stability at head coach, as Jon Gruden is entering Year 3 of a ten-year deal. That has proved to be huge for Carr, who set career-highs in passing yards and completion percentage last season, all the while doing it without a legitimate WR1.
Bottom line is, the Raiders are loaded up front on both sides of the ball, have an elite running back and tight end, and some good young pieces on both sides of the ball. If they do retain Carr for 2020, they have to bolster the defense at linebacker and in the secondary, while adding a true WR1 to the mix.
Luckily for the team, they have the assets to do just that this offseason.
This is a huge offseason for the franchise, as they enter a new city, and move into their $2 billion stadium in 2020. It has been a very long time since this franchise has been one of the elite in the NFL, but it appears they have the right general manager in place, and with a strong offseason, they could be in position to be a contender in the AFC for a while.