The Las Vegas Raiders won the month of March by acquiring WR Davante Adams. The rest of their “roster-building” was exposed in Sunday’s 24-19 loss to the Chargers.
Raiders Off Season Led To The Current Plight
Despite inheriting RBs Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake, the Raiders signed two backs in free agency and comically took two more in the draft. Were they trying to construct a team or playing fantasy football?
Their defense ranked 26th last year, and lost CB Casey Hayward in free agency. To replace him, they traded for CB Rock Ya-Sin. They also swapped out 27-year-old EDGE Yannick Ngakoue for 32-year-old Chandler Jones. That is a net wash.
There was an opportunity for dramatic improvement of their bottom-3 offensive line. When Dallas, salary cap-crunched, released RT La’el Collins, the opportunity was there. The Raiders’ incumbent, first-round choice Alex Leatherwood, had flopped spectacularly in 2021.
Collins’ Pro Football Focus grade last year was 82.0. These were PFF grades of the Raiders’ three rostered RT prospects when he came available:
Jermaine Eluemunor: 59.8
Brandon Parker: 55.8
Alex Leatherwood: 45.0
(PFF grades starters 70-84, backups 60-69, replaceables 0-59.)
Hours after Collins was cut, the Bengals had him on a flight to Cincinnati. Their O-line was nearly as bad as the Raiders’. QB Joe Burrow and WR Ja’Marr Chase played their LSU connection to Collins, and wouldn’t let him leave town without signing.
The Raiders? They opted for Leatherwood. Coach Josh McDaniels told reporters, “We know what he was drafted for, and we’re going to give him an opportunity to do such.”
GM Dave Ziegler added, “There’s a level of discipline that you have to have in free agency.”
“Level of discipline”? Where was it when they gave Davante Adams a $140 million contract? Or when they gave WR Hunter Renfrow a $32 million extension one year before he reached free agency?
Predictably, Renfrow’s deal led TE Darren Waller to ask, “Where’s mine?” Last week, for the first time in football history, the Raiders gave $51 million in new money to a 30-year-old tight end with two years remaining on his contract.
Then gameday arrived. Neither Leatherwood (waived) or Parker (torn tricep) are on the active roster. Jermaine Eluemunor started at RT. Inside him were these three, along with their 2021 PFF grades:
LG John Simpson: 52.6
C Andre James: 64.1
RG Lester Cotton Jr.: 58.5
In their opening week loss, the Raiders’ offensive line was awful. They gave up six sacks and nine hits on QB Derek Carr along with countless pressures. The parade of RBs gained a paltry 64 rushing yards.
The defense again showed itself unable to compete in the supercharged AFC West, allowing Justin Herbert three TD passes and a QB rating of 129.4.
The Raiders’ present and future looks questionable at best. It could have been different if they, rather than splurge on Devante Adams, had signed La’el Collins. They needed to draft a defensive piece in the first round. And maneuvered in the second round, to choose one of the seven WRs taken between #34 and #54.
Instead, they’ll miss the playoffs this year. They will face all the issues in February that they failed to fix last winter. And Davante will be entering his age-31 season.
The story is written by Terry O’Neil.
Terry O’Neil, former Senior Vice President, Football Administration, New Orleans Saints, is founder of Practice Like Pros, a non-profit national movement dedicated to increasing participation and reducing needless injury in high school football.