By John Tuvey, Executive Editor Raiders Offseason Needs We begin our team-by-team look at offseason needs with the franchise that is already on the clock with the first pick in April's draft. Just win, baby!
Areas of Need: Um, where do we begin? The Raiders stunk from the top down last season, at least on the offensive side of the ball. Funny how bringing back a coach who was hopelessly behind the curve when he last coached the team more than a dozen years ago didn't work out quite so well. Maybe if Tom Walsh would have been running a Holiday Inn Express instead of a bed and breakfast he'd have been able to figure out how to score some points.
So, for starters, a new coach and a staff that understands the game as it's played in the 21st century would be nice. Then all the Raiders have to do is address their lack of a quarterback and the probable departure of their two talented yet petulant receivers. Aaron Brooks didn't get the job done, and neither Andrew Walter nor Marques Tuiasosopo fared any better. Randy Moss essentially quit on the team midway through the season, but at least he showed up for some of the games; Jerry Porter raced into Art Shell's doghouse and never came out. While we're filling out our Silver and Black wish list, some upgrades along the offensive line would be nice.
Help is on the Way? With the first pick in the draft, Oakland could address any one of its glaring needs. LSU Quarterback JaMarcus Russell fits the mold of a Raider quarterback, or the team could opt for Brady Quinn. Perhaps they'll search for a quarterback elsewhere and replace Moss and Porter with Georgia Tech wideout Calvin Johnson. Or, if it all truly does start up front, Wisconsin tackle Joe Thomas could be the pick. Then again, the last time Oakland spent a high pick on a Big 10 tackle, it was Robert Gallery and that hasn't worked out so well.
Expect all of the Raiders' offseason efforts to be focused on the offensive side of the ball, as all their defensive starters and many of the key backups are under contract for 2007. Oakland's defense, especially against the pass, was extremely solid last season and the only reason they were actually in a handful of games. And if a new coach comes in and truly cleans houseâ€”kicking underachievers like Moss, Porter, Brooks, and guard Barry Sims to the curb, for exampleâ€”it will free up a bunch of money to help the Raiders rebuild their offense. The cuts could run as deep as LaMont Jordan, since Justin Fargas was almost as productive and much more cap friendly, and Ronald Curry, who is due a $5 million roster bonus this offseason but is really the only offensive player who did much of anything in 2006.
Of course, Oakland needs to get that first dominoâ€”the coachâ€”to fall pretty soon so they can get going on the other stuff, because there's plenty of work to be done.
Wants and Needs: Barring a trade for Josh McCown or a signing like David Carr, the Raiders will draft a quarterback with the first overall pick. While much of their offensive incompetence last year can be pinned on departed offensive coordinator Tom Walsh, there's a glaring need for a quarterback; Aaron Brooks wasn't the solution, and it doesn't appear as if Andrew Walter is the answer, either. The Raiders' offensive line could also use a serious upgrade, and depending what the team does with disgruntled wide receiver Randy Moss and slightly less disgruntled wideout Jerry Porter, that may be a position of need as well. Actually, there isn't a position on the offensive side of the ball that couldn't be upgraded through the draft, so expect Al Davis to lean heavily on offense. Defensively, about the only area the Raiders need to shore up is the interior of their defensive line, as Warren Sapp isn't getting any younger.
Potential Selections: Obviously, JaMarcus Russell will give the Raiders the quarterback they need, equipped with the big arm Davis covets. Of course, Davis also loves Calvin Johnson as a play-maker, something this offense desperately needs, but there are so many other areas Oakland probably can't afford that luxury. Expect multiple mid-round picks to be spent on offensive linemen, with that second-round selection earmarked for Arkansas tackle Tony Ugoh or Tennessee lineman Arron Sears. A blocking tight end such as Nevada's Anthony Pudewell could also be wearing silver and black before draft day is over, while talented but troubled defensive tackle Marcus Thomas of Florida seems like a perfect Raiders kind of guy.