The Raiders’ philosophy, led by general manager Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels, became clear after the first week of free play.
The two, who are in charge of personnel decisions in their sophomore year, will prioritize the long-term benefits of the NFL draft over the immediate thrills that come from expensive free agent signings.
Or as someone who knows the Raiders’ mindset put it, “Names don’t make you any better. You get better with the right players.”
That might not be what the team’s rabid fan base, who have watched regime after regime collapse and burn over the past two decades, want to hear. But Ziegler and McDaniels believe their patient approach will ultimately achieve what so many of their predecessors could not — a homegrown foundation that uses free agency as a complement to build sustainable success.
Hence the measured approach in the early stages of free agency, which hit the expected starters in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, linebacker Robert Spillane and safety Marcus Epps.
The Raiders have also kept a handful of their free agents, adding depth plays with cornerback Brandon Facyson and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett.
As free agency moves into phase two, the Raiders will continue to focus on cost-effective rostering with the draft in mind. Armed with 12 picks, including five in the top 109, the aim is to bring youth and explosiveness to their roster, particularly on defense where they have needs at all levels.
Here’s a look at the state of affairs and their remaining needs:
The Raiders are retrieving Jermaine Eluemunor, her starting right, and swing tackle Brandon Parker, who missed last season with a tricep injury. They join Thayer Munford, who is entering his sophomore season, and Justin Herron, who picked up a season-ending knee injury shortly after the Raiders traded him in in September, in a crowded room that of Left Tackle Kolton Miller was anchored. That doesn’t mean the Raiders won’t be asking the draft for help, but they no longer need to be at the position urgently.
It’s a different story at the guard, where the Raiders need a starter on the right and, depending on what happens with Dylan Parham, maybe on the left. Parham’s best long-range position could be center and the Raiders will consider that move at some point. A deep draft class along the interior of the line could produce an instant starter. Keep an eye on Netane Muti, a late-season signing the Raiders are very fond of.
The Raiders traded Darren Waller last week and with Foster Moreau as a free agent they have a glaring hole at the tight end with only Jesper Horsted and Cole Fotheringham on the list. Moreau reportedly met with the Saints last week and the Bengals were also there, making his return unlikely.
Veterans Dalton Schultz and Irv Smith are long shot options. What remains is the draft, which is bursting with talent.
line of defense
On the inside, the Raiders are bringing back Jerry Tillery, who adds interior pass rush, and are still hoping for 2022 draft picks Matthew Butler and Neil Farrell alongside Bilal Nichols.
Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones anchor the outside. The Raiders are in the mix for Dolphins veteran Andrew Van Ginkel.
This is clearly an area the Raiders are targeting for an infusion of youth and explosiveness. In 7th place, the Raiders would have their choice of Georgia’s Jalen Carter, Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson, Clemson’s Myles Murphy and Iowa’s Lucas Van Ness.
Possible options after the first round include Notre Dame’s Isaiah Foskey, Pittsburgh’s Calijah Kancey and Louisiana State’s BJ Ojulari.
The Raiders could get away with their first three picks with starting or immediate rotation players inside and outside.
The Raiders addressed safety with the signing of Epps, who will quarterback the backend and work with Tre’von Moehrig and Isiah Palo-Mao. Roderic Teamer adds depth. The Raiders will be looking for additional help through Round 3 and beyond.
Cornerback is an area of immediate concern. The Raiders are counting on the return of Nate Hobbs and are fascinated by young cornerers Sam Webb, Bryce Cosby and Tyler Hall. There’s the veteran depth in Facyson and Amik Robertson.
But they must become more dynamic. It is a position deep draft class with picks available from seventh pick through day two and three of the draft.
Spillane replaces Denzel Perryman at inside linebacker, and while the Raiders need to protect his pass defense deficiencies, his run defense is unquestionable. He flashes as a pass rusher, allowing him to stay on the field on some pass downs.
Divine Deablo and the promising Luke Masterson are also back. The draft offers fascinating possibilities on the second and third days.
Contact Vincent Bonsignore at [email protected] Follow @VinnyBonignore on twitter.