By Tyler Bischoff
After finishing 6-10 in 2017 and hiring Jon Gruden, the Raiders roster has been rumored to be imploded. Major turnover with a new head coach seemed the path the Raiders would take to establishing themselves as an AFC West challenger.
But Gruden and general manager Reggie McKenzie seem content to keep the Raiders mostly intact.
“Y’all are trying to get rid of all my players,” McKenzie said. “I’ve got free agents. Y’all want to restructure everyone’s contract. You’re running everybody out of town.”
The two biggest names rumored to be run out of town where Marshawn Lynch and Michael Crabtree. But both are reported to be coming back.
The Athletic reported Crabtree is returning to the Raiders despite his $8.25 million cap hit that is not guaranteed. Last season the Raiders number two receiver posted his lowest yardage total since coming to the Raiders in 2015.
But his first two seasons in Oakland saw Crabtree post 1,925 yards and 17 touchdowns. That production is what Gruden will be expecting out of the 30 year-old wide out.
After weeks of Gruden campaigning for Lynch to be his lead back, Ian Rappaport tweeted that Lynch is expected to return to the Raiders in 2018 as well. Lynch finished the season strong and ended up with 891 yards on 4.3 yards per carry.
With Crabtree and Lynch expected back in Oakland, the Raiders offensive personnel will remain mostly unchanged from 2017 to 2018.
Derek Carr will quarterback the offense behind one of football’s highest paid offensive lines. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree will lead the receiving group and Lynch will be the feature back.
That offensive core ranked 23rd in the NFL in points scored and 17th in yards in 2017. It was the NFL's most disappointing unit in 2017.
But turning the calendar back one year to 2017 saw an offense led by the same guys finish top seven in the league in both yards and points. That is the potential Gruden is hoping to tap into.
That takes the Raiders' changes to the defensive side of the ball where they have already cut ties with cornerback David Amerson. Cornerback Sean Smith, who has lingering legal issues, could be next, but McKenzie doesn’t like speculation on who he is running out of town.
Listening to Gruden though makes it seem like he will try and rebuild with some of the players on the roster.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Gruden said. “We need some talent to rise within this organization, I’ll say that. In our last three drafts, I’m looking at it. Other than Amari Cooper, we need some of these young players to really explode onto the scene. It starts there. We need some young people in the organization right now to emerge.”
The Raiders saw their top two picks from the 2017 draft play a total of four games last year, as injuries thwarted the debut seasons of Gareon Conley and Obi Melifonwu. Breakout seasons from those two in the secondary could go a long way in the Raiders turnaround.
Gruden did mention the Raiders will go after free agents, and they have been linked to cornerback Trumaine Johnson, who played for the Rams last season.
Johnson started 15 games for the Rams last season posting two interceptions and one touchdown. He made over $16 million as he signed a one-year deal with the Rams last offseason.
We will have to wait to see what kind of a splash the Raiders make in free agency, but it appears the roster will look very familiar in 2018 coming off a 6-10 season.
Tyler Bischoff hosts Coaches Corner on AM 720 KDWN Monday through Friday at 6:00 pm.